Twenty-five pieces of movie-world journalism, 1969-1982, by the author of The Making of the Wizard of Oz--many of which originally appeared in the New York Times. Disappointingly, the majority of the offerings here are short, conventional interview/profiles: Jack Nicholson (""What is unexpected is his kindly helpfulness, his grandmotherly air of concern""); the frail Mary Pickford (by phone); Jackie Cooper, Fred Astaire, Jessica Lange, Sam Peckinpah, Billy Wilder, Clint Eastwood, Barbara Stanwyck, Martin Ritt . . . or Jane Fonda at 40. (""If there is an inherent contradiction in this lean, independent woman with eyes as blue as marbles--who is unquestionably the most wooed and petted and desired American actress at the moment--yoking herself to the common man, her commitment is too great for her to feel it."") And only the close-up of Rona Barrett--her miserable childhood, her professional integrity, her non-gossip-columnist stance--supplies more than the most predictable quotes and perceptions. Harmetz does better with movie-business reportage: a drily amusing history of Samuel Z. Arkoff's cheapie empire, from I Was a Teen-age Werewolf to Bloody Mama; a solid rundown on the state of Hollywood corporate-finance in the post-cable era; intriguing tinsel-town sidebars (an amateur producer's hapless quest, the course of a nastily false Hollywood rumor); and--the book's longest piece--a pre-Indecent-Exposure summary of the Columbia/Begelman scandal, with the focus on colorful super-producer Ray Stark. Still, even at her best, Harmetz lacks the commanding style or strong viewpoints that can give occasional journalism lasting power; so, despite helpful updates at the close of each piece, these competent, informative reports seem more like miscellaneous newspaper clippings than chapters of a coherent or distinctive book.