Writers in Hollywood, 1915-1951

Ian Hamilton, Author
Ian Hamilton, Author HarperCollins Publishers $25 (326p) ISBN 978-0-06-016231-3
Reviewed on: 05/01/1990
Release date: 05/01/1990
Hamilton (In Search of J. D. Salinger ) fails largely in his purpose to equate the work of often overlooked film scripters to the contributions of famous directors. The book opens with promise, telling about writers hired to subtitle early silents and pioneers like Anita Loos who sold original stories to the studios. But the chapters thereafter dwell on certain films per se rather than on the writers. There are, moreover, errors: In The Best Years of Our Lives , the veteran's hands were blown off, not, as Hamilton has it, his arms; the Nazi in Lifeboat amputated the American's torn leg, not his arm. It is another surprise to read here of Garbo's ``frozen eyes, mid-European or muscular mid-Bronx'' speech ( Queen Christina ). In later sections the author covers such developments as censorship, the founding of the Screen Writers Guild and the competing Screen Playwrights, fights for credits between collaborators--for example, Orson Welles vs. Herman Mankiewicz(Citizen Kane )--and the House UnAmerican Activities Commitee hearings. The book ends in 1951 with the imprisonment of the Hollywood Ten for defying HUAC. Film buffs will find the book disappointing. (May)
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