Hollywood or Bust Wins Award

This month the National Indie Excellence Awards (NIEA) announced the winners of its annual contest. The competition was created to acknowledge self-publishers and small and independent presses that go the extra mile to produce high quality books, from eye-catching design to well-written content. Judges represent all aspects of the industry and include publishers, writers, editors, book cover designers and professional copywriters.

HorB CoverAuthor Susan Marg entered her book Hollywood or Bust in the category “Arts& Entertainment.” It was the perfect fit. Hollywood or Bust consists of over five hundred quips, quotes, and off-the-cuff remarks of actors, directors, writers, and others involved in making movies and conveys what Hollywood insiders think of themselves, their lives, their fame, their careers, each other, and the town itself.

Marg is pleased that this well-regarded organization recognized her efforts. “Hollywood or Bust was a lot of work, but it was fun to research and put together,” she comments, adding, “It’s a fun read, too – like overhearing a conversation at Starbucks.”

Hollywood or Bust, ISBN 978-0-578-11882-6, is a 182-page paperback book consisting of seven chapters and twenty original photographs.  Topics cover dreams of success to attending the Oscars.  It lists for $14.95.


 Susan Marg is the author of Las Vegas Weddings: A Brief History, Celebrity Gossip, Everything Elvis, and the Complete Chapel Guide, published by HarperCollins.  Since she has moved her field of focus from the City of Lights to the City of Angels, her interest in popular culture has only intensified.


80 Years Ago: It Happened One Night

At the 7th Academy Awards held at the Biltmore Hotel in Los Angeles to honor the best films of 1934, It Happened One Night took Best Picture and swept the other top four categories, as well:  Best Director, Best Actor, Best Actress, and Best Adapted Screenplay. Yep, Frank Capra, Clark Gable, Claudette Colbert, and Robert Riskin, respectively, had a critical and commercial hit on their hands.

Going my way?

Going my way?

What? You never heard of Robert Riskin?  He was the screenwriter, which only goes to prove the old Hollywood adage that writers get no respect.   “What’s this business about being a writer?” producer Irving Thalberg once asked.  “It’s just putting one word after another.”

Riskin, by the way, was also nominated for four other films during his career: Lady for a Day, 1934; Mr. Deeds Goes to Town, 1937; You Can’t Take it with You, 1939; and Here Comes the Groom, 1952.  He deserves credit for such titillating dialogue between Gable as rogue reporter Peter Warne and Colbert as runaway heiress Ellie Andrews in the famous hitchhiking scene, after Elllie stops a car by showing her leg.

Ellie Andrews: Aren’t you going to give me a little credit?

Peter Warne: What for?

Ellie Andrews: I proved once and for all that the limb is mightier than the thumb.

Peter Warne: Why didn’t you take off all your clothes? You could have stopped forty cars.

Ellie Andrews: Well, oooh, I’ll remember that when we need forty cars.

Sarcasm works just as well today as it did back them.

Not to make too big a deal of it, but it wasn’t until One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest in 1975, followed by The Silence of the Lambs in 1991, that a movie again won in the top five categories.  Will it happen this year?  Maybe.  American Hustle, based on an original screenplay scribed by Eric Warren Singer and David O. Russell, the later also the director, has nominations in the requisite categories.

© 2014 Susan Marg – All Rights Reserved


60 Years Ago: Down by the Docks

My husband and I watched On the Waterfront from 1954 the other night.  What a movie! Based on a series of articles, it’s about corruption in the longshoremen’s union in New York, although it was shot in Hoboken, Frank Sinatra’s hometown.

Oil on canvas 1934 by Pino Janni; Photo by: cliff1066

Oil on canvas 1934 by Pino Janni; Photo by: cliff1066

Everyone knows that its star Marlon Brando won his first Best Actor Oscar for his role as Terry Molloy.  When he told his brother, “I coulda been a contender,” it was heartbreaking. He had been nominated three times before: in 1951 for his performance as Stanley Kowalski in Streetcar Named Desire; in 1952 for Emiliano Zapata in Viva Zapata; and in 1953 for Mark Antony in Julius Caesar.  The later was in the same year that Brando played the iconic rebel biker Johnny Strabler in The Wild One.

Look at who else was in the cast.  Lee J. Cobb, Karl Malden, and Rod Steiger were all nominated for Best Supporting Actor.  Eva Marie Saint, in her debut film role, won for Best Supporting Actress. Unaccredited actors included Fred Gwynne, Martin Balsam, and Pat Hingle.

