of the cinema year gone by. Covering both US and UK releases, it’ll also no doubt come in handy for future video-only British outings for American movies. Book reviews, obituaries and several intelligent and incisive overview features on current artistic trends and ﬁnancial form complete a much more enjoyable survey than the stuffy John Willis or F. Maurice Speed alternatives. Oh and there’s a splendid quotes section with a few gems from Whoopie Goldberg: ‘I worked in a strip joint but never got my clothes off. People were screaming “Don’t do it!” ’
e '- TV'Z . l LID“! ‘ w Richard Rocco talk: to iiim critic Barry Norman about his latest book.
‘ Wait a minute, you ain’t heard nothing yet!’
It was 1927 when Al Jolson ushered in the talkies with that immortal and deliberately prophetic line. And the Diamond Anniversary of the talking silver screen provides the pretext for Barry Norman‘s latest book. Talking Pictures: The Story of Hollywood , a companion piece to the ten-part television series to be broadcast in the New Year.
Neither book nor series claims to be a comprehensive history of Hollywood — as Mr Norman says, ‘You can’t do that in one 350-page book or ten 50-minute documentaries‘ - but rather they
look at ‘various aspects of Hollywood’s development’, from the studio system, through the war and the days of the House Unamerican Activities Commission, when they were — ’finding communists under every casting couch‘, to the decline of the studios and, finally, via various side-trips to look at B-pictures, crime movies, westerns and sex, to where Hollywood stands today.
Researched over two and a half years, the book draws on interviews with some 125 stars, directors, moguls and technicians, providing a wealth of anecdote and opinion which is woven together in Barry Norman’s inimitable style; his soothing, polite and at times quietly caustic voice as recognisable in print as it is on the telly. And why not?
80 had he come across much in the course of his research which he found surprising and fascinating?
‘Fascinating yes, but not really surprising, because obviously I had a team of researchers, so that by the time I went to the interviews I had a pretty good idea what I was going to ask and what people were going to say.
‘The thing that seems to have surprised other people quite a lot was the kind of censorship there was, particularly in the Thirties and Forties. The fact that a screen kiss could last eight seconds and only eight seconds. Or if a married couple
were sitting on a bed each of them had to have a foot on the floor. That sort of stuff seemed to surprise people.
‘The one thing that came as a real revelation to me as well was the way that some of the B-pictures were made, particularly in studios like Republic with very little money, where most of the casting was done by the wardrobe department. They‘d say, you’ve got to get somebody that takes a size 40 suit and a 62/3 hat. It amused and intrigued me that films could be made that way; played by the only people in town who could get into the clothes.’
The surprises and anecdotes may add up to an interesting yarn but the thing missing from this particular story is that staple of the 1940s ‘women’s picture’ , a happy ending. Hollywood today is portrayed as being in a quite pitiful state of decline. Is there not perhaps an element of rose-tinted nostalgia involved in that conclusion?
‘People do tend to look back on the Thirties and Forties as the good old days, because most of the films you see on TV are the really good films from that era. But I have a theory that at no time are more than 10 per cent of films really worthwhile. In the Thirties and Forties Hollywood was turning out four, five, six hundred films a year, so on average you were going to get one really good film every week. Now they turn out
maybe two hundred so you’re only going to get maybe twenty worthwhile films in a year.’
But beyond that there is a deeper pessimism about today’s Hollywood in the book.
‘Yeah, but I think it’s realism rather than pessimism. The way it is at the moment movies are made for the 12—24 year-olds, because they are the mass audience and films are very expensive to make. That audience, alas. seems to like films that have lots of spectacle, action, shocks, horror, special effects and very little for the mind. You only have to look at the kind of films that have made a lot of money lately. The most recent is Beverly Hills Cop II, which is nowhere for a thinking person to go. Hollywood and the industry is geared to a particular audience which doesn’t seem to want to take its brain with it when it goes to the cinema. I don‘t honestly see any sign of that changing in the immediate future.’
For the longer term Barry Norman is looking to directors such as Stanley Kubrick, Alan Parker, Martin Scorsese and Steven Spielberg, ‘People who are prepared to try something new. The future of the industry has always rested with them.’
