SCREENING SICKNESS And Other Tales of Tinsel Town by Ernest Lehman

SCREENING SICKNESS And Other Tales of Tinsel Town

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By the veteran screenwriter/producer (North by Northwest, The Sound of Music): a disappointing collection of semi-memoirs and bitter, heavyhanded sendups--many of them about the New Hollywood, most of them originally published in American Film magazine. Lehman is best when not straining for angry laughs, when sticking close to his own experience: there's a very short but lightly evocative glimpse of the working process with Hitchcock (""He looks at you with great sympathy and says, But, Ernie, that's the way they do it in the movies""); there's an obvious but sadly effective sketch about a producer who lives on memories of a long-ago hit; and there's a nice quartet of anecdotes--in which four Lehman colleagues (Hitchcock, Mike Nichols, Cary Grant, Billy Wilder) put the movie business in proper perspective. The comedy, however, is awfully crude: gags about the youth-trend in directors, the glut of sci-fi; an attack on the ""film critic for Manhattan, the weekly sophisticated slick magazine for the weekly sophisticated slicks""; a tired bit about Oscar Night anticipation; the cartoon-portrait of a crass agent; futuristic vignettes about skyrocketing ticket prices and violence (""The subsequent smashing success of The Deer Hunter II was, of course, almost entirely due to the novel twist of giving each member of the audience a handgun with one bullet in its spinnable chamer""). And there are also a few dollops of no-names gossip: ""The ads for a famous screen drama of marital strife failed to announce that so-and-so was playing one of the starring roles only because such-and-such, who wanted it so badly he could taste the Oscar, had to turn the role down . . . due to his conviction that his shaky marriage would fall apart once his wife heard him uttering that dialogue."" (Lehman produced Who's Afraid of Virginia Woolf?) Occasional tidbits for movie aficionados, then, but jumpy, overdone satire for the most part.

Pub Date: Oct. 25th, 1982
Publisher: Putnam/Perigee