Not Even Close to a Biography, but Fun
My copy of Bonita Granville and the Mystery of Star Island
By Kathryn Heisenfelt
Whitman Publishing, 1942
What my sister wrote on the front endpaper of a gift copy:
Such a Good Creep
And by all accounts a very nice person in real life.
I'm always glad to see Bonita Granville when she shows up in a picture. Some of her earlier work was uncredited (Little Women, Anne of Green Gables, Westward Passage) and her later work was eminently supporting (The Mortal Storm, Now Voyager) so there's ample opportunity to be pleasantly surprised. Thanks to her breakout role as Mary Tilford, the manipulative sociopath of a girl who ruins the lives of two teachers in These Three (the movie version of Lillian Hellman's play, "The Children's Hour"), Granville became the go-to brat/crumbum child in the late 1930s.
She was the daughter of actor Bernard "Bunny" Granville, who before pictures worked in a traveling minstrel show, the circus, and vaudeville, ultimately headlining in the Ziegfield Follies. The family moved from New York to Hollywood where "Bunny" appeared in a handful of pictures, and Bonita began her long career in 1932 at the ripe old age of eight. Her father died a few years later, but I can't seem to find out how or why; he was only 50. (Note to aspiring biographers: I would very much like to read The Bunny Granville Story; transient youth, three wives, WWI aviator, died young...writes itself.)
Bonita Granville made 50 movies by the time she was 23 years old and left the business when she married oil millionaire Jack Wrather, also a producer. Granville became a successful businesswoman in her own right, producing the very popular Lassie TV series and running Wrather Corp. after the death of her husband. She was the fifth chair of the American Film Institute, although she didn't care to see many modern movies, because of the "indecency" and general explicitness therein: "It destroyed romance and imagination that goes along with sex. And that's pretty important because, otherwise, sex becomes mechanical. Don't get me wrong. I'm a great believer in sex. But that's not the way to go about it."
One cannot argue.
I admit, I enjoy her better when she's playing a meanie or a schemer, but I do have a special fondness for her Nancy Drew: all bright-eyed and plucky and smart.
Bonita Granville Wrather died in Santa Monica in 1988 of cancer at the age of 65. She was a peach.
Haven't seen this one, but it looks good, don't you think?