Wednesday, March 31, 2021

Donis Casey's "Valentino Will Die"

Donis Casey is the author of the Alafair Tucker Mysteries, an award-winning series featuring the sleuthing mother of ten children, set in Oklahoma during the booming 1910s. Her first mystery, The Old Buzzard Had It Coming, was named an Oklahoma Centennial Book. Casey is a former teacher, academic librarian, and entrepreneur.

Here Casey dreamcasts an adaptation of her new novel, Valentino Will Die, the sequel to The Wrong Girl:
After writing ten Alafair Tucker Mysteries, I was energized and excited to plunge into an entirely new series that takes place during the roaring 1920s. The Bianca Dangereuse Hollywood series features a headstrong girl who ran away from home in 1920 and by sheer will and a lot of good fortune reinvented herself as silent movie star Bianca LaBelle, the heroine of the wildly popular silent movie serial The Adventures of Bianca Dangereuse. The first episode of the series, The Wrong Girl (2019) details Bianca's rise to stardom. The second episode, Valentino Will Die, opens in 1926 and finds Bianca and megastar Rudolph Valentino, who have been friends for years, finally making their first picture together, a steamy romance called Grand Obsession. One evening after dinner, a troubled Rudy confesses that he has been receiving anonymous death threats. In a matter of weeks Rudy falls deathly ill and Bianca rushes to New York to be by his side as he lies dying. Rudy is convinced someone is trying to kill him, and Bianca promises him she will find out who is responsible. Was it one of his many lovers? A delusional fan? Or perhaps Rudy has run of afoul of a mobster whose name Bianca knows all too well. With time running out, Bianca calls on Private Detective Ted Oliver, the one man she believes can help her find who killed the world's greatest lover.

The character Bianca plays in her movies, Bianca Dangereuse, is a Perils of Pauline type adventuress.While researching 1920s silent movies, I was heavily influenced by a particular 1921 flick called Something New, starring a fabulous actor/writer/producer named Nell Shipman and a Maxwell automobile. If you haven't seen it, you're missing something. The Bianca LaBelle character was heavily influenced by Nell's looks, manner, and independence.

Bianca is very young. We first meet her at 15, but by the time Valentino Will Die opens, she is 21, tall, elegant, and beautiful. The first young actress I thought of to play Bianca is Hailee Steinfeld, who played 14-year-old Mattie Ross in the 2010 version of True Grit. I've followed her career since and she's grown up quite nicely, tall, dark-haired, and slinky. Yes, she'd do very well as Bianca. But who is pretty enough to play Rudolph Valentino, a real person and an honest-to-God heartthrob? If we can pluck actors out of time, Tyrone Power would be good choice. As for actors working today, Poldark himself, Aiden Turner, has just the smoldering good looks to fit the bill. For detective Ted Oliver, a basically decent man who's caught up in something he never intended and can't get out of, I like Ryan Gosling. He has the requisite brains and self-depreciating wit - with just a touch of haplessness. Another true life character in the book is silent star Pola Negri. I'd have to pluck 1970s era Sally Field out of time in order to have someone with the chops to play the five-foot tall Polish actress whose histrionics at Valentino's funeral ruined her career in the United States. For the ruthless Irish godmother K.D. Dix, whose sweet face and dimples belie her murderous heart, who else but Judi Dench?

I'd like John Wells to direct. He directed Autumn, Osage County, that tour-de-force with Meryl Streep. He also wrote for and directed several seasons of West Wing. His work has intelligence and heart, humor, and the right amount of bite for the situation - sometimes a mere nip and sometimes a rip-your-arm-off attack.
Visit Donis Casey's website.

My Book, The Movie: Hell With the Lid Blown Off.

My Book, The Movie: All Men Fear Me.

--Marshal Zeringue