Behind the scenes, Elia Kazan directed and Budd Schulberg wrote the screenplay.  They earned Oscars, too.  All told, On the Waterfront had twelve Oscar nominations, including one for Leonard Bernstein for Best Score.

Yep, twelve, and On the Waterfront won in eight categories.

In 1981 Reds, which, coincidentally, was also about unions, albeit it in the 1910s leading up to the Russian revolution, repeated the feat, earning twelve nominations which included recognition for its star, director, and screenwriter, Warren Beatty, as well as Diane Keaton, Jack Nicholson, and Maureen Stapleton, other members of the cast.  It won in three categories, losing to Chariots of Fire for Best Picture.

All of this brings us to the current Oscar season.  Gravity and American Hustle, both of which I saw and thought were terrific, each received ten nominations, and Twelve Years a Slave received nine.  Impressive numbers to be sure, but not record-breaking.

Is it too early to say that they don’t make movies like they used to? Or, were there so many good movies this year that will all be around for a long time to come?

Before you answer those questions, On the Waterfront was shot for just under a million dollars and grossed ten times its production costs in its initial release.

© 2014 Susan Marg – All Rights Reserved


Let’s Go to the Movies

I love this time of year.  No, I’m not thinking about holiday parties or hearing “I’m Dreaming of a White Christmas” for the twentieth time in a television commercial. And I certainly won’t spend the month putting together my New Year’s resolutions. I’m talking about the movies!

Photo by: Janine

Photo by: Janine

The Oscar buzz has already started. Frontrunners, per pundits, include 12 Years A Slave and Gravity with Captain Phillips gaining.  It’s a competitive awards season, some even call it “cluttered”. For me it means more movies worth watching and performances to appreciate.  I’m partial to Matthew McConaughey in Dallas Buyers Club (which I saw last weekend) and Cate Blanchett in Blue Jasmine.  

There’s more comedy, drama, romance, fantasy out there: Lee Daniels’ The Butler, Fruitvale Station, Prisoners, Rush, Blue Is The Warmest Color, Before Midnight, Mud, The Place Beyond The Pines, Philomena, Nebraska, Inside Llewyn Davis, August: Osage County, The Book Thief, Her, Mandela: Long Walk To Freedom, Lone Survivor, Labor Day and The Secret Life Of Walter Mitty.

And more to come.  David O. Russell’s American Hustle with Christian Bale, Amy Adams, Bradley Cooper, Jeremy Renner, and Jennifer Lawrence (what a cast!) is in theaters December 18. The Disney movie Saving Mr. Banks with Tom Hanks (who might be nominated for Best Actor for Captain Phillips) playing Walt Disney opens everywhere December 20, and Martin Scorsese’s The Wolf of Wall Street starring Leonardo DiCaprio (and Matthew McConaughey, again, but in a supporting role) opens Christmas Day. The trailers are wild.

I haven’t seen everything I’ve mentioned, nor will I.  I’m usually guided by the reviews, good or bad.  But I’ll be drawn to the cinema again and again.  If I have an appetite for action, I might take in Hunger Games: Catching Fire, a runaway success.  It stars a talented young actress who has already scored an Oscar. 

© 2013 Susan Marg – All Rights Reserved

“Let’s Go to the Movies” from Annie:


5 Ways to Enjoy a Hollywood-Style Halloween

Hollywood is haunted.  Make no bones about it. There are skeletons in the closet and rumors rattling the actors.  Sometimes it’s hard to tell the living from the walking dead. So, do as the fear-mongers on Sunset Boulevard do, and have a spirited Halloween.

Gloria Swanson and William Holden in Sunset Boulevard.  Now that's scary.

Gloria Swanson and William Holden in Sunset Boulevard. Now that’s scary.

1. Rent a costume.

Are you having trouble deciding to be traditional or original?  Dressing as a gangsta like James Cagney or a rapper such as Jay-Z? Then visit the Western Costume Company. They rent thousands of costumes from major motion pictures for Halloween. Even if you’re located in another part of the country, their website has some great ideas.

2. Wear makeup instead of a mask.

If you go this route, take some advice from Oscar-winning makeup effect artist Rick Baker: “Painting on a face is like painting on a canvas.  You have to understand the principles of highlight and shadow.”  To participate in the zombie zeitgeist, that’s so today, “Use oil-based paint sticks for the black shadow and a black eyebrow pencil to add lines and highlights.”

3. Put on your dancing shoes.

At Hollywood Forever Cemetery the party to celebrate Dia de los Meurtos, on November 2 this year, starts rockin’ after dark with hundreds of Aztec Ritual Dancers in full costume and musical performances on three stages.  What’s happening at your local burying grounds?

