Chance Hardwick, the fictitious star of the breakout film Plains and Hills, is widely considered the greatest, most charismatic young movie actor of the postwar generation. However, his meteoric rise to fame and his tragic demise have remained an inexplicable puzzle to all who knew him, as well as to his millions of fans around the world.
But all these years later, famed producer and film historian Gordon Frost has gathered Chance’s family, friends, lovers, and colleagues—all the people who loved and loathed him—to tell his story and try to come to terms with the elusive, unknowable figure who continues to haunt their lives. The oral history he’s pieced together uncovers the secret life of one of America’s premier talents. From Chance’s humble Midwestern beginnings, to his time in New York as an acting student, and finally his turn as a Hollywood icon, all the pieces fit together—or so it would seem.
But who is Chance Hardwick really? And moreover, who is the mysterious woman watching over his grave each year on the anniversary of his death?
Narratively inventive and always engaging, The Woman in Black spans America in the 1950s in its exploration of film, fame, and how well we ever really know each other.
“For anyone interested in the art of acting, the craft of movie making, or what it was like to live, work, and frolic in Hollywood during its Golden Age, Erik Tarloff’s The Woman in Black is a must-read. And in addition to all that, it’s a gripping story that, once begun, is almost impossible to put down.”
―Alison Martino, writer, TV producer and personality, Los Angeles cultural historian
“A hell of a story. A teenaged kid in the Midwest becomes an aspiring actor in New York, a movie star in Hollywood, and an enigmatic mystery in the end. Who was he? Nobody saw him in the same way. I loved it.”
―David Webb Peoples, screenwriter of Blade Runner and Unforgiven
“The story of Chance Hardwick’s rise to fame is told in intricate detail in oral testimonies from his friends, teachers and fellow industry insiders. Erik Tarloff knows how the “business” works. Against the backdrop of the McCarthy Era, his tale of Chance’s life and career is fascinating and moving.”
―James Naughton, actor, singer, Tony Award winner of Chicago and City of Angels
“Tarloff’s novel is funny, smart, literate, witty and highly quotable. The story skims through the history of Hollywood as witnessed by extremely original, entertaining characters, and is a delight all the way. So what are you waiting for? Read it!”
―Treva Silverman, writer and Emmy Award-winner of The Monkees and The Mary Tyler Moore Show
“The Woman in Black is the Spinal Tap of oral histories―a delicious satire, but also very touching. Relive Hollywood’s Golden Era as told by the people who should have been there. Inventive, funny, moving―don’t wait for the movie. Read The Woman in Black.”
―Ken Levine, writer, producer, and Emmy Award winner for M*A*S*H, Cheers, and Frasier