Tycoons and Locusts: A Regional Look at Hollywood Fiction of the 1930s

Tycoons and Locusts: A Regional Look at Hollywood Fiction of the 1930s

Tycoons and Locusts: A Regional Look at Hollywood Fiction of the 1930s

Tycoons and Locusts: A Regional Look at Hollywood Fiction of the 1930s

Synopsis

The fascination and lure of Hollywood during the Great Depression are explored in this unique and perceptive book. Wells concentrates on eight works: James M. Cain's The Postman Always Rings Twice,Horace McCoy's They Shoot Horses, Don't They?, John O'Hara's Hope of Heaven,Nathanael West's Day of the Locust,Budd Schulberg's What Makes Sammy Run?, Raymond Chandler's Farewell,My Lovely,and F. Scott Fitzgerald's The Last Tycoonand The Pat Hobby Stories. Dominating and unifying the fiction discussed is an overriding theme of dissolution, of falseness, of cynicism, Wells finds. His conclusion, which makes this book more than just another study of the fiction of the 1930s, is that the Hollywood-Southland region imposed these attitudes on the writers, whose fiction thus illustrates important and interesting literary uses of region.

Excerpt

The title of Walter Wells book, Tycoons and Locusts, alerts the potential reader. of course the book is about Hollywood writers; the reader will be pleased to note that Dr. Wells essentially deals with his subject as a form of regional writing, which he carefully defines and usefully discusses. He deliberately doesn't go beyond the 1930s, though in briefly mentioning some of the later variants of what he calls "Southland" writing, he shows a thorough awareness of the post- thirties developments. He doesn't choose, however, to draw out the discussion to include later authors who followed the earlier trends of comic irony and "the perversities and unrealities of the place." He is content to give us a fresh look at the writers who were in Southern California at the time of, or a bit earlier or later than, Nathanael West The Day of the Locust, which came out in 1939, the year before he died, and F. Scott Fitzgerald The Last Tycoon, which he left unfinished at the time of his own death in 1940.

Those two books are, in any event, the California masterpieces of that decade. West and Fitzgerald are among the really first-class novelists who wrote screenplays, sometimes in disastrous attempts, particularly painful in the case of Fitzgerald. the latter was dealt with, as a character, in Budd Schulberg's novel, The Disenchanted (1950), a pretty poor novel. But Schulberg has been consistently overrated, and it's good to see that Walter Wells doesn't really contribute to this activity. When a small section of Schulberg What Makes Sammy Run? came out in Story Magazine in the late . . .

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