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Film Flam: Essays on Hollywood

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In this slim volume of essays, novelist/screenwriter McMurtry offers his refreshing views on movies, both junk (yea) and art (nay), Hollywood and its populace, the process of filmmaking, the power of money, film audiences, and critics. His experiences and thoughts on screenwriting, adapting novels, adapting one's own novels (a bad idea), and on the craft itself contain more useful information than a pile of how-to manuals. As in his novels, McMurtry is by turns witty, acerbic, and thoughtful; the pieces are surprisingly stylish in that the bulk of them (17 out of 21) were spun off on monthly deadlines (for American Film magazine, in 1975-77), and McMurtry admittedly can't remember writing most of them. A fine collection, from a fine writer.David Bartholomew, NYPL

William Murray The New York Times Book Review These pieces are very well written, witty, and, on the whole, vastly entertaining...Unlike too many literary people, Mr. McMurtry has few illusions about Hollywood and he is not kind to the place. He finds it full of "self-praise, defensiveness, insecurity, and megalomania." Larry McMurtry is my kind of moviegoer.

Perhaps timed to piggyback on acclaim for McMurtry's latest novel Texasville, this stale collection of magazine pieces is a scam, all right, but it falls short of its titular pun only because the author demonstrates little of the delight in his art expected from the true con artist. McMurtry takes his self-effacing tone to an irritating extreme, claiming that he can't remember writing these pieces (most of which he churned out during a stint as a columnist at American Film in the mid-'70s) and that he would have forgotten them entirely if someone hadn't had the idea of putting them into a book. No wonderthere is little memorable here, other than the few efforts that actually live up to the subtitle, in which McMurtry observes the peculiar role of the writer in an industry that values images more than words. McMurtry's novels have served as the basis for some of Hollywood's finest films of the last decades, including Hud (based on his first novel, Horseman, Pass By The Last Picture Show (whose screenplay he co-wrote with director Peter Bogdanovich) and Terms of Endearment, so he is in a choice position to examine the writer's place in the Hollywood machine. Unfortunately, he strays from the material that he is uniquely equipped to handle and wanders uncompellingly into film criticism, book reviews and digressions about column writing. It is an odyssey easily forgotten. (June 5)

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