My Last Movie Star, a novel
By 1996, I had profiled a lot of movie stars. (See the list on the articles page.) It wasn’t how I pictured spending my life, or my career. So as a swan song, I sent my editors at Esquire a parody of a celebrity road-trip profile for their amusement. It was meant as an affectionate joke and, perhaps, a way to unleash my frustration at the celebrity profile genre. In it, I profile a fictional It Girl named Allegra Coleman, a sumptuous young actor drawn from life and imagination. The piece ends with a James Dean-like car crash in which, presumably, Allegra is killed.
My editors surprised me by asking if it could be published – and by hiring Ali Larter, an unknown model at the time, to pose for the cover. There was only one change they wanted made: Allegra couldn’t die.
As it turned out, she didn’t. Allegra became my first novel. The story begins with the car crash and unfolds from there. The journalist who is interviewing Allegra, and traveling with her, is named Clementine James, a sardonic celebrity profiler on her last assignment for Flame. After Allegra crashes the 1956 Porsche she’s been driving across the California desert, the It Girl promptly vanishes while Clementine winds up in the hospital – blinded yet newly endowed with the power to speak to the dead.
A beguiling, ghostly parade of movie stars — all screen sirens of long ago – visit Clementine and tell the stories of their lives, their loves, their deaths, and often complain about where they are buried.
Film, like Buddhism, can be a beautiful thing. But the people involved can sometimes cloud the beauty.
“Warm and serious and funny and imaginative. The writing is cool, the plot fantastic.”
– Los Angeles Times Book Review
“It would be difficult to imagine a better novel about celebrity than Martha Sherrill’s terrific My Last Movie Star.”
– The Baltimore Sun
“Insightful and intelligent . . . Sherrill captures the ephemeral splendor of physical beauty, youth and glamour.”
– USA Today
“Dishy and wise.”
– Entertainment Weekly
“Sherrill has crafted an absorbing, note-perfect examination of Hollywood’s culture of stardom, and film aficionados will savor the many cinematic references.”
“In this first novel, veteran journalist and experienced celebrity profiler Sherrill (Washington Post, Vanity Fair, Esquire, etc.) brilliantly dissects the vicissitudes of fame and the absurdities of Hollywood idol worship. . . popcorn parody for the soul, with plenty of butter.”
– Publisher’s Weekly
“How can such flawed and flighty people touch us so deeply? The stars who drop in on Clementine come across not as great heroines or guardian angels but more as friends stopping off for a sleepover — the kind of friends who affect us more than any wise man could. Eternal in spite of themselves, they give a sly new life to Cassius’ famous assessment in Julius Caesar, “The fault, dear Brutus, is not in our stars, but in ourselves, that we are underlings.”
– Time Magazine