We’ve all heard of Throwback Thursday, the day you post photos from the past to Facebook or Instagram. Retro Reads is my bookish version of Throwback Thursday. I’ll be rereading and posting a recap/review of books I loved when I was younger, mostly series books. Fair warning: These are more recaps than reviews. They will be thorough and there will be spoilers.
The Girls of Canby Hall #10: Make Me a Star
Author: Mary Lou Kennedy writing as Emily Chase
Lights! Camera! Action!
Shelley, Dana, and Faith are sure that winter at Canby Hall is going to be the pits — until a film crew arrives to shoot a movie right on campus! For Shelley, this could be a dream come true. For Dana, it will mean unexpected romance with a young production assistant. For Faith, it’s a chance to shoot some film of her own. But what begins as fun soon pits the girls against one another in the competition surrounding the movie. Will they ever be best friends again?
Dana’s down because it’s snowing. You go to boarding school in New England, Dana. If you wanted to get away from the snow, you should have gone to school in Florida. The girls reminisce about snowfalls from their past. Dana’s involves a sprained ankle on a ski trip — and a handsome ski instructor. (Just to clarify, she’s 16, right?) Shelley fondly recalls her mother’s snow cream: snow, cream, and sugar — better than ice cream! Faith’s now-deceased father and her brother Richard used to build giant King Kongs every winter. (Does Washington DC really get THAT much snow every year? On average, no.)
Faith isn’t deterred by the snow; she has a job to do. She’s after pictures of the first snowfall of the season for the school paper. She and Shelley convince Dana to join them. Later that afternoon, they relax in Alison’s apartment, make snow cream, and consume hot chocolate.
On Wednesdays, the girls of Canby Hall convene for assembly. Assembly is usually a routine affair, but on this Wednesday, Miss Allardyce announces that a movie company is interested in filming on campus. She hasn’t given permission yet — but she hasn’t turned them down either. Scouts from the movie company will be on campus over the next few days, and Miss Allardyce expects each and every girl to conduct herself “like a Canby Hall girl.”
Shelley is beside herself. As an actress, this is her BIG CHANCE. She is immediately going on a diet (I thought she was thin now?) and getting plenty of beauty sleep.
Two days later — really, that quickly? — Shelley spots a small notice on the bulletin board announcing that the movie company will begin shooting the following week. Again, I ask, really, that quickly?
Not surprisingly, Pamela Young’s mother is friends with the director of the movie and, oh, surprise! Pamela’s mother has a part in the movie. Shelley, however, IS surprised. Really, Shelley? You didn’t even consider that Pamela, a movie star’s daughter, might have something to do with a movie company suddenly discovering a boarding school in small-town Massachusetts?
That night, the girls of 407 and their friend Casey head up to Alison’s apartment to find out more details. They’re not alone: half the dorm is already there. Alison is willing to share what she knows, but says they have to make it an early night, as it’s a school night. No, it’s not. It’s Friday. Say so right at the beginning of the chapter.
The movie is called Midnight Whispers, and Dana correctly guesses that it’s a horror movie about a spirit that haunts a girls’ school. Pamela pipes in with a few bits of information, just to prove she’s in the know The best news, as far as Shelley (and more than a few other girls) is concerned, is that Canby students will be allowed to audition for parts as extras and even a few minor roles, as long as it doesn’t interfere with classes or their studies in any way.
On the way out, Pamela offers to give Shelley some tips on auditioning, and maybe even steal a script to share with her. There can’t be any catch there, can there? Totally selfless, that Pamela. Shelley falls for it and promises Pamela she won’t tell anyone else that she’s getting extra help.
Dana worries that Shelley’s going to go overboard about this acting business again. Faith thinks this could be the biggest newspaper story of her career and worries about how to handle it. Both girls are still preoccupied with the movie when they go on a double date with Randy and Johnny the following night. The guys aren’t quite as excited about it as the girls are.
Wednesday arrives, and with it, the movie crew. Shelley’s already forgotten about that day’s French quiz, which annoys Dana. After all, they have been through this before. By that afternoon, the movie crew has completely taken over the campus, getting in everyone’s way and making changes to the landscape of the campus: running over Miss Allardyce’s rosebushes and cutting branches off trees.
Shelley, Dana, Faith, and Casey meet up at the ice cream shop in Greenleaf to talk about the day’s events. A lot of other Canby girls are there too. Some of them are talking about auditions, which puts Shelley in a bad mood. Everyone is looking like competition to her.
When the notice goes up that auditions are on Friday night, Shelley worries that she only has two days to prepare. Casey tells her that she’s making too big a deal of it; Casey’s just going to show up and see what happens. Shelley works with Pamela, who was unable to get a script but does have some news: there are definitely a few small speaking parts available.
