Comfortable and Furious

Hollywood Novels

It is a sad truth in life that you can’t watch movies all the time. Believe me, I know, I’ve tried. So, is there an alternative?

I’ve tried to maintain my dedication to the ideal of ”Cinema is my religion and the theater is my church” (a line I borrowed from Victor Hugo. He was a French novelist in the 19th century, for all you Tarantino fans). Time is the enemy of all movie lovers.

So yes, there is an alternative. The Hollywood Novel. There are a whole bunch of them.

Elsewhere I mentioned Peter Viertel’s White Hunter Black Heart, a fictionalized account of John Huston’s safari to Africa with a movie shoot tagged on at the end. Clint Eastwood’s movie adaptation is pretty good.

Budd Schulberg, screenwriter and novelist, son of a movie mogul, gave us a couple of good books on Hollywood.

What Makes Sammy Run? is the typical studio story of a total weasel who cons his way to the top of the studio’s Bandini Mountain, not caring or perhaps even noticing who he harmed on his way up. The book comes with an excellent recommendation from Steven Spielberg, who said What Makes Sammy Run? should never be a movie because it is anti-Hollywood. You can’t get higher praise than that. Or, maybe it cuts too close to home for him?

Budd Schulberg tells of his studio assignment to accompany a fictionalized F. Scott Fitzgerald to a Winter Festival at his alma mater in the novel The Disenchanted. You get an idea of what a brilliant man Fitzgerald really was in Schulberg’s grim, compelling account.

While serving his servitude in Hollywood Fitzgerald invented a writer even more pathetic and dissolute than he was. His Pat Hobby was a gag writer during the days of the silents who now must hustle to pay the rent in 1940 when a writer was actually expected to write.

The Pat Hobby Stories are 17 sad/comic tales on the life of a 1940s Hollywood hack.

Day of the Locust is Nathaniel West’s story of a young artist who comes to a Hollywood which inspires his nightmare painting of destruction and murder. Homer Simpson appears as an accountant who came to Hollywood for his health.

In Michel Tolkin’s The Player, an arrogant screenwriter intimidates an uptight studio executive to the point of murder.  It didn’t take much. He gets the dead guy’s girl, but will the cops get him?

Get Shorty. Mobster Chili Palmer got involved in the movie business via low-budget producer Harry Zimm. Elmore Leonard nails the grittier side of Hollywood. In my time in Tinseltown I endured more than a couple Harry Zimm types.

In Terry Southern’s Blue Movie, the critical and box office darling director Boris Adrian (think Stanley Kubrick) makes a big-budget porno with major stars and studio backing. You’ll have to guess what a movie mogul was doing locked in the dressing room tailor with a newly dead starlet.

Rumor was the Great Stanley himself considered adapting Blue Movie to the big screen. It could have been like what he had in mind when he made Lolita. Perhaps Eyes Wide Shut was supposed to be something like that. It wasn’t.



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