Schmucks with Underwoods

Overview

(Applause Books). "Where were you when the page was blank?!" a beleaguered screenwriter once asked a demanding director back in the golden age of movies. Max Wilk, an esteemed writer himself, admits "dignity for screenwriters is long overdue." That's why he has assembled this insightful homage to the men and women whose words created the foundation for our best and most-loved films. Here are face-to-face interviews with some of the historic giants of the industry, spanning the silent era to the 1960s, including Billy Wilder, Ernst Lubitsch, ...

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Overview

(Applause Books). "Where were you when the page was blank?!" a beleaguered screenwriter once asked a demanding director back in the golden age of movies. Max Wilk, an esteemed writer himself, admits "dignity for screenwriters is long overdue." That's why he has assembled this insightful homage to the men and women whose words created the foundation for our best and most-loved films. Here are face-to-face interviews with some of the historic giants of the industry, spanning the silent era to the 1960s, including Billy Wilder, Ernst Lubitsch, Sidney Buchman ( Mr. Smith Goes to Washington ), Donald Ogden Stewart ( The Philadelphia Story ), R.C. Sherriff ( Goodbye Mr. Chips ), Albert and Frances Hackett ( It's a Wonderful Life ), Evan Hunter ( The Birds ), John Collier, Edmund Hartmann, Ben Hecht, Nunnally Johnson and many more. In addition, Schmucks with Underwoods (a derogatory label for screenwriters coined by none other than the irascible Jack Warner) includes quotes and commentary about many other towering figures of the day, including Raymond Chandler, Edward Chodorov, Preston Sturges, Howard Koch, Dorothy Parker, Herman Mankiewicz and Paddy Chayefsky. Always entertaining, this book offers invaluable insight into the craft of writing, a fascinating portrait of a lost era of Hollywood, with enough hilarious anecdotes and behind-the-scenes trivia to please even the most casual movie buff.

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Editorial Reviews

Publishers Weekly
Because his father worked for Warner Bros. during its heyday, Wilk (They're Playing Our Song: Conversations with America's Classic Songwriters; OK!: The Story of Oklahoma!; etc.) grew up "a Warner brat," absorbing the many revealing life lessons a place like Warner Bros. threw in his midst. The prolific author singles out not the Hollywood legends populating the Warner studio but its unvalued screenwriters, the "schmucks with Underwoods," as studio honcho Jack L. Warner once quipped. Beginning in the early 1970s, Wilk interviewed some of the people who penned some of Hollywood's most enduring achievements going back to the 1930s and '40s, among them Donald Odgen Stewart (The Philadelphia Story), Ben Hecht (Gone with the Wind) and Sidney Buchman (Mr. Smith Goes to Washington). Wilk includes a wide swath of writers trying to fashion something artistic out of stern commercial mandates handed down by the studios, but occasionally flagging in that struggle-there are frequent recollections of cranking out scripts at a dizzyingly mechanical pace ("you are doing a chore assigned to you by your employer," Dorothy Parker decided). The subjects, however, are devoid of bitter regret. Wilk, himself a film and TV writer, punctuates his long profiles with short tales that cover the many legendary writers who at one time or another wrote for Hollywood (e.g., Aldous Huxley, Thornton Wilder). The variety of screenwriters Wilk interviews is gratifying, but his tendency to quote them at unending length may bore some readers. Still, Wilk's interviews uncover a smattering of wry, observant voices telling a largely neglected element of Hollywood history. 17 b&w photos, line drawings. (Feb.) Copyright 2003 Reed Business Information.
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9781557835086
  • Publisher: Hal Leonard Corporation
  • Publication date: 1/1/2004
  • Pages: 304
  • Product dimensions: 6.18 (w) x 9.34 (h) x 0.87 (d)

Table of Contents

Acknowledgments
Preface
1 Overview: Writers in Hollywood 1
S. N. Behrman on Hollywood in the '30s 11
2 Hark! Here Comes the Brave Title Writer! 13
John Cromwell at Paramount in 1930 27
3 Sidney Buchman: Harry Cohn's Fair-Haired Boy 29
Nunnally Johnson: "The Compleat Dialogue Writer" 43
4 Hail Caesar! Arthur Caesar in the 1930s 45
Walter Wanger on Gene Towne and Graham Baker 57
5 NY to LA to NY, to LA: A Conversation with Edward Chodorov 59
Raymond Chandler on Directors 81
Writers and Darryl Zanuck 82
6 Glimpses of Ben Hecht 83
Nunnally Johnson on Respect for Writers 107
7 Here Come the British: R. C. Sherriff and Benn W. Levy 109
Anita Loos on Aldous Huxley 123
8 Thank You, Hepburn and Bogart: John Collier 125
On Evelyn Waugh 139
John Huston and Allen Rivkin: "The Maltese Falcon" 140
9 Refugees in Residence: Billy Wilder 141
Joe and Herman Mankiewicz 163
10 The Late Mr. Harry Kurnitz 165
Garson Kanin: A Harry Cohn Story 177
11 Oh Preston, Where Art Thou?: Preston Sturges 179
Samuel Hoffenstein: "Notebook of a Schnook" 189
12 The Blacklist: Donald Ogden Stewart in Exile 191
Bertold Brecht Departs 201
Howard Koch on Ayn Rand 202
13 Married ... with Talent: Albert and Frances Hackett 205
Dorothy Parker in a Serious Mode 223
14 Waves of Laughter: Edmund Hartmann 225
Sol Lesser on Thornton Wilder 247
15 Freundschaft: A Memoir of Ernst Lubitsch 249
The Epsteins and "Casablanca" 275
Faulkner at MGM 276
16 Faulkner and the Pyramids: Harold Jack Bloom 279
Sidney Lumet on Paddy Chayefsky 295
17 The Colonel Fades Out: Jack Warner 297
18 Double Feature: Evan Hunter and Ed McBain 311
Larry Gelbart on "The Notorious Landlady" 327
Coda: Michael Tolkin from "The Player" 329
Index 330
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