On Friday night, Shelley’s nervous as she and Pamela wait in line at auditions. Pamela says that her mother is beyond the audition stage, but, in a rare moment of kindness admits that her mother used to get rejections all the time and warns Shelley that it’s something she needs to get used to. Dana and Faith worry that Shelley’s going to blow her audition and that she’ll be crushed.
Shelley’s asked to read the part of Hilda, who she immediately decides must be a leading role. Right, because they don’t have REAL actors already lined up for those parts, Shelley. Shelley knocks some papers off a table, then hesitates too long while the casting people are waiting for her to begin her audition. They cut her off after three sentences.
Shelley just knows she’s blown it and leaves the audition just as Casey is getting called for her turn. For some reason Dana continues to hang around auditions, even though she’s said twice now that she has no intention of actually auditioning, while Faith goes after Shelley.
Shelley gets a callback, while Casey is chosen as an extra in a party scene. Pamela won’t say what happened with her audition, just that she’s sure something will work out for her. She says that her mom will coach Shelley.
On her way to the library, Dana trips over a cable that a member of the movie crew left lying across the sidewalk.
He was unusually handsome, with black hair and flashing, dark eyes.
Dark and handsome. And tall, too, I presume? Oh, and he has a British accent.
Peter Marks wastes no time hitting on Dana, who knows he’s hitting on her but doesn’t care because he’s handsome and friendly and makes her tongue-tied. He feeds her from the movie company’s catering truck and invites her to watch filming tomorrow.
On Saturday, most of Baker House gathers in the lounge to eat popcorn and watch American Bandstand because it’s 1985. Pamela brings her mother to the dorm. You think she knew the lounge would be fully populated on a cold Saturday afternoon? Yeah, me too.
If she had hoped to make a dramatic first impression, she’d succeeded. All conversation stopped as she posed by the heavy oak door. She was a tall, slim woman with silver blonde hair that tumbled all the way to her shoulders. She was wearing a beige suede pantsuit that was fringed and beaded, and a ton of silver Apache jewelry.
“She’s certainly striking-looking,” Dana whispered.
“Not to me, she isn’t,” Faith insisted. “She looks like she’s trying out for the part of Pocahontas.”
Pocahontas wasn’t Apache. Or blonde.
Pamela introduces the girls to her mother, who invites them to dinner. Faith still wants to go for pizza, but Shelley takes Yvonne Young up on the invitation after Pamela says she wants to give Shelley some acting tips.
Over a steak dinner, Shelley decides that Pamela must be a different person now than she was when she first arrived at Canby. After all, now she seems so nice and helpful when it comes to Shelley’s acting career. Later that night, she discusses Yvonne with Faith, who wasn’t impressed by her, and Dana. Dana reminds Shelley not to go overboard; Yvonne hasn’t even seen her act yet.
Dana has been spending time with Peter, watching him work and hanging around the set. She’s getting bored and would rather be spending time getting to know Peter instead of just waiting around for his breaks. Peter suggests that she join the movie. They can spend more time together that way, and he’ll be able to get her invitations to the cast parties. Right. I’m sure the Hollywood people want a bunch of schoolgirl extras at their cast parties.
Shelley’s surprised when Pamela doesn’t show up to go to callbacks with her, but Dana, Faith and Casey go along for moral support. While they’re waiting for Shelley to finish up, Dana slips into the audition room.
Pamela catches up with Shelley at callbacks, explaining that she was late because Matt Dillon had called to wish her luck. She also wants to give Shelley some last minute advice: underplay everything. It’s what the director likes.
“You know the old saying that ‘less is more’? Well, he practically invented it. He likes everything scaled down, really low-key.” Pamela grinned. “In fact, if you practically whisper your lines with no expression, you’re guaranteed a part. He simply can’t stand actors who overdo it.”
Shelley’s even more nervous when she gets into her audition to find the star of the movie: Troy Adams. A real, live movie star! She follows Pamela’s advice, saying her lines in a quiet, flat tone, and is quickly cut off. Suddenly, she’s not so sure that was the right tactic, but before she has time to dwell on it, Dana walks in for her audition. Shelley leaves the room very slowly so that she can see Dana’s audition, which is very different from hers and anything but underplayed.
Back at the dorm, Shelley complains to Faith about Dana auditioning, saying that it seems sneaky. Over butterscotch brownies (mmmmm), Shelley wonders what’s taking Dana so long. What I’m wondering is why they didn’t wait for Dana. I mean, Dana ostensibly went there FOR SHELLEY and was planning on waiting for her. Even if Shelley was too upset about Dana auditioning without telling her to wait, surely Faith and Casey, or at least one of them, would have waited.
Faith’s still wondering how she’s going to manage to get a story for the paper since she’s run into a brick wall trying to get the movie company to let her take photos. She’s completely over the whole movie and just wishes the whole thing was done.
