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(Applause Books). Here is the original story of a true original, the celebrated and internationally renowned director, playwright and screenwriter Arthur Laurents, whose creative genius continues to energize American stage and screen today. Say his name, and images of West Side Story , Gypsy, Anastasia, The Turning Point , and The Way We Were appear. Laurents' highly praised memoir is a dazzling portrait of his life as he recounts the great moments, the trials and the joys of his incredible career. He takes us into his world, peopled with the
(Applause Books). Here is the original story of a true original, the celebrated and internationally renowned director, playwright and screenwriter Arthur Laurents, whose creative genius continues to energize American stage and screen today. Say his name, and images of West Side Story , Gypsy, Anastasia, The Turning Point , and The Way We Were appear. Laurents' highly praised memoir is a dazzling portrait of his life as he recounts the great moments, the trials and the joys of his incredible career. He takes us into his world, peopled with the creative artists, directors, actors and personalities who came of age in the theatre and in Hollywood after WWII. Later, back in New York, he writes about jump-starting Barbra Streisand's career by casting her in I Can Get It for You Wholesale . He writes about the creation of Gypsy with Jule Styne and Stephen Sondheim. And he writes about coming together in a complex, fraught collaboration with his three old pals, Jerome Robbins, Leonard Bernstein and Sondheim for West Side Story . Throughout, Laurents is funny, fierce, and frank a life recounted as richly as it was lived. "This is a historic work. A 'must' for show biz mavens." LIZ SMITH, Newsday & Syndicated
I began reading plays while I was at Cornell; in fact, that's almost all I did one whole year. If you had a certain average, the university allowed you to invent a course not covered in the curriculum, provided an assistant professor or better would agree to teach it. The course I invented was in the socially conscious drama since 1848. The assistant professor who agreed to "teach" the course and I had two common causes: the theatre and prejudice. He didn't love the theatre quite as much as I did, though, and his anger at prejudice was less than mine. But then, his anger came from having been the only Protestant in a Catholic school. I was grateful he had experienced that much. The course we took together -- I read the plays and reviewed them for him -- was one of the pathetically few I took at Cornell that I enjoyed or from which I learned anything. We both learned it was much easier to be a critic than a playwright. Or a teacher.
I took a playwriting course from the noted Prof. A. M. Drummond, a huge man on crutches who right off the bat delivered a ukase never to begin a play with the telephone ringing. I immediately wrote a one-act play that began with a telephone ringing. If it hadn't, there wouldn't have been a play. It wasn't just rebelliousness that prompted that play; Drummond was a casually overt anti-Semite. He had no compunction about beginning a sentence with "You Jews" -- there were two others in the class -- and I was declaring war. I didn't win, not while I was at Cornell anyway. He advised me to give up playwriting.
It wasn't until I was writing professionally for radio that I did happen on a good teacher: Ned Warren, who wasBill Robson's story editor. Also best friend and maker of Prairie Oysters for hangovers. Bald and rosy-cheeked, Ned looked as though he got his clothes in London (he wore ascots). He sat me down one day to discuss the scripts I had been writing. He was so wry and sardonic that I was completely unprepared when he told me I had talent. Just that, in those words: I had talent. No one had ever said that before and he was definite. I wanted to run out of the room before he continued because I knew there had to be a caveat. As indeed there was. My problem was that I was too facile. Too often, I made transitions in a scene through words, not as they should be made, through emotions. Emotions precede thought, emotions determine thought; plays are emotion. The single best lesson I have ever been given.
Along with Ned's wife Virginia, Bill and Ned adopted me. I adored Virginia. She had a deep voice with laughter underneath. She wore sweater sets, pearls, and a headband. She read constantly, anything, box tops, flyers, Trollope in paperback; she sat in corners from which she tossed out off-the-wall comments; she chuckled at everybody's jokes. We all drank millions of very-dry-Beefeater-martinis-straight-up and smoked Chesterfields and Camels around the red-checkered tablecloths at the old Billy's Steakhouse on First Avenue. Sunday brunch was at Willy's -- Bill became Willy when you became his friend -- where he made huevos rancheros with Bloody Marys before and during, and Irish coffee after. I had never been so happy as I was as a member of their wedding. I was twenty-two.
|Chapter 1||Beginnings: Home of the Brave||3|
|Chapter 2||Hollywood University: Mrs. Selznick, Messrs. Litvak, Hitchcock, Cukor and Ophuls||64|
|Chapter 3||Master Class: With Harold and Stella, Shirley and Kate, Steve and Dick||156|
|Chapter 4||Change of Direction: I Can Get It for You Wholesale with Stark and Merrick vs. Streisand||220|
|Chapter 5||The Hunting Season: The Way We Were and the Way They Were||249|
|Chapter 6||Informing Revisited: Jolson Sings Again and Other Betrayals||300|
|Chapter 7||The Moon Comes Out: West Side Story, Gypsy, and Tom||325|
Posted May 27, 2003
Rarely have I ever read any book about anyone that is more entertaining and fun than this one. Arthur Laurents does a masterful job of telling about his remarkable Broadway career and makes the story a wonderful ride. There are backstage sagas that will hold any Broadway-loving reader spellbound. Thanks for writing this, Mr. Laurents, and all the best to you!
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