4. Visit a haunted house.

If the current residents of the house where Ozzie and Harriet and their sons David and Rickie lived in Hollywood have experienced unusual phenomenon, who’s to say that the dwelling down the street  wouldn’t make the perfect place to hold a séance.

5. Watch a movie.

Heads will roll and bodies will pile up, whether you’re into icky, creepy, bloody, gutsy, scary or all of the above.  After all, movies are what Hollywood does best.

Halloween: it’s not just about the candy anymore.

© 2013 Susan Marg – All Rights Reserved



Fall, Leaves, Fall

Photo by: slack12

Photo by: slack12

Is this going to be a spectacular year for fall foliage?  Will the days be sunny?  Will the nights be cool?  If you must stay home to rake leaves rather than take a drive to admire their colors but don’t want to miss out on the scenery, download Alfred Hitchcock’s The Trouble with Harry (1955).

The Trouble with Harry is set in a quaint Vermont village. Its pace is leisurely.  The characters are quirky.  The humor is black, but the landscape is golden.

The situation at the heart of the story is “most unfortunate” as “Harry is, well, he’s dead,” the narrator for the movie trailer tells us.

Adorable Jerry Mathers (and he is adorable here, looking like a young Beaver Cleaver), no more than six years old, is the first to stumble across the corpse on the hillside. Others happen on the scene.

Edmund Gwenn as an old sea captain is sure that he killed the man with a stray shot from his rifle while hunting rabbits.

Shirley MacLaine in her debut role is Harry’s estranged wife.  She believes she’s responsible for his death as she hit him with a milk bottle when he unexpectedly showed up at her front door.

Mildred Natwick as the town’s old maid believes she did him in after striking him with a blow from the heel of her hiking boot.

John Forsythe plays an artist only too willing to help his friends bury the body, dig it up, and repeat the process several more times. “We don’t quite know what to do about Harry,” he says, completely unperturbed, as they all were, by the untoward state of affairs.

Production of The Trouble with Harry had its troubles, too. Heavy rains made location shooting impossible, so many exterior scenes were shot inside.

The crew showed up at the end of September expecting the fall foliage to be at its peak.  It wasn’t.  To create the right look and feel, boxes of leaves were shipped to California and pinned onto trees on a studio soundstage.

Although fairing poorly at the box office, in fact, losing a half a million dollars on a budge of $1.2 million (it costs money to pin leaves on trees), The Trouble with Harry was one of Hitchcock’s favorite films. Shot in Technicolor, it’s worth a look.

© 2013 Susan Marg – All Rights Reserved

For a quick peek:


At the Movies: Casting Makes Perfect

If Michael Madsen, whom Quentin Tarantino wanted for the role of Vincent Vegas, was in Pulp Fiction (1994) instead of Wyatt Earp (1994) with Kevin Costner, would John Travolta have accepted the part of Forest Gump (1994)?

Photo by: JWSherman

Photo by: JWSherman

Would Forest Gump have been Best Picture at the Academy Awards that year with John Travolta rather than Tom Hanks in the starring role?

If Tom Hanks, not Tom Cruise, had made Jerry Maguire (1996), and, by the way, the part was written for Hanks, would Renée Zellweger’s oft-quoted line, “You had me at ‘hello,’” been as memorable?

If Kevin Costner, instead of Tim Robbins, had agreed to star in The Shawshank Redemption (1994), would he have been saved from making Waterworld (1995)?

If Warren Beatty hadn’t turn down the role of porn director Jack Horner in Boogie Nights (1997), would Burt Reynolds have had a comeback?

Playing musical chairs when a movie is going into production comes with the territory.  As Travolta once noted, “What you turn down can be a gift to someone else.  There is enough to go around.”

Going back a couple of decades, producer Robert Evan told director Francis Ford Coppola during casting for The Godfather (1972), “I want to smell the spaghetti.”  Frank Sinatra, who certainly fit the bill, desperately wanted to play the head of the Corleone crime family, but the honors, including the Best Actor Oscar, went to Marlon Brando.

Who else could have played Michael Corleone, the don’s youngest son, but Al Pacino? Robert Redford, Warren Beatty, Martin Sheen, and Dustin Hoffman were considered. Jack Nicholson turned the part down saying, “Back then I believed that Indians should play Indians and Italians should play Italians… Al Pacino was Michael Corleone.”

The Motion Picture Academy thought so, too, and Pacino won for Best Supporting Actor*, beating out fellow The Godfather actors James Caan and Robert Duvall.

So where did this leave Jack Nicholson?  He was cast as Randall McMurphy in One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest (1975), a role James Caan had turned down.  Why? “At the time, I thought – because I’m a genius – it wasn’t visual enough.” Caan professed. “It took place in these four walls. I didn’t know that [director] Miloš Forman was as good as he was. It’s my opinion that I’m stuck with, unfortunately. I’ve made some bad choices.”

Haven’t we all?

And then there’s Stanley Kubrick, but he knew what he was doing when making The Shining (1980).   He considered Robert De Niro, but felt De Nero wasn’t psychotic enough to be Jack Torrance, despite having won an Oscar for Taxi Driver (1976).  Conversely, he deemed Robin Williams, based on his television performance as Mork, too psychotic.  But he thought Jack Nicholson was just right.  Author Stephen King, on whose novel the horror movie was based, didn’t want Nicholson, believing that, even five years later, he was so linked to the character McMurphy that it would be a tip-off to his going mad.

What do writers know?  The Shining didn’t win anyone any Oscars, but, make no mistake, it is often described as “seminal,” it’s place secure on any list of the scariest movies ever made.

Robin Williams, who played Popeye in Popeye (1980) that same year, was finally recognized for his acting chops in Good Morning, Vietnam (1987) for which he was nominated for Best Actor Oscar.  In the recently released The Butler, he plays President Dwight D. Eisenhower. His fellow cast members include James Marsden as JFK, Liev Schreiber as LBJ, John Cusak as Richard Nixon, and Alan Rickman (a Brit!) as Ronald Reagan.

This fall, Williams returns to television in  “The Crazy Ones,” a situation comedy co-starring Sarah Michelle Gellar.  The duo plays a father/daughter advertising team.  She’s all buttoned up; he lets it all hang out.  Now that sounds like perfect casting.

© 2013 Susan Marg – All Rights Reserved

* Both Al Pacino and Marlon Brando boycotted the Academy Award Ceremony.  Brando was protesting Hollywood’s treatment of Native American Indians.  Pacino felt that, having more screen time than Brando, he, too, should have been nominated for Best Actor.  He received his just dues when he won the Best Actor Academy Award for The Godfather: Part 2 (1974).


You Should Be Dancing

“I never really thought of myself as a sex goddess,” said the glamorously beautiful Rita Hayworth, as quoted in Hollywood or Bust: Movie Stars Dish on Following their Dreams, Making it Big, and Surviving in Tinseltown, “I felt I was more a comedian who could dance.” And dance she did.

Rita as Gilda.

Rita as Gilda.

Hayworth performed an erotic Dance of the Seven Veils in Salome (1953), a mesmerizing strip-tease, taking off only her over-the-elbow length black satin evening gloves to “Put the Blame on Mame,” in Gilda (1946), and an equally captivating nightclub act in An Affair in Trinidad (1952).

While some of Hayworth’s well-known handsome leading men included Orson Welles, whom was her second husband, Glenn Ford, who appeared with her in five movies, Cary Grant, Victor Mature, Tyrone Power, Robert Mitchum, and the list goes on, her dancing partners were among Hollywood’s biggest and best musical talents.

She co-starred with Fred Astaire in You’ll Never Get Rich (1941) and You Were Never Lovelier (1942).  She kicked up her heels to “The Show Must Go On” with newcomer Gene Kelly in Cover Girl (1944) and later took a turn around the dance floor with Frank Sinatra to “The Lady is a Tramp” in Pal Joey (1957).

But Rita never danced to the Bee Gees – until now:

Eat your heart out, John Travolta.

© 2013 Susan Marg – All Rights Reserved


A Summer Without James Bond

Sean Connery as BondEveryone has a favorite James Bond something – a girl, a gadget, a bad guy, and certainly a favorite James Bond. Even Roger Moore has his fans.

Moore took over from the widely popular Sean Connery, known for his debonair charm and suave style with or without a gun in hand, in Live and Let Die. (1973).   This was after George Lazenby gave it a go in On Her Majesty’s Secret Service (1969) and Connery returned for one last appearance in the role for which he set the bar in Diamonds Are Forever (1971).

Moore had a more light-hearted approach to the character and could do wondrous things with his eyebrows, but he wasn’t the first choice for 007.  The producers approached Clint Eastwood, who had established his character Dirty Harry in, well, Dirty Harry.  They also looked at Adam West, better known as Batman, and Burt Reynolds, fresh from his success in Deliverance.  All men passed, believing a Brit should fill the role. Really!  What had producer Albert J. Broccoli been thinking?

