Dedications: My four late friends Rory, Stan, Bryan, Jeff - shine on you crazy diamonds, they would have blogged too. Then theres Garry from Brisbane, Franco in Milan, Mike now in S.F. / my '60s-'80s gang: Ned & Joseph in Ireland; in England: Frank, Des, Guy, Clive, Joe & Joe, Ian, Ivan, Nick, David, Les, Stewart, the 3 Michaels / Catriona, Sally, Monica, Jean, Ella, Anne, Candie / and now: Daryl in N.Y., Jerry, John, Colin, Martin and Donal.

Wednesday, 19 September 2012

Gore on Hollywood

I just have to share this delicious paragraph from Gore Vidal's 1976 collection of essays: MATTERS OF FACT AND OF FICTION (Essays 1973-1976) from the Heinemann hardback edition:

The bad movies we made twenty years ago (meaning the 1950s) are now regarded in altogether too many circles as important aspects of what the new illiterates want to believe is the only significant art form of the twentieth century. An entire generation has been brought up to admire the product of that era. Like so many dinosaur droppings, the old Hollywood films have petrified into something rich, strange, numinous - golden. For any survivor of the Writer's Table it is astonishing to find young directors like Bertolucci, Bogdanovich, Truffaut reverently repeating or echoing or paying homage to the sort of kitsch we created first time around with a good deal of "help" from our producers and practically none at all from the directors - if one may quickly set aside the myth of the director as auteur. Golden-age movies were the work of producer(s) and writer(s). The director was given a finished shooting script with each shot clearly marked, and woe to him if he changed MED CLOSE SHOT to MED SHOT without permission from the front office, which each evening, in serried ranks, watched the day's rushes with script in hand ("we got some good pages today" they would say, never good film). This applies to the movies of the thirties, forties and fifties.

Gore continues in this acerbic vein on the current best-sellers of the '70s - I dare say the above applies to the many journeyman directors each studio had in regular employment. Of course the visionary directors (like Max Ophuls, Nick Ray, Hawks, Huston, Cukor or Minnelli) imposed their own style on even the most routine material or studio assigment ....
Another task Gore undertook on the 1959 BEN HUR, apart from that work on the script, was advising the set decorator for Mrs Hur's kitchen that they did not have tomatoes back in the ancient world! Re-reading him again now is an unalloyed pleasure. Highly recommended.

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