Newspaper article The Christian Science Monitor

Stories of Studios and Stars

Newspaper article The Christian Science Monitor

Stories of Studios and Stars

Article excerpt

A GRAVEYARD FOR LUNATICS: ANOTHER TALE OF TWO CITIES, By Ray Bradbury, New York: Alfred Knopf, 285 pp., $18.95 HYPE AND GLORY, By William Goldman, New York: Villard Booksm, 306 pp., $19.95

`WE need our storytellers," William Goldman writes. "Somebody's got to keep us alive through the dangerous night when the flames are flickering and the wolves howl."

Since those days, listeners have asked for larger-than-life figures: heroes without blemishes, knights of extraordinary prowess, athletes of supreme grace, maidens of unassailable virtue, beauties lovely beyond description, villains wallowing in corruption and a venality that can make a listener gasp.

Mythic forefathers once made up these gigantesque figures. Later members of the nobility provided them - often doing harm to history, as England's King Richard III might attest.

For the past 70 years or so, Hollywood has given these figures to American culture, spawning a vast literature that extends from movie magazines through "Hollywood novels" ("What Makes Sammy Run?" "The Day of the Locust," "The Last Tycoon") and movie bios, both tawdry and insightful, to sober studies of Hollywood business practices, and even to anthropological monographs.

The two very different books under review here attest to Hollywood's continuing capacity to fascinate the imaginations even of insiders. The authors are well-known, well-admired writers to whom Hollywood has been kind.

Ray Bradbury's "A Graveyard for Lunatics" is a joyful phantasmagoria of a novel, a 52-pick-up of elements drawn from Hollywood studio backlots, circa 1954.

This is the novel Huckleberry Finn might have written if he had gone West with actors who toured the gold fields, had had his imagination honed by campfire ghost stories and scrapes with Indians, had signed on as a junior sci-fi writer at a studio run by Scott Fitzgerald's Monroe Stahr or Orson Welles's Citizen Kane, and had gotten hooked by "Phantom of the Opera" and Bible rewrites for religious epics. …

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