And let’s hope they’re going to treat it well. It would be a shame if after sixty years we weren’t gonna hear nothing more. (Richard Reece)
Rock Yearbook (Virgin P/B £8.99) Empire by Gore Vidal (Deutsch £1 1.95)
IN Prize (0 books) Rock Yearbook (Virgin P/B £8.99)
3rd Prize (4 books) Rock Yearbook (Virgin P/B £8.99)
Visions of a Nomad by Wilfred Thesiger (Collins £20) Paper Mask by John Collee (Viking£10.95)
One Atom To Another by Brian McCabe (Polygon £4.95) Moon Tiger by Penelope Lively (Deutsch £9.95) I TV Movie & Video Guide by L: Maltin (Penguin £4.95)
Paper Mask by John Collee (Viking£10.95) Collected Short Stories by Muriel Spark (Bodley Head
One Atom To Another by Brian McCabe (Polygon £4.95) TV Movie 8: Video Guide by L- Maltin (Penguin £4.95) :Moon Tiger by Penelope Lively (Deutsch £9.95)
Collected Short Stories by Muriel Spark (Bodley Head
TV Movie & Video Guide by L Maltin (Penguin £4.95) One Atom To Another by Brian McCabe (Polygor £4.95)
0. Who won the 1987 Novel Prize for Literature?
Answers on a postcard to General Books Quiz, The List, 14 High Street, Edinburgh EH1 lTE.
£400 WORTH OF BOOKS TO BE WON!!!
1st Prize (10 books) (Thames & Hudson £25)
Pages Of Experience by Joseph McKenzie (Polygon
Living In Scotland by Leslie Astaire & Roddy Martine
Set of 6 Canongate Classics (Canongate £22.70) One Atom To Another by Brian McCabe (Polygon
In a pre-Christmas bout of generosity, The List has rustled together a stunning selection of some of the
best books around this year and we’re giving them away to the winners of this easy competition.
To enter choose the section that interests you the most, answer the question and send it on apos '
with your name, address and telephone number. Make sure it reaches us by Saturday 12 Dec . when the draw will be made and prizes sent to the winning entries. If you want to enter for u - -
one category, make sure each entry is on a separate postcard. Winners will be li '
in our first issue of the New Year on Thursday 7 January.
SCOTTISH BOOKS mm aooxs
ioti’rlzels books) Film Yearbook (Virgin P/B £8.99)
A Life In Movies by Michael Powell (Methuen£7.95) TV Movie & Video Guide by Leonard Maltin (Penguin
Native Stones by David Craig (Secker£10.95)
New Confessions by William Boyd (Hamish Hamilton
Before The Oil Ran Out by IaniJack (Secker£10.95) Native Stones by David Craig (Secker£10.95) Greyhound For Breakfast by James Kelman (Seeker
2nd Prize (4 books)
Film Yearbook (Virgin P/B £8.99)
A Life In Movies by Michael Powell (Methuen£7 .95) TV Movie & Video Guide by Leonard Maltin (Penguin i
One Atom To Another by Brian McCabe (Polygon
Before The Oil Ran Out by Ian Jack (Secker£10.95) Greyhound For Breakfast by James Kelman (Seeker
O.Vlhich8cottialieramatiaianeooeturotothoiiighly MI play Mary Ouooo oi Scots ior Cornmanicaeoin
3!! Prize (3 looks) Film Yearbook (Virgin P/B £8.99 TV Movie & Video Guide by Leonard Maltin (Penguin
Answers on a postcard to Scottish Books Quiz, The List, 14 High Street, Edinburgh EH1 lTE.
Faye Dunnaway by Allan Hunter (W.H. Allen £5) Gene Hackman by Allan Hunter (W.H. Allen£10)
Faye Dunnaway by Allan Hunter (W.H. Allen £5)
Faye Dunnaway by Allan Hunter (W.H. Allen £5)
0. Which producer became in 1906 the first Britontoime up a iioliywool studio?
48 The List 27 Nov - 10 Dec 1987