Backstory 1: Interviews with Screenwriters of Hollywood's Golden Age

Patrick McGilligan, Author University of California Press $42.95 (382p) ISBN 978-0-520-05666-4
Hollywood reminiscences are apparently as limitless as they are irresistible to film buffs. Backstoryan old screenwriting term for the story that has taken place before the action of a movie beginsgives veteran screenwriters their turn in this collection of 14 interviews.It has the usual quota of who-said-what-to-whom anecdotes, but with less than their usual amusement value. Among the interviews, some of which have been previously published, only three were conducted by McGilligan, a contributing editor to American Film. Long the victims of notorious mistreatment by the studios and now well advanced in years (several have died since these interviews took place), the writers here can be forgiven the impulse to have the last word and settle accounts, but the frequent squabbling over screen credits and insistence on their own importance gives this collection an aggrieved, sometimes crabby, tone. There are plesant memories and bright patches (Julius Epstein, Donald Ogden Stewart), valuable comments on the art of screenwriting and occasionally some interesting gossip (director Frank Capra had a painting of Mussolini on his bedroom wall; WW II Secret Service/FBI meetings were held in Cecil B. DeMille's office), but overall the interviews confirm the cliche that old Hollywood was a bad place for writers, leaving them well-paid but frustrated, cynical, or wistfully disappointed. Photos. First serial to American Film. (December
Reviewed on: 10/28/1986
Release date: 11/01/1986
Paperback - 382 pages - 978-0-520-05689-3
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