Pocket Venus: The Rise, The Fall & The Rise of a Hollywood Starlet

Austin Mutti-Mewse


“What a life. Or rather what a series of lives, lived by one survivor.”

Julian Fellowes


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Pocket Venus is a celebration of life marred by tragedy. Mildred Shay had seen tragedy from a young age: she stood between her mother Lillian and her grandmother over the body of her eight year old brother Arnold, killed on the street in front of his family by a drunken chauffeur. While the outside world suffered during the Great War, until that point the Shay household had remained untouched. But from that moment on, a darkness that fell over the magnificent mansion in West Palm Beach. This tragic accident in 1918 defined the early life of Mildred Shay.


She, still an infant, tried her best to bring joy and laughter back to her family; to remember a young life and not an early death. The best way to lift sad lives was, thought little Mildred, by playing the clown.


A career in Golden Age Hollywood followed. Despite her success, Mildred was at the mercy of men: producers, playboys, three husbands, and countless lovers. Anyone following the #MeToo movement will be interested to see its beginnings, over half a century ago.


Pocket Venus is a witty and intriguing tale of the most unlikely of duos: the author himself, a young jobbing obituary writer and Mildred, the ‘Pocket Venus’ of the title, now a desperately lonely and long faded film ingénue from Hollywood’s ‘Golden Era’. Touching and instantly memorable, Pocket Venus is a modern love story based around cross generational relationships. It goes beyond the perceived glitz and glamour of being an actress to offer an insight into the lasting impact of dysfunctional families: it is a timely reminder that fame is no inoculation against the isolation and loneliness of old age.


Mildred had been alone but, like a phoenix rising from the flames, she is brought back to life, almost as if the cameras are rolling again. Austin’s friends become her friends, and his family adopt her, sometimes adoring her and admiring who she had been; at other times opened-mouthed at her lack of inhibitions.

Additional Information




Trim Size

138 x 216mm

About the Author

AUSTIN MUTTI-MEWSE is a collector of stories and over the past two decades, he has penned some of the most-read film star obituaries. He co-authored I Used to be in Pictures: An Untold Story of Hollywood with his twin brother, Howard. At the time, The Independent remarked: ‘When Austin and Howard write to Hollywood, Hollywood jumps.’ He lives in Surrey with his wife Joanna and young son Nathan.