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FLASHBACK: Nora Johnson on Nunnally Johnson by Nora Johnson

FLASHBACK: Nora Johnson on Nunnally Johnson


Pub Date: June 15th, 1979
Publisher: Doubleday

Screenwriter Nunnally Johnson's voluble, oedipal daughter Nora has Pop to herself at last, and she gradually smuggles her own life in with the story of his--most profitably when she remembers her childhood, source of The World of Henry Orient (her novel, his movie, and a play that caused them an ugly split). Nora's aggressive first-person does nothing for Nunnally's early years--Georgia roots, journalism and womanizing in New York. But once she gets her parents married and divorced (1938), her clowning and churning keep the whole thing going. Nora commuted between New York (Mom) and Beverly Hills, where Pop and Dorris were approximating the orderly domestic bliss that Nunnally always wanted above all--and where ""I felt as included as possible under the circumstances"" (among them, three step-siblings). No one in Hollywood worked more steadily and lucratively than he did, and Nora dutifully reprises his every film (The Grapes of Wrath, The Man in the Gray Flannel Suit, The Three Faces of Eve, etc.). It was Zanuck, Nora says, who encouraged him to try producing--which, he confessed, he hadn't the least gift for: ""My general approach to a star is 'You wouldn't like this, would you?' "" His personal style called for ""dissimulation""--for keeping cool and avoiding confrontations. (""When cornered you let fly with a mot."") She played by his rules, unwilling to risk disapproval, and now--two husbands and years of psychoanalysis later--she blames him for her self-deceiving mistakes. But, she observes, they were better with each other on paper. And the evidence--his letters and this marbled book--bear her out.