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


Hear Ye Hear Ye: Talking About the Stars

Book CoverYesterday afternoon I had the pleasure of chatting with Betty Jo Tucker, movie critic extraordinaire and the editor/lead critic of ReelTalk Movie Reviews, and her co-host James Colt Harrison, also an author of thousands of reviews and articles about Hollywood, on Betty Jo’s radio program “Movie Addict Headquarters.”

My book Hollywood or Bust was the central point of our conversation, and I was peppered with lots of questions.  Where did the idea come from?  What was the biggest challenge in writing the book?  How did you decide on the themes in the book?  What are your favorite quotes in the book?

Oh, there are so many.  I like the first quote in the book from Hilary Swank: “I’m just a girl from a trailer park who had a dream.”  I think that sets the tone of the book because Hollywood and the movies, even life itself, are all about dreams.

On the loss of privacy that comes with fame, I like Jennifer Aniston’s quote: “When someone follows you all the way to the shop and watches you buy a roll of toilet paper, you know your life has changed.”  The lesson here is to be careful for what you wish.

Betty Jo had her favorite quotes, too.  She pointed out how touched she was by Charlie Chaplin saying, “I was loved by crowds, but I didn’t have a single close friend. I felt like the loneliest man alive,” and she played a few minutes of music Chaplin had composed for Modern Times.  Afterwards she noted, “There he is making everyone else laugh, but he has such feeling.”  And, then we moved on to more amusing topics.

James shared a story relating a chance meeting between Clark Gable and William Faulkner on the MGM lot where they were both working in the 1930s.  Clark Gable knew who William Faulkner was, but Faulkner couldn’t return the compliment.  Ah, writers.  What would the movies be without them?

As screenwriter Joe Eszterhas noted: “Screenplays are a bitch to write.  One man wrote War and Peace.  Thirty-five screenwriters wrote The Flintstones.” Ah, Hollywood.

© 2013 Susan Marg – All Rights Reserved

Here’s the link for your listening pleasure: