It is essentially a fact that Serena Williams is the greatest female tennis player of all time. Almost everyone in the world knows her name—even people who don’t otherwise watch any sports at all. But another famous female tennis player came before Serena whose name was just as well known but now has all but disappeared from the popular consciousness. Robert Weintraub’s The Divine Miss Marble: A Life of Tennis, Fame, and Mystery details this woman’s story and reawakens her legacy.
Alice Marble was the product of a poor California gold rush family, making her rise to tennis stardom something of a shock to the wealthy elite who most often played the sport. But Marble’s winning game was only part of her worldwide appeal. Weintraub details Marble’s rise to tennis success alongside her rise to stardom as a Hollywood socialite darling. Close friends with Clark Gable and Carole Lombard, Marble rubbed elbows with some of the world’s most famous and influential people, including Winston Churchill and Franklin Delano Roosevelt. These relationships not only led her to become an author, writing her own books and contributing to the Wonder Woman comics, but also to a stint as a WWII spy—or, at least, that’s what Marble claimed.
Weintraub’s fascinating portrayal of one of America’s very first athletic starlets asks as many questions as it answers. Marble’s secretive life was part of her charm, but her glamorous encounters and exciting experiences seem almost too good to be true. In addition to investigating these wild tales, Weintraub solidifies Alice Marble as one of the most important figures in tennis history. Later becoming coach to Billie Jean King and an activist for the desegregation of tennis, Marble’s influence can still be felt, even as her name remains largely unrecognized. The Divine Miss Marble seeks to rectify that disparity, drawing attention to one of tennis’s greatest players and, most importantly, telling a good story.