FILM FLAM

ESSAYS ON HOLLYWOOD

McMurtry's modest essays on Hollywood screenwriting and films generally are among the most literate and absorbing in recent memory, especially when set beside William Goldman's Adventures in the Screen Trade. McMurtry does share one quality in common with Goldman in that neither writer much likes to read his own books. McMurty is even harsher on himself than Goldman, who is merely bored by his own novels. McMurtry takes an active hatchet to Horseman, Pass By (filmed as Hud, a movie McMurty thinks far superior to the novel), The Last Picture Show, and Leaving Cheyenne (filmed indifferently as Lovin 'Molly). Unfortunately, he never gets to his present reactions to the adaptation of Terms of Endearment—filmed as a tear-jerker but quite funny and moving, in which Jack Nicholson won an Oscar for a role that wasn't even in the novel. Most of these essays appeared first in American Film, where they seemed more facile than they do now bundled together. In fact, they have hardwon ideas that no screenwriter should overlook. McMurtry refuses to read or work on any project (always a book adaptation) until the very last moment when he's literally flying to Hollywood. Hollywood being so mercurial, the producer's deal may have fallen through before McMurtry has landed. Also, he resists doing first drafts before a director has been taken on. Otherwise, all he's doing is a first reading for the director while producing a digest for the producer to shuck around—a kind of scriptwriting that is death to the soul. He shoots down All the President's Men (its Oscar-winning script was supposedly by Goldman) for reducing a crucial national event by so many dimensions that the picture is a mere doorbell beside the full orchestral tones of Lina Wertmuller's Seven Beauties (also about a social cataclysm). He also is excellent on E.L. Doctorow's anguish over the novel-into-film Ragtime (a book Doctorow must have recognized as overhyped). A top-notch collection.

Pub Date: June 1, 1987

ISBN: 0743216245

Page Count: 228

Publisher: Simon & Schuster

Review Posted Online: Sept. 30, 2011

Kirkus Reviews Issue: May 15, 1987

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MARTIN LUTHER KING, JR. AND THE MARCH ON WASHINGTON

This early reader is an excellent introduction to the March on Washington in 1963 and the important role in the march played by Martin Luther King Jr. Ruffin gives the book a good, dramatic start: “August 28, 1963. It is a hot summer day in Washington, D.C. More than 250,00 people are pouring into the city.” They have come to protest the treatment of African-Americans here in the US. With stirring original artwork mixed with photographs of the events (and the segregationist policies in the South, such as separate drinking fountains and entrances to public buildings), Ruffin writes of how an end to slavery didn’t mark true equality and that these rights had to be fought for—through marches and sit-ins and words, particularly those of Dr. King, and particularly on that fateful day in Washington. Within a year the Civil Rights Act of 1964 had been passed: “It does not change everything. But it is a beginning.” Lots of visual cues will help new readers through the fairly simple text, but it is the power of the story that will keep them turning the pages. (Easy reader. 6-8)

Pub Date: Jan. 1, 2001

ISBN: 0-448-42421-5

Page Count: 48

Publisher: Grosset & Dunlap

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Dec. 1, 2000

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WHAT A WONDERFUL WORLD

A LIFETIME OF RECORDINGS

Noted jazz and pop record producer Thiele offers a chatty autobiography. Aided by record-business colleague Golden, Thiele traces his career from his start as a ``pubescent, novice jazz record producer'' in the 1940s through the '50s, when he headed Coral, Dot, and Roulette Records, and the '60s, when he worked for ABC and ran the famous Impulse! jazz label. At Coral, Thiele championed the work of ``hillbilly'' singer Buddy Holly, although the only sessions he produced with Holly were marred by saccharine strings. The producer specialized in more mainstream popsters like the irrepressibly perky Teresa Brewer (who later became his fourth wife) and the bubble-machine muzak-meister Lawrence Welk. At Dot, Thiele was instrumental in recording Jack Kerouac's famous beat- generation ramblings to jazz accompaniment (recordings that Dot's president found ``pornographic''), while also overseeing a steady stream of pop hits. He then moved to the Mafia-controlled Roulette label, where he observed the ``silk-suited, pinky-ringed'' entourage who frequented the label's offices. Incredibly, however, Thiele remembers the famously hard-nosed Morris Levy, who ran the label and was eventually convicted of extortion, as ``one of the kindest, most warm-hearted, and classiest music men I have ever known.'' At ABC/Impulse!, Thiele oversaw the classic recordings of John Coltrane, although he is the first to admit that Coltrane essentially produced his own sessions. Like many producers of the day, Thiele participated in the ownership of publishing rights to some of the songs he recorded; he makes no apology for this practice, which he calls ``entirely appropriate and without any ethical conflicts.'' A pleasant, if not exactly riveting, memoir that will be of most interest to those with a thirst for cocktail-hour stories of the record biz. (25 halftones, not seen)

Pub Date: May 1, 1995

ISBN: 0-19-508629-4

Page Count: 224

Publisher: Oxford Univ.

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: March 1, 1995

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