Larry McMurtry’s ‘Hollywood’ tells fairy-tale story of screenwriting career
The history of America’s finest novelists going to Hollywood and being chewed up and spit out by the crass moviemaking machinery is legend. Greats such as F. Scott Fitzgerald and William Faulkner were famously used, abused and tossed aside by gross studio moguls who cared little about their literary stature.
But Texas novelist Larry McMurtry tells a different story of his own profitable and generally positive encounters with the film industry. In “Hollywood: A Third Memoir” (Simon & Schuster, $24), the author of such literary classics as “Lonesome Dove,” “The Last Picture Show” and “Terms of Endearment” relates an essentially breezy and upbeat narrative of his own unlikely initiation into the fraternity of screenwriters and his subsequent frolics in the land of make-believe that is Tinseltown.
Following up on McMurtry’s previous memoirs of the writer’s life – “Books” and “Literary Life” – this slim volume sports the signature short chapters and sparkling anecdotes that have marked the author to be as sterling a memoirist as he is a novelist.
By all evidence, he’s enjoyed a charmed life in a movie culture that generally views screenwriters as disposable hired hands. As a writer, he’s experienced both sides of the equation – having his novels adapted to the screen by others (“Terms of Endearment,” “Lonesome Dove” and Emmy-nominated “The Murder of Mary Phagan”) and penning his own screenplays (“The Last Picture Show” with Peter Bogdanovich and “Streets of Laredo” and the Oscar-winning “Brokeback Mountain,” both with writing partner Diana Ossana). And with characteristic wryness and absence of sentiment he recounts the triumphs, and occasional failures, that have animated his long movie career.
To hear him tell it, the secret to his success was in keeping his prices reasonable, his expectations in check and his attitude positive.
The adaptation of his first novel, “Horseman, Pass By” into the 1963 film “Hud” earned McMurtry enough money to leave behind a teaching job at Texas Christian University and pursue his passions for fiction writing and book collecting.
“I had nothing to do with the filming of ‘Hud,’” McMurtry writes. “Similarly I had nothing to do with the filming of the fine CBS miniseries of my book ‘Lonesome Dove.’ The same holds true for ‘Terms of Endearment.’ I just wrote the book! The fact that ‘Hud’ was made from my book had one extremely important effect: somehow through the illogic of show business it enabled me to get work on scripts for no better reason than that I was from the West – cowboy country. … I will always be grateful to Hollywood for, well, it’s essentially financed my fiction, my rare book business and, to a huge degree, my adult life.”
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