Places: Myra Breckinridge

  • Last updated on December 10, 2021

First published: 1968

Type of work: Novel

Type of plot: Social realism

Time of work: 1968

Asterisk denotes entries on real places.

Places Discussed*Hollywood

*Hollywood. Myra BreckinridgeSouthern California city and capital of the American movie industry that to Myra is important as the place where the “classic” movies of the 1930’s and 1940’s were made. To her, Hollywood is the source of all the century’s legends. However, by the late 1960’s–when this story takes place–Hollywood has turned to low-budget movies in order to compete with television and has lost much of the magic Myra associates with it. Along with Hollywood’s legendary cachet, Myra looks for, and expects to find there, her inheritance from a relative. To her surprise, she actually does find the kind of “true” love she so enjoys seeing in movies.

Academy of Dramatic Arts

Academy of Dramatic Arts. Acting school belonging to Myra’s “Uncle” Buck Loner, located on about fifty acres of a Westwood residential property, half of which has been bequeathed to Myra’s dead husband, Myron. The academy is a place where young hopefuls go to learn about acting with the expectation that they will get jobs in movies and even become stars. Myra sees the school as a place that will give her financial security after her husband’s mother’s will has been properly executed. After she has had a chance to examine the school, it becomes even more significant as a place where she can avenge herself on “men” for the abuses her husband suffered. Buck reaps an excellent income from the academy and is loathe to give even a small share of it to Myra, who believes the school may be worth millions. Activities at the school proceed with little or no disruption, even as Myra does everything in her power to interfere with the lives of two students, Mary-Ann Pringle and Rusty Godowsky, and Uncle Buck.

Academy infirmary

Academy infirmary. Clinic on the academy campus; a small, antiseptic, white room with cabinets full of drugs and instruments, an examination table, scales, and other instruments for measuring height and body width. An orderly place, it is an odd scene for Myra’s ruthless emasculation of the young man Rusty. Yet it is exactly because it is the school infirmary that Myra can get the young man to be alone with her.

Myra’s room

Myra’s room. Furnished room above the Hollywood Strip that is Myra’s first residence after her arrival in Hollywood. During one of his own stays in Hollywood, Gore Vidal lived in a room in the Château Marmont and could see a rotating statue of a woman with a sombrero from his window. Myra’s room provides a similar view of the revolving “plastic chorus girl” with a sombrero in one hand. This room seems to hold a special significance for Myra as she looks out over the Strip and other Hollywood sights that remind her of the classic “old” Hollywood. However, the room takes on another significance when a distraught Mary-Ann finds sanctuary there with Myra after her affair with Rusty falls apart.

Letitia’s home

Letitia’s home. Beach house in Malibu, an arty, upscale community in the coastal region northwest of Los Angeles that runs along Pacific Coast Highway. The home of Hollywood agent Letitia Van Allen, it is a gray clapboard Provincetown-style house. During one of Vidal’s Hollywood sojourns, he lived in a similar beach house off the same highway. Although Letitia’s beach house is not a major setting in Vidal’s novel, it figures into the story as part of Myra’s plot to break up the affair between Rusty and Mary-Ann.

Uncle Buck’s office

Uncle Buck’s office. Richly appointed office at the Academy of Dramatic Arts. Myra and Buck have interesting encounters in this room, which Myra believes is electronically bugged, like everyplace else in Hollywood. Buck feels in control within his sumptuous office, but he rarely gets the upper hand with Myra. This is the one place where Buck and Myra skirmish as Buck seeks to retain total control of the administration and the money of the academy, and Myra shoots him down each time. It is here where Buck finally capitulates and hands over the money for Myra’s inherited share of the property.

BibliographyDick, Bernard F. The Apostate Angel: A Critical Study of Gore Vidal. New York: Random House, 1974. A balanced critical assessment of Vidal’s major works, including Myra Breckinridge.Kiernan, Robert F. Gore Vidal. New York: Frederick Ungar, 1982. A biographical approach to a discussion of Vidal’s works, including Myra Breckinridge.Stanton, Robert J. Gore Vidal: A Primary and Secondary Bibliography. Boston: G. K. Hall, 1978. An excellent source for Vidal’s primary texts and a superb compilation of secondary sources for his works, including Myra Breckinridge.Summers, Claude J. Gay Fictions: Wilde to Stonewall. New York: Continuum, 1990. Includes one chapter devoted to Vidal. Discusses primarily The City and the Pillar, but refers to the themes in Myra Breckinridge with deft understanding.White, Ray L. Gore Vidal. New York: Twayne, 1968. A basic introduction to the life and work of Vidal. Includes a discussion of Myra Breckinridge.
Categories: Places