In total, Moore made seven James Bond movies, the last being A View to a Kill (1985).  He was 45 years old when he became a secret agent and 58 years old when he announced his retirement, making him the oldest and longest–lasting actor in the part.  He must have been doing something right.  Along the way, he made other movies including Cannonball Run (1981), ironically meeting up with Burt Reynolds, whose career path had gone south via Smokey and the Bandit.  Moore’s character was a millionaire mama’s boy so obsessed with Roger Moore that he had plastic surgery to look like his hero.  Perfect casting.

Timothy Dalton was the next Bond.  He exhibited a tougher, rougher persona, closer to the spy’s guise in the Ian Fleming novels, prevailing over Sam Neill and Mel Gibson who were also being considered.  Pierce Brosnan, who was also a strong contender at the time, couldn’t get out of his Remington Steele contract.

That Brosnan eventually played Bond, James Bond, was preordained. He had met Broccoli on the set of For Your Eyes Only (1981,) as his first wife was in the film.  The producer declared, “If he can act, he’s my guy.”

Brosnan started with GoldenEye (1995), out-gunning Liam Neeson, Hugh Grant, and, again, Mel Gibson, and ended with Die Another Day (2002). Dame Judi Dench also made her first appearance in GoldenEye as M, the cold, blunt, analytical MI6 chief and Bond’s boss.  By the way, Dench lasted another four movies (who says men age better than women?), her character meeting her death in Skyfall  (2012) despite Daniel Craig’s best efforts as Bond to save her._8637

Ah, Daniel Craig.  Producer Barbara Broccoli, Albert’s daughter, had her eye on him after seeing him in the 2004 crime thriller Layer Cake, but no one has a headlock on James Bond.  Hugh Jackman had been approached for the role, but he wasn’t interested. “I was about to shoot X-Men 2 and Wolverine had become this thing in my life,” Jackman explained, “And I didn’t want to be doing two such iconic characters at once.”

Any doubts about Craig’s suitability were quashed when he showed up in a tuxedo in Casino Royale (2006). Yes, a new Bond was back in town.  Unfortunately, he won’t be in town this summer or next, but Bond 24, the working title of the 24th James Bond movie, will be released September 2015.

Looking for action and adventure now?  Wolverine is in theaters July 26.

© 2013 Susan Marg – All Rights Reserved


Thank you, Betty Jo Tucker

Betty Jo Tucker is a movie critic extraordinaire, currently serving as editor/lead critic of ReelTalk Movie Reviews and hosting “Movie Addict Headquarters” on BlogTalkRadio. An author herself of Confessions of a Movie Addict and Susan Saradon: A True Maverick, she took time out of her busy schedule to review Hollywood or Bust.  Her review, posted on, is reposted below.

 Hollywood or Bust Book Review

By Betty Jo Tucker

Posted: Friday, July 19, 2013

Happiness for movie fans like me is reading “Hollywood or Bust” by Susan Marg! I love all the quips, quotes, and off-the-cuff remarks from some of my favorite actors and actresses that are included in this fascinating anthology. So, of course, I found Marg’s revealing, star-studded book impossible to put down once I started it.


As someone who has had a longstanding love affair with the cinema for over fifty years, I was surprised to find so many delicious surprises in Hollywood or Bust. For example, why did Mel Brooks start out as a drummer? What did Sandra Bullock learn from directing a film? How does Harrison Ford define a movie star? What did Elizabeth Taylor have in common with the critics?  Why did Michael Caine want to win an Oscar?  And that’s just the tip of the show-biz iceberg.

The complete title of this entertaining read is Hollywood or Bust: Movie Stars Dish on Following their Dreams, Making It Big, and Surviving in Tinseltown.And “dish” they do – from the price they pay for stardom and what they think about acting as a career to their feelings about each other as well as about directors, writers, studio executives, agents, and the Oscar. According to Marg, their observations “are caustic, critical and cynical on the one hand — but they are also eye opening, amusing, inspiring, and in some cases, even endearing.” Most of all — to me — they are extremely readable.

Marg calls herself a writer, a reader, a television watcher, a moviegoer, a theater attendee, and a museum visitor. She is also the author of Las Vegas Weddings: A Brief History, Celebrity Gossip, Everything Elvis and the Complete Chapel Guide, published by Harper Collins.

Hollywood or Bust is published by Cowgirl Jane Press, and here’s the link to the book’s website: