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Book Reviews

Living Large

Wilna Hervey and Nan Mason

Reviewed by

Travel, art, friendship, love—these are the things that made these two women’s lives full, and Eckhardt shares their story with admiration and depth.

Everything about them was large: their size, their bold personalities, their zest for living life, and their love for one another. In Living Large, Joseph P. Eckhardt follows the journey of Wilna Hervey, a silent-screen actress, and her partner, Nan Mason, as they travel the country and settle down together in the artist’s enclave of Woodstock, New York. In an endearing portrayal, he shows how the two women made the world around them a brighter place.

Eckhardt, author of The King of Movies: Film Pioneer, Siegmund Lubin and So Bravely and So Well: The Life and Art of William T. Trego, shows his knowledge and love of both art and film history in this wonderful dual biography of two women who refused to let society dictate what they should do. Born into a wealthy family, Wilna Hervey gained popularity in silent films playing “The Powerful Katrinka” in the Toonerville Trolley comedies. At six feet three inches and 350 pounds, she made an impression everywhere she went. But it was Dan Mason, her Toonerville costar, and his six-foot daughter, Nan, who made the biggest impression on Wilna. Over the next six decades, she and Nan would build nationally recognized art careers and live a life full of travel, friends, art, adventure, and most of all, love.

Wilna and Nan lived a pretty haphazard life, flitting from one coast to another and trying out numerous professions, but Eckhardt’s biography is well organized and packed with 180 black-and-white and color photographs that illustrate their life and artwork. With seven years of in-depth research and writing into this project, his affection for his subjects is palpable, making the two women seem to the reader like long-lost friends. Wilna and Nan are worth getting to know, and anyone with a taste for biographies, but especially those with an interest in art, film history, or the LGBT community, will find this an enjoyable and heartwarming read.

Disclosure: This article is not an endorsement, but a review. The author of this book provided free copies of the book to have their book reviewed by a professional reviewer. No fee was paid by the author for this review. Foreword Reviews only recommends books that we love. Foreword Magazine, Inc. is disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255.

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