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Posts Tagged ‘Hollywood’

More Than Mere Brotherly Love, and Other News

September 9, 2014 | by

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Nicolaus Knüpfer, Bordeelscène, ca. 1650.

  • If you were a rake headed to Philly in the 1840s, you wanted to have this pocket guide with you—it lists all the brothels in town, with some helpful editorializing about each. “None but gentlemen visit this Paradise of Love,” one description says. Another: “Beware of this house, stranger, as you would the sting of a viper.”
  • A list of the one hundred most popular books on Facebook contains exactly zero surprises.
  • From a new documentary on Susan Sontag: “She sat me down on her bed … and ran through the argument of the Critique of Pure Reason, Kant’s Critique of Pure Reason. She must have been fifteen.”
  • “We all have bodies; we all wear clothes; we all have reflections that vex us; we all exist in dynamic relationship to our communities, and fashion is a medium for testing or strengthening those bonds … anyone who diminishes the significance of that is carrying water for the patriarchy, deferring reflexively to those thousands of years of human history when men got to decide what was frivolous or not. You know what's frivolous? Fantasy football.”
  • In 1932, Einstein endorsed a psychic. And she endorsed him: “Dr. Einstein is indeed the most remarkable personality I have ever contacted [sic]. And his aura is just sublime—pure blue electric sparks, instead of color. It was just like talking to God.” And so Einstein’s credibility as a scientist came under fire: “Now he is the tamest lion in the intellectual zoo. He goes everywhere. He attends picture openings with the regularity and aplomb of Clark Gable. He is at all the public dinners.”

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Memoirs

August 13, 2014 | by

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Lauren Bacall and Howard Hawks, ca. 1943

When I heard the news that Lauren Bacall had died, at first I felt the melancholy we all feel when another legend of a fading age goes. And then I thought: Is she in the Scotty Bowers book?

Since Valentine’s Day, 2012, the world has been divided unevenly between those who still live in a state of blissful innocence, and those who have read Scotty Bowers’s memoir, Full Service: My Adventures in Hollywood and the Secret Sex Lives of the Stars. If you enjoy old movies, mourn the passing of the Golden Age of Hollywood, want to be able to watch Mutiny on the Bounty, or have a soul, I beg you not to open this book, for once you do, you’ll feel compelled to devour every page in fascinated horror. Everyone else: read it immediately.

My mom was the first one I knew to read the book. She spoke so darkly and incessantly about it that I felt compelled to buy it. (This was one of the few cases in which I felt an e-book was the appropriate medium.) After reading it, obsessively, I started evangelizing myself, much as my mom had, in the vaguest and most menacing terms. I wanted people to know—and yet, I didn’t. I felt like a sort of Ancient Mariner, wandering the world and sharing the darkness I had seen.

Not that the book is especially dark, mind you. Scotty Bowers is possibly the happiest man to have ever walked the earth. Here is the rather sanitized Wikipedia description: Read More »

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Throw the Book at Him, Ernie, and Other News

August 12, 2014 | by

Ernest_Hemingway_1923_passport_photo

Manhood not pictured.

  • Hemingway once slapped a critic in the face with a book. Here’s what that critic wrote: “Hemingway lacks the serene confidence that he is a full-sized man … ”
  • One of many bizarre real Victorian novel titles: The Egg, Or The Memoirs Of Gregory Giddy, Esq: With The Lucubrations Of Messrs. Francis Flimsy, Frederick Florid, And Ben Bombast. To Which Are Added, The Private Opinions Of Patty Pout, Lucy Luscious, And Priscilla Positive. Also The Memoirs Of A Right Honourable Puppy. Conceived By A Celebrated Hen, And Laid Before The Public By A Famous Cock-Feeder.
  • “What no one wants to accept—and no doubt there is an element of class prejudice at work here, too—is that there are many ways to live a full, responsible, and even wise life that do not pass through reading literary fiction. And that consequently those of us who do pursue this habit, who feel that it enriches and illuminates us, are not in possession of an essential tool for self-realization or the key to protecting civilization from decadence and collapse. We are just a bunch of folks who for reasons of history and social conditioning have been blessed with a wonderful pursuit.”
  • As Hollywood continues to reboot every franchise in sight instead of developing new concepts, one cultural critic has some strong advice: Keep up the good work! “Our cultural mythologies exist not to be venerated and preserved in amber, but to be played with, reconstituted, reconsidered, dismantled, dissected, and stripped for parts.”
  • Remembering Idris Muhammad, one of the greatest drummers in jazz, who died last week.

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History’s Greatest Typos, and Other News

August 5, 2014 | by

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Oops: in 2008, Chiie appeared in place of Chile on 1.5 million fifty-peso coins. Photo via io9

  • Virginia Woolf loathed the concept of the middlebrow—“If any human being, man, woman, dog, cat or half-crushed worm dares call me middlebrow … I will take my pen and stab him dead”—but she should’ve gone easier on it. “Middlebrow is a name you would never call yourself, but rather a semantic shoe that belongs on someone else’s foot. It is also, however, a workable synonym, in the sphere of art and culture, for democracy.”
  • Need a quick, cheap tutorial in plotting? Watch sitcoms without the jokes …
  • And while you’re working out your plot, you might want to avoid scenes set in restaurants. “That tense guy who ‘stabs his potato’ or ‘saws at his filet’ … I see what you’re doing there. Please don’t.”
  • Presenting Western history’s most seminal typos: There’s 1612’s “Thou shalt commit adultery,” and 1830’s Peeface instead of Preface, and the Chilean coin that misspelled Chile
  • “What’s so great about adults? Classic-age Hollywood is full of movies for and about adults that are dull, stodgy, and uninventive—writerly and actorly, honoring traditional values with a secret whiff of piety and an eye on the cash box, rather Mantovani than Beethoven, rather Don Sebesky than John Coltrane. That kind of movie isn’t gone; it now occupies screens in art houses. It’s the rule to the exception.”

