On Sunday, February 28, 2016, the Academy Awards will be presented to actors, directors, videographers, music makers, costumers, special effects masters, sound engineers, make-up artists, . . . oh, yeah, and a few writers. Two actually: one for best original screenplay and one for best adapted screenplay.
Yet where would the silver screen be without the men and women who put the words, the scenes, the feelings and atmosphere on the page to be interpreted? Let’s give some credit where credit is due.
This week, I’d like to focus some attention on books and the movies. Today’s entry: books about the movie industry.
Blonde, by Joyce Carol Oates. The interior life of a bleached blonde bombshell movie star whose career is a lot like Marilyn Monroe, though Oates always calls this a work of fiction and not a biography. It is heart-rending: the torturous thoughts and abusive treatment of this woman who finds her worth determined by the men around her, their use of her body, her face, her aura . . . and it is never enough.
“I live now for my work. I live for my work. I live only for my work. One day I will do work deserving of my talent & desire. One day. This I pledge. This I vow. I want you to love me for my work. But if you don’t love me I can’t continue my work. So please love me! – so I can continue my work. I am trapped here! I am trapped in this blond mannequin with the face. I can only breathe through that face! Those nostrils! That mouth! Help me to be perfect. If God was in us, we would be perfect. God is not in us, we know this for we are not perfect. I don’t want money & fame. I want only to be perfect. The blond mannequin Monroe is me & is not me. She is not me. She is what I was born. Yes I want you to love her. So you will love me. Oh I want to love you! Where are you? I look, I look & there is no one there.”
A Touch of Stardust, by Kate Alcott. Star-struck young woman moves from the Midwest to Hollywood, land of dreams, not to become a star but to become a writer! She finds work as Carole Lombard’s assistant during Lombard’s marriage to Clark Gable while Gable was filming Gone With the Wind. A behind-the-scenes, intriguing look at Hollywood in the thirties and how women like Lombard, who had power, and those without, managed to stay and make their mark in the game.
“Movies teach us how to do that,’ Carole had confided. ‘Create a set, sprinkle a touch of stardust. Who gives a shit if it’s real? Just make it good enough to believe.”
Being Audrey Hepburn, by Mitchell Kriegman. This coming-of-age book centers on a young, Manhattanite who tries on Audrey’s Breakfast at Tiffany‘s Givenchy dress and changes her life. Not my favorite book about the movies, or about Audrey Hepburn. But it qualifies.
Beautiful Ruins, by Jess Walter. Now this, THIS is a book. I’ve exalted Jess Walter’s glorious tome before on this blog. In summary, this is a big, gooey, interlocking glory of a book with Richard Burton, Elizabeth Taylor, Italy, Hollywood, screenwriters, actors, producers and World War 2. My goodness, if you haven’t read it, buy it right now. Full review here: https://daeandwrite.wordpress.com/2014/08/17/simply-beautiful-beautiful-ruins-by-jess-walter/
“Weren’t movies his generation’s faith anyway- its true religion? Wasn’t the theatre our temple, the one place we enter separately but emerge from two hours later together, with the same experience, same guided emotions, same moral? A million schools taught ten million curricula, a million churches featured ten thousand sects with a billion sermons- but the same movie showed in every mall in the country. And we all saw it. That summer, the one you’ll never forget, every movie house beamed the same set of thematic and narrative images…flickering pictures stitched in our minds that replaced our own memories, archetypal stories that become our shared history, that taught us what to expect from life, that defined our values. What was that but a religion?”
Get Shorty, by Elmore Leonard. Want a quick, funny, off-beat take on the movies by
America’s master of funny, off-beat crime novels? Chili, a Miami loan shark, decides it’s time for him to get into the movies. From there, chaos ensues.
The Last Tycoon, by F. Scott Fitzgerald. Fitzgerald’s great unfinished novel about America’s obsession with movies, stars, and money. “You can take Hollywood for granted, like I did, or you can dismiss it with the contempt we reserve for what we don’t understand. It can be understood, too, but only dimly and in flashes. Not half a dozen men have ever been able to keep the whole equation of pictures in their heads.”
Crowned Heads, by Thomas Tryon. This actor-turned-writer is most famous for The Other, a best-selling horror novel from 1971 turned into a movie. But Crowned Heads is the book that haunts me. I read it in high school (warning: do not give to young readers) and the story about the movie star with a warped relationship with her plastic surgeon haunts me to this day.
Chaperone, by Laura Moriarty. An unfortunately lifeless tale of the woman who
accompanied Louise Brooks to New York City as she became a star. Full review here: https://daeandwrite.wordpress.com/2014/03/02/on-the-way-to-hollywood-louise-brooks-and-the-chaperone-by-laura-moriarty/