Home » Its the Pictures That Got Small: Charles Brackett on Billy Wilder and Hollywoods Golden Age (Film and Culture Series) by Anthony Slide
Its the Pictures That Got Small: Charles Brackett on Billy Wilder and Hollywoods Golden Age (Film and Culture Series) Anthony Slide

Its the Pictures That Got Small: Charles Brackett on Billy Wilder and Hollywoods Golden Age (Film and Culture Series)

Anthony Slide

Published November 25th 2014
Kindle Edition
448 pages
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 About the Book 

When you finish the Areopagiticus of Isocrates, you may want an entertaining tub soak with this item while a sweetie turns the pages for you. Caution: cinemaddicts only.Brackett (1892-1969) is one of the few screenwriters with a name anyone knows as a result of his 14 year partnership, starting in 1936, with the egotistical imp Billy Wilder -- smart, bratty and always ready with a wisecrack. Together they wrote, among others, Ninotchka and Sunset Boulevard, which Wilder also directed. This is not a tell-all and has no Hollywood diss. Instead, it takes you into the life of a screenwriter during the golden days of Hollywood when it was a dream factory that turned out streamlined products. (No franchises, tentpoles or agented frozen-dry packages featuring special DEfects). Brackett shows you what it was like in the torture cells of writing from morning to night, being assigned rewrite-scenes for pix in trouble, on-the-set reshoots, dreary confabs with the Moguls, casting searches and changes, going to previews in Glendale and Long Beach, and dining in the commissary or at the long-gone Luceys, near Paramount. With Pearl Harbor, union issues and the Commie menace at hand, theres still a constant need to develop inhouse creative films like The Lost Weekend or A Foreign Affair.The divas provide some wonderful anecdotes: Carol Lombard turns down Ball of Fire, which Stanwyck did- the day before production starts on Midnight Colbert announces that she immediately needs 3 inlays in her teeth and submits a memo from her dentist- Ginger Rogers wavers on To Each His Own : should she play an older woman ? should she play a sad picture? Says diarist Brackett, It is the old trouble with Ginger: she hasnt a very good brain, but insists on using it. Olivia de Havilland takes the role and wins an Oscar. On A Foreign Affair both Jean Arthur and Dietrich burp that they arent getting enough close-ups. (Irony: todays nitwit directors shoot most of their rubbish in close-ups for TV screens -- plus, they dont know how to do anything else).Sunset begins as a glimmer for Mae West. Entry, Aug 12, 1948 : ...while offering riotous possibilities, it could not result in a picture of distinction and began thinking more about Gloria Swanson.. Monty Clift was offered the male lead. He seemed to like the idea, then abruptly said No. (He was then on dope with Libby Holman, whose millionaire husby shot himself decades earlier. See: the Libby bio, Dreams That Money Can Buy.) The pic made Wm Holden a star.A Harvard-educated Easterner who once worked for The New Yorker, Brackett, a conservative, is baffled by all the Hollywood Lefties who come from the other side of the tracks. The class war for them dwarfs any national problem. In 1941, he notes as WW2 begins: [John] Garfield, a complete stinker, spent the luncheon airing his hatred of England and his passion for Russia...Most importantly this memoir smashes the notion that Wilder was the brains of the partnership. Critics like Richard Corliss (Time), who know nothing about filmmaking, and never will, have suggested that Brackett acted as a private secretary to the immigrant from Berlin who spoke pidgin English. The books famous title line came fr Brackett...and, working on Ninotchka, 1939, he reports with pride that Ernst Lubitsch, the comedys great director, seeing his rewrites, allowed words of praise which were very sweet for me.