Archives for September 2016
Movies are the most powerful tools of social and political propaganda the world has ever known. Consider: America wins wars only when Hollywood supports the conflict and puts itself squarely behind America’s war effort. During World War II, every studio in Hollywood backed the Allied effort against the Axis. Hollywood stars enlisted for active duty, raised money for war bonds, toured and entertained our troops, and the studios produced films that went all out for freedom and liberty against the tyranny of Nazi Germany and Imperial Japan. Hollywood played a huge role in America’s victory.
Contrast Vietnam. Hollywood, overwhelmingly anti-war, produced a series of movies that undermined the American effort against the spread of communism in Southeast Asia. Hollywood knew that with a few clever, glossy films (most notably “Coming Home” (’78), starring Jane Fonda and Jon Voight) and their carefully-manufactured anti-war narratives, it could undermine American foreign policy and turn heroic GIs into psychotic baby-killers. America lost Vietnam.
In our times, Hollywood produced several high profile movies that argued against America’s military conflicts in Iraq and Afghanistan. Not one of the films was profitable, but the damage was done. America withdrew from both fronts. IslamoNazis filled the vacuum — and Hollywood will never take notice or assume any responsibility for the chaos and mass murder it helped to create.
In 1939, Joan Fontaine, twenty-one years old, was slowly making her way up the Hollywood ladder. MGM signed Fontaine to play a small part in the high profile production The Women, directed by George Cukor, starring Norma Shearer, Joan Crawford, Rosalind Russell and Paulette Goddard. For the young actress, it was a plum assignment.
At the same time, Fontaine was subject to numerous screen tests for the role of the second Mrs. De Winter for David O. Selznick’s highly anticipated Rebecca, first under the direction of John Cromwell and then Alfred Hitchcock. The screen tests were grueling, and the emotional toll devastating. Fontaine’s nerves were seriously frayed.
Fontaine and her sister Olivia de Havilland were living in the same house in North Hollywood with their overbearing mother Lilian, a failed actress. As always, Joan and Olivia were engaged in a low-intensity conflict. Like so many Hollywood actresses, Fontaine’s father was long gone.
I get a fair amount of email from readers asking me about writing.
More specifically, how do I go about writing a movie?
Writing is ninety percent perspiration, ten percent inspiration. In other words do not wait to get struck with inspiration. That’s a load of romantic nonsense. In fact, that’s a sure way not to write. The biggest secret in Hollywood—at least for writers who actually work and make money—is how hard they work. Discipline is the name of the game. Organization is vital. An obsession with the minutae of a story is a requirement. G-d is in the details.