Across three women's films, the status of the literary novel in the midst of changing media environments is melodramatically plotted through the figure of “old acquaintance.” Vincent Sherman's 1943 Old Acquaintance pits the meager output of celebrated writer Katherine “Kit” Marlowe (Bette Davis) against the stream of popular, lowbrow novels written by her friend Millie Drake (Miriam Hopkins). This contest of literary style and production is closely adapted in George Cukor's 1981 film Rich and Famous. In Pedro Almodóvar's 1995 La flor de mi secreto, friction between literary styles and markets is subdued through melodrama's focus on affective rather than taste-making practices, appearing as a viable metaphor of the fate of book-objects in a zero-sum marketplace. This article focuses on Rich and Famous, which explores the question of affinity between women, lowbrow and highbrow, and the fate of the novel circa 1980. The particular and volatile experience of “alikeness” that founds friendship and the possibility that literary value is volatile—that high- and lowbrow are alike—are imagined in its nuanced representation of what Ronald Britton termed “publication anxiety” and in its use of cinematic space to stage the possibility of amicable if incongruous contemporaneity.

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