Film Flam
A noted screenwriter himself, Pulitzer Prize-winner Larry McMurtry knows his Hollywood. In Film Flam, he takes a funny, original, and penetrating look at the movie industry and gives us the truth about the moguls, fads, flops, and box-office hits. With successful movies and television miniseries made from several of his novels -- Terms of Endearment, The Last Picture Show, Lonesome Dove, and Hud -- McMurtry writes with an outsider's irony of the industry and an insider's experience. In these essays he illuminates the plight of the screenwriter, cuts a clean, often hilarious path through the excesses of film reviewing, and takes on some of the worst trends in the industry: the decline of the Western, the disappearance of love in the movies, and the quality of the stars themselves. From his recollections of the day Hollywood entered McMurtry's own life as he ate meat loaf in Fort Worth to the pleasures he found in the Beverly Wilshire Hotel, Film Flam is one of the best books ever written about Hollywood.

Film Flam Details

TitleFilm Flam
Author
LanguageEnglish
ReleaseSep 11th, 2001
PublisherSimon & Schuster
ISBN-139780743216241
Rating
GenreNonfiction, Culture, Film, Writing, Essays, Westerns, Short Stories

Film Flam Review

  • Jess
    January 1, 1970
    This is a fascinating view of Hollywood and screenwriting. Sometimes depressing, sometimes sad, but entertaining enough for me to read it cover to cover.
  • Vel Veeter
    January 1, 1970
    Because I read Hollywood, this collection is only so good. He repeats himself here, or rather there, but I read that one first. One thing he does really well is talk about the nature of being a writer in Hollywood and how that has a kind of stepchild relationship to film. He himself states that the ideal situation would be for directors to write their own scripts. But I know from reading Sidney Lumet’s Hollywood memoir that not every director is an “artist” or that concerned about that kind of c Because I read Hollywood, this collection is only so good. He repeats himself here, or rather there, but I read that one first. One thing he does really well is talk about the nature of being a writer in Hollywood and how that has a kind of stepchild relationship to film. He himself states that the ideal situation would be for directors to write their own scripts. But I know from reading Sidney Lumet’s Hollywood memoir that not every director is an “artist” or that concerned about that kind of control. Lumet claims in his book that having scripts more or less ready-made allowed him to move faster and produce more. And the result is that sometimes the movies are great (12 Angry Men, Dog Day Afternoon, Network, The Pawnbroker) and the rest are mostly just ok. He talks about making plenty of movies for the paycheck. I bring in Lumet because McMurtry references a couple of those films, these essays occupy about the same time period, and because McMurtry says that not only was Hollywood a paying for gig for him he also faced a lot of sentiment that writers should write for art and not worry about money. This coming from both producers who don’t want to pay that much and from writers who want to hegemonize the idea of writing. I also thought about Lumet because McMurtry spends one essay thinking through difficult novels to film. Most of McMurtry’s books are very filmable…he mostly writes in third-person, the writing is cinematic and spare, he uses conventions in plot from time to time, and the characters are well-realized and so easily filmed. He offers up EL Doctorow’s novel Ragtime as a novel that Doctorow was hired to adapt and who turned in a 350 page draft, about three times too long. He also mentions another Doctorow novel The Book of Daniel, about the orphaned son of Ethel and Julius Rosenberg, as a potentially unfilmable novel. Lumet DID make that movie, and it’s merely ok. All of this also because Sidney Lumet made a version of McMurtry’s second novel Leaving Cheyenne and McMurtry hated it.Another interesting essay in this collection which I feel has connections to Netflix and Moviepass is about the emotional toll of watching a long list of bland and sentimental movies on one’s psyche. I thought it had a funny connection to how many schlocky mediocre films get watched now as a result of these services.
    more
  • Rickeclectic
    January 1, 1970
    Larry McMurtry essays on film. He has a good pedigree to talk about it, since he has many years as a writer and as a screenwriter. He has some good things to say about the craft of screenwriting. The book was from 1987. The essays start well and gradually peter out. He even has an essay near the end which is called The Last Movie Column and pretty much says he is tired of writing about film. Then we get several more essays.Nonetheless, here are a few gems from the earlier essays (and remember th Larry McMurtry essays on film. He has a good pedigree to talk about it, since he has many years as a writer and as a screenwriter. He has some good things to say about the craft of screenwriting. The book was from 1987. The essays start well and gradually peter out. He even has an essay near the end which is called The Last Movie Column and pretty much says he is tired of writing about film. Then we get several more essays.Nonetheless, here are a few gems from the earlier essays (and remember this is 1987):"An industry that seems to have concluded that its best hope is to dramatize the comic-strip literature of an earlier and more vigorous era is one whose fevers have finally destroyed its nerve.""I believe to this day, that the creation of accurately motivated characters is apt to be the most important contribution a novelist-screenwriter can make to a movie script.""By and large Hollywood is a town with a good sense of humor. Everyone jokes about sex, and a few of the more rebellious types joke about fame, but noone I know in Hollywood ever jokes about money.""... The Last Picture Show was exactly the kind of book from which good movies are made -- that is, a flatly written book with strong characterizations and a sense of period and place.""...working in Hollywood is like working in a city filled with immensely attractive children .. who .. also have the attention span of two year olds.""The screenplay is only secondarily a written thing; it is an elaborate notation... a kind of codified visualization.""...in our time TV has replaced the oral tradition, upon which, for so long, the transmission of myth depended.""I would hate to see popularity pushed too far as a criterion for significance.""Obviously, where art has it over life is in the matter of editing."These are good nuggets, from the highly readable first half of the book.
    more
  • Paul Parsons
    January 1, 1970
    I read this only because I'm working my way through McMurtry. It was interesting to see the author's take on Hollywood and moviemaking 25 years ago. More interesting perhaps was his personal reactions to being swept into the Hollywood scene when some of his books were adapted to the big screen. McMurtry also lived through the time of television coming into competion with movie theaters. More of interest to history buffs than recreational readers.
    more
  • allison
    January 1, 1970
    A pretty swell collection of essays about screenwriting (in the first half of the book) and film in general (second half). The writing is smart and entertaining, and he's got an interesting vantage point--he manages to be both an insider and outsider in the movie biz. His honesty about the craft and business of writing was very comforting to me. I liked it!
    more
  • Robert
    January 1, 1970
    A collection of columns and essays printed in the 70's and early 80's. Insightful at the time, both prophetic and nostalgic now.
Write a review