Hollywood Strikes a Pose: Seven Tales of Triumph, Treachery, and Travail in Old Tinseltown
When asked by David Pringle to contribute to a proposed volume entitled Hollywood: The Best 100 Novels--a project now indefinitely delayed--I was initially hesitant about venturing beyond my usual areas of expertise. However, when I began reading some Hollywood novels, everything seemed comfortingly familiar. The patterns and conventions of the genre seemed immediately clear, and I could recognize the ways that individual authors were following, or interestingly departing from, those patterns and conventions. The story of entering, conquering, and being conquered by the world of Hollywood may in fact be the central myth of twentieth-century America, if not the western world, permeating all media and making any alert observer an expert on its permutations.
What follows, then, are examinations of seven major examples of the Hollywood novel, not quite a comprehensive survey but one which, I believe, will provide enough data to convey a rough holographic image of the entire genre. To provide the aura of an ad hoc history of Hollywood in the twentieth century, I have arranged the novels chronologically according to the periods they focus on, beginning with Charles E. Van Loan's and Gore Vidal's stately portraits of the silent era and moving on to Stuart Kaminsky's intimate snapshot of Hollywood in 1940, Thomas Tryon's and Darcy O'Brien's expansive overviews principally of the 1940s and 1950s, and Jacqueline Susann's and Richard Sale's salacious sagas of the 1960s. If things seem bright and cheerful at first, only to grow progressively darker and more depressing, that may only be appropriate.
Today, we do not normally envision movie-making as a sporting event, but in the early days of the industry--with bulky hand-cranked cameras, extensive location shooting, and plots that relied heavily on slapstick, violence, and authentic stunts--everyone involved in the process worked up a sweat. So it is only fitting that Charles E. Van Loan Buck Parvin and the Movies: Stories of the MotionPicture Game