Observations On Hollywood Trash
Peter Bogdanovich early in his career was a film writer for magazines. Over the years he interviewed many people in the film industry and continued to do so even after becoming a successful director himself. The interviews with directors are compiled in a great book: Who The Devil Made It Conversations With Legendary Film Directors by Peter Bogdanovich (Knopf; 1997).
Bogdanovich asked Lewis in 1994, to “define the change that had happened in Hollywood.”
Lewis was able to clearly answer him:
“Yes, I define it one way. When I was a little boy I worked at MGM: I loaded film; from there I became an assistant camera boy; from there, an assistant cutter; from there, the head of a cutting department; from there I became a director. These things don’t happen today. A guy comes up and, yes, he has a script- he wrote it; he’ll let them do it, providing he can direct it. And they go for it.”
Bogdanovich – “In other words, he doesn’t have any experience.”
“That’s right. I’m not criticizing anybody – but there are no studios anymore the way they once were.”
Bogdanovich – “You mean when the studios were a factory where movies got made – with departments, actors under contract, everybody knowing how to make a picture?”
“Yes, and, after all, that dollar sign becomes larger and larger every moment.”
Bogdanovich concludes his chapter with Joseph H. Lewis asking him if “it feels like a totally different world from when he started?”
“World or picture world?” as Lewis asks for clarification and Bogdanovich says “both.” So Lewis replies:
The answer is yes to both- absolutely. When I was a little boy working at MGM, I didn’t have a car and I lived in Hollywood. I didn’t need a car- I’d walk out into the street and stick out my thumb and three cars would stop and take me to Culver City; and take me back home the same way. You didn’t lock your door at night. What for? And Los Angeles is not Los Angeles; I don’t know what it is. It’s a city of confusion, violence- I rarely, if ever go outside the Marina. I haven’t been to a film, I guess in at least two years. My wife doesn’t like to go to pictures because she thinks they’ve become trash. But about two years ago, the Directors Guild was running a film (don’t know the title) and I said, ’Come on darling, let’s go see this one.’ We sit down, they start the picture and, and I think within the first hundred feet (of film) the guy says ‘Honey, I’m going to f*** you right now- get your ass in bed.’ Well, my wife almost keeled over. She grabbed my arm ; she said, ‘Darling, I guess I’m not up to this. Let’s go.’ And we walked out and that’s the last time I’ve seen a film.”
Who The Devil Made It Conversations With Legendary Film Directors, though out of print is available at many public libraries and from used book web sites for a few dollars.