When Dana comes in, Shelley questions her about the audition. Dana explains that she met Peter and wants to spend more time with him and that the best way to do that is to work on the movie. Shelley thinks that’s a dumb reason to want to be in a movie, and she’s secretly glad that Dana doesn’t stand a chance. Not wanting to admit that to Dana, she compliments her on her acting.
Dana reveals that she got the part.
Faith wants to know how she even managed to get the audition, since she never auditioned the first time. Dana says she told them she got a notice in her mailbox to go to callbacks and they didn’t question it.
Shelley’s on the verge of tears, disappointed and angry. Dana feels bad; she didn’t know it was the same part Shelley was auditioning for. She hadn’t even been paying attention to the movie until she met Peter, so she though there were a lot of parts.
You know, I kind of see Shelley’s side in this. Although she has to take some responsibility for taking bad advice — underplaying it didn’t get her the callback, did it? — and trusting Pamela after all she’s put them through, Dana doesn’t care about the movie. She just wants to hang out with some guy who’s only going to be around for a few weeks. Even though Dana had a better audition, the way she got the audition was sneaky. Shelley’s been talking about it for days, so if Dana really didn’t know there weren’t that many parts, she’s been tuning Shelley out. Which she probably has, but…great friend, Dana.
What I’m saying is that Shelley’s initial reaction is understandable.
Shelley cries in the shower and, while sulking, wonders whether Pamela gave her bad advice on purpose. You think?
Faith decides that if the movie company won’t give her permission to take her photos, she’s just going to do it anyway. Good plan, Faith. Too bad you wasted all that time and didn’t get any shots of the company setting up or auditions. The students at the school you attend would probably like to see pictures of themselves and their friends at auditions in the school paper. Honestly, she’s acting like she works for the New York Times. Nobody who’s not in high school cares about a little high school paper.
Faith sets her plan into action the next morning, and find that no one cares whether she takes their picture or not.
Pamela joins Shelley for breakfast. Shelley isn’t sure what to make of Pamela. When Pamela questions her on what part she got, Shelley admits she didn’t get one. She says she followed Pamela’s advice exactly. Pamela confesses that she misled Shelley. She maintains that the director does like understatement, but says he was looking for something a little different for this movie. Pamela doesn’t seem bothered, though. She suggests that Shelley audition again, but Shelley tells her that Dana already got the part. Pamela says that her mother will think of something and tells Shelley to meet her that afternoon.
When Dana gets to the set, she’s met by Faith (still taking photos, but heading off to study), Peter (working), and Carol Gate. I’m not sure who Carol Gate is supposed to be, but she takes charge of Dana, telling her to check the callboard daily and to make sure she gets to Wardrobe and Makeup at least an hour before her calltimes. I don’t understand how Dana is supposed to work this part in around her classes. Say she has class from 8-3, which seems pretty reasonable for a high school student. Is the movie really going to schedule around that? She wouldn’t be able to start shooting until 4:00 if she’s supposed to be on set an hour early.
Peter promises to make sure Dana gets to where she’s supposed to be when she’s supposed to be there. I’m pretty sure that’s not his job; he’s a technician.
Shelley cuts her math class to meet Pamela outside the production office. Pamela says her mother called Carol Gates and told her to come up for something for Shelley, however Carol says that the best she can do is an extra or stand-in. All the other parts have already been cast. Pamela is obnoxious, which embarrasses Shelley, who thinks it’s not Carol’s fault that the other parts are already taken.
Pamela rushes off to meet Yvonne, and Shelley runs into Faith. Faith tells Shelley about her big “no more asking permission” plan and invites her along. The scene being shot now is one of Dana’s. When Shelley grumbles, Faith says she’s tired of being caught in the middle and that she has had her own problems with the movie.
Shelley promises to try to make up with Dana, but as she and Faith watch filming, Shelley’s jealousy gets the best of her and she criticizes Dana’s performance. When the cast and crew take a break, Faith starts taking photos of Dana. It’s too hard for Shelley to watch, so she moves over the catering truck area, where the star of the movie, Troy Adams, approaches her. He remembers her from auditions. She tells him that Dana’s her roommate and that she’s never acted before. Troy says he can tell, that she just doesn’t have the talent Shelley does. Troy lets Shelley in on a secret: the trick with this director is to overplay everything.
“So that’s the secret,” Shelley said slowly. Pamela had been a rat after all. Unless…she really hadn’t know.
Oh, Shelley. She knew, okay? She knew.
Later, Shelley meets up with Faith at dinner. She’s all smiles now: Troy got her a part in the movie.
As an extra.
Troy told her it’s a great stepping stone, and that casting directors will see her and remember her.
Right. They will remember a single sorority girl in a party scene, a girl who has no lines.
