Anyone familiar with Old Hollywood, not to mention old Broadway, will know the name Garson Kanin: screenwriter of such great films as Adam's Rib, Pat and Mike, and It Should Happen to You, among others, some in collaboration with his wife Ruth Gordon; playwright of Born Yesterday, which made Judy Holliday a star; author of a number of fiction and non-fiction books. His credentials are legit, is my point. Keep that in mind.
In 1979, he released a novel called Moviola, an alternate history of Hollywood through the eyes of a prominent film producer. Many superstar actors, directors and producers appear in the story, including Charlie Chaplin, Buster Keaton, Marilyn Monroe, Greta Garbo, David O. Selznick, Louis B. Mayer, Rene Clair and many more.
Ben, the protagonist, tells his life story as an old man to a younger man, sent as an emissary of a foreign businessman intent on buying Ben's studio. The film industry of the present, the late 70s - the so-called "New Hollywood" that, in the notorious words of Dennis Hopper, vowed to "bury" their predecessors - is held in contrast to its forebears as we follow Ben, from his beginnings as a Jewish immigrant to his modest career as an exhibitor to his move west to become a producer, and the many lives he touches along the way.
When I told Sandi about Moviola, she suggested no one called Kanin on these things because he was Garson Kanin, Hollywood screenwriter. I suppose that's possible. If so, that's unfortunate, but if not, I couldn't for the life of me understand why he chose to write this way. Sandi also said in plays and screenplays, such literary mistakes would not be easily caught. Does that mean he didn't know any better? I sincerely doubt that. Regardless, it marred what should have been a great read.
Moviola was adapted into a three-part TV mini-series in 1980. It was actually three two-hour movies, based on three sections of the book: Garbo and Garfield, the casting call for Scarlett in Gone With the Wind, and Monroe. I can't tell from this article if the character of Ben even appears in the TV movies or not.
So that's that. Oh yeah, one more thing about my used copy of Moviola, found completely by chance in a bargain bin...
|"2.xi.79 Dear Jill - Who took that goddam picture? Much love, Gar (?) NYC"|
UPDATE 10.30.17: I've just read this and now I wish I hadn't gotten rid of this book because I have a feeling I should probably read it again.