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The Golden West: An Interview with Daniel Fuchs

July 16, 2014 | by

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Doris Day and James Cagney in Love Me or Leave Me, for which Daniel Fuchs wrote the screenplay.

In early 1989, I telephoned Daniel Fuchs (1909–93), then in his eightieth year, in Los Angeles to ask about the possibility of interviewing him for The Paris Review. The novelist and screenwriter—heralded for his Williamsburg Trilogy of the 1930s (Summer in Williamsburg, Homage to Blenholt, and Low Company) and Love Me or Leave Me, for which he won an Academy Award—was cordial and open, but stipulated that he preferred to have the questions sent to him; he would mail back his answers. I sent the questions, twenty-seven of them, to Fuchs that February, and at first there appeared to be clear sailing—the writer said he would soon have something.

At the same time, Fuchs expressed a concern about the handling of the copyright when the interview was printed, and over the next several weeks it became increasingly difficult to allay or understand his fears. Although I’d assured him the rights would revert immediately to him upon publication, he remained concerned, asking for a signed warranty from George Plimpton. When this wasn’t quickly sent—owing to office delays rather than any disinclination—the writer grew vehement, and then abusive. Reluctantly I let go of the idea of seeing through an interview with Fuchs, whose work remains too much of a secret to this day.

A year or so after Fuch’s death in 1995, having been informed that the writer’s papers were in Special Collections at the Mugar Memorial Library at Boston University, I phoned Dr. Howard Gotlieb, the Special Collections librarian, to ask if, by any chance, there was an interview circa 1989 among the papers. Indeed there was. Fuchs had constructed an interview that, while based on my questions, departs from them in unexpected and telling ways. It amounts to a late work by the distinguished, if unexpectedly irascible, “magician,” as John Updike once pronounced him.

You have been identified by Irving Howe, Alfred Kazin, and others as one of three Jewish novelists of the 1930s whose work has survived a half century now, the other two being Henry Roth and Nathanael West. Would you comment on the literary climate of the thirties?

Survived, rediscovered—a peculiar occurrence. A man sits in a room writing novels. Nothing happens. The books don’t sell—four hundred apiece, the last one a few more. There are scattered reviews. Then thirty years later, suddenly, the books are brought out, again and again, acclaimed. A small-sized mystery. Of course, I’m talking only of my own books. Call It Sleep and Nathanael West’s work attracted attention from the start and were well known all along.

Did you read Call It Sleep when it came out?

With pleasure and pangs of jealousy.

Nathaniel West went to Hollywood and wrote B movies and worked on his last novel, The Day of the Locust, which in its final sentence seems to indicate that the protagonist has succumbed to the furies around him in Hollywood and gone mad. Henry Roth moved to rural Maine and hasn’t, as of now, published another novel. You gave up a literary career for several decades to write movies. Is there a common thread in all this?

No, I don’t think so. West kept working on his own material up to the end, while he was doing the pictures at Republic. Roth had his own reasons. I liked it in Hollywood and stayed on. I found the life most agreeable. Mordecai Richler went out of his way, in a book review, to say I bragged about the money I made in Hollywood. Actually, I never made a great deal of money in the movies. Sixty thousand dollars a year was about the best I could do, if Richler doesn’t mind my saying so. In fact, I went nearly broke, had to sell my house, and then an amazing thing happened, another one of those mysteries. A benefactor, a character out of a Molnár play—I can’t say his name, he once asked me never to bother him or intrude—stepped forward. He’s been watching out for us over the past number of years and we’re quite comfortable. I guess I mention all this to get a rise out of Richler. Hollywood strikes a nerve in some people. Read More »

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Hollywood Indian

August 1, 2013 | by

Squaw-Love-Film-Paris-Review

Image from D. W. Griffith’s film The Squaw’s Love, 1911

At the turn of the nineteenth century into the twentieth, a young Abanaki Native American woman named Margaret “Soaring Dove” “Dark Eyes” Tahamont moved from her home in the Adirondacks across the country to Los Angeles to play in the moving pictures. She was born in Indian Lake, New York, where her extended family—a mixed group of Abanaki, Oneida, and Anglo ancestry—had been well established since the town’s founding, owning substantial land, running an inn for visitors to the region from New York City, and employing many town residents as laborers.

Margaret, born Camp, judging from all photographs of her Indian Lake family, was raised in the costume of any white northerner. Her cousin Emma, near Margaret’s age, can be seen wearing a high loose bun, plush woven hats, and carefully tailored dresses covering from the high neck to the wrist, puffed at the sleeves, pintucked across the bodice, and lightly trimmed with lace.

But Margaret moved to Los Angeles to perform as an Indian in plays, Indian hobby societies, and early silent films. She now wore long braids, leather, beaded headbands, moccasins, and performed under the name Dove Eye. Her husband Elijah Tahamont, or Dark Cloud (also Abanaki, from Quebec), had been acting in silent films made in the Adirondack region—what would later be known as the “eastern Westerns”—including at least a few with soon-to-be famed director D. W. Griffith, and when eastern production companies began to move west to join nascent Hollywood corporations, the Tahamonts went along. Elijah, as Dark Cloud, played in over thirty titles; Margaret in at least five silent shorts, and likely more—the idea of preserving film and film records still lying a bit ahead on the horizon. Read More »

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