All the waiting around in the cold, the retakes, and the long hours are starting to take their toll on Dana. She’s exhausted by the time the movie cast breaks for dinner at 7:00. She thinks it’s probably worth it, though, to spend the time with Peter. Peter asks if she’s up for another four hours of work, and explains that they usually end for the night around midnight. He asks if she wants to go out afterwards.
Way, way past Canby’s curfew.
Dana laughs and tells him that Greenleaf closes down at 9:00. Dana’s actually not in any more scenes that night, so she’s finished after all. Peter kisses her as he walks her back to the dorm.
When Dana gets back to the room, Faith tells her that Randy called. Still thinking about Peter, Dana puts him off.
The next day, Faith decides to get some candid shots of the bigger stars of the movie. She checks the callboard then heads over to Addison House (another dorm), where Yvonne has a scene. As Faith enters the lounge, Yvonne is throwing a tantrum about her hair and wardrobe, which gives Faith some great shots.
A few days later, Dana is getting into the swing of things. She’s crazy busy, and tired, but she’s having a blast. She’s on her way out of Baker to the movie set when Faith informs her that her boyfriend is there. Thinking it’s Peter, she’s surprised to find Randy waiting for her. She never did return his call, and he’s wondering why.
Randy walks Dana over to the set, since she’s due in a few minutes. She tells him that she knows she’s never going to have another chance to do this again, and she likes it because she’s doing something she thought she couldn’t.
Randy has some free time and wants to watch the filming. Dana, not wanting him to see her with Peter — or Peter to see her with Randy — says visitors aren’t allowed on set. Randy’s disappointed and decides to head on out. He says there’s probably no point in asking her out for the weekend, that she won’t have the time and watching a movie can’t compare to being in one. Dana protests, but doesn’t agree to go out.
Shelley jealously watches Dana with Peter. She’s not jealous because of Peter, of course, but because of Dana’s part. SIGH. She really needs to get over it, but it doesn’t help that extras don’t get any perks. They’re not even allowed to eat with the cast and crew, or even mingle with them. She hasn’t even seen Troy again. As she’s thinking this, Troy comes up behind her. He asks her to dinner after filming, which is ending early this night: around 7:00. Shelley is supposed to meet Tom, but agrees to go out with Troy.
Pamela questions Shelley about Troy. She saw them talking and wants to know how they met. Shelley explains that he remembered her and helped her get a part (extra!) and that he said it could be her chance to be discovered. Pamela points out that no one remembers extras. Shelley says that there weren’t any more speaking parts; this was the best she could get. Just then, Pamela’s called to set. She got a speaking part: a part that was written specially for her.
Shelley and Troy walk to Greenleaf to eat. He doesn’t think much of the small town. He tells Shelley that she would love L.A. He tells her all about the next movie he’s starring in, and asks if she would like to be in it. He’s sure he can get her a part, maybe even the part of his sidekick. But she’ll have to go to L.A. with him when he goes back. Then he’ll hook her up with the right people.
When Shelley returns to Baker, she’s confronted by Alison. Alison has been getting reports from Shelley’s teachers. Her grades are slipping again. Shelley admits that she’s been preoccupied with the movie, but says that things will be better now that she has a part.
The next few weeks fly by. The movie will be wrapping soon. Dana knows she and Peter have a special relationship and that she’ll see him again when he’s in New York doing another movie. She looking forward to showing him around her favorite spots in the city.
Pamela informs Dana that the wrap party is that night. Dana can’t believe it. There are still a lot more scenes to film. Pamela says they decided to finish them up back on the west coast. Dana’s surprised that Peter didn’t say anything to her.
Faith and Shelley have just heard the news, too. Shelley admits to Faith that Troy asked her to go back to L.A. with him. Faith tries to convince Shelley that Troy is just leading her on, but Shelley won’t hear it.
Dana, Faith, and Shelley go together to the wrap party. Dana spots Peter across the room, but then notices that he’s with Pamela — and he has his arm around her. He tells her that she’s a nice girl, but that Pamela has connections. He wants to act and direct, and Pamela can get him there. Dana storms out and rushes to see Alison.
Shelley’s looking around for Troy. When she can’t find him, she goes to his trailer looking for him. He tells her to have fun at the wrap party, that he’s skipping it. She hears laughter and voices inside; he’s having a party of his own and she’s not invited. He says he’s flying out at noon the next day, but doesn’t mention taking her along. Shelley, too, heads to Alison’s for comfort.
Faith also shows up, upset because the portfolio of her movie photos is missing. Alison has it. She explains that she rescued it when she saw Pamela walking out of 407 with it.
With that, the girls are glad to see the movie company go.
These books always wrap up really quickly. They’re like an episode of Full House, with all the drama being drawn out and then everything is settled in, like, two pages (or two minutes in the case of Full House).
The Cover: It’s a horror movie about college students. I’m pretty sure there are no floppy hats with pink ribbons anywhere near the movie set. And check out that can of hairspray: Raw!