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Posts Tagged ‘screenwriting

“Hollywood is a place where a man can get stabbed in the back while climbing a ladder”*…

 

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Cartoon of the brothers Warner drawn by Faulkner for his daughter Jill. Early 1940s. Center for Faulkner Studies, Southeast Missouri State University

 

William Faulkner disparaged his two decades of work in film, even though he spent the equivalent of four years in Hollywood and worked at MGM, Universal, Twentieth Century-Fox, RKO, and Warner Bros. Biographies of Faulkner treat his film work as more or less ancillary to his life and fiction, but in fact his screenwriting transformed his conception of himself and his writing. An understanding of the man and his work changes when his contributions to cinema are integrated into a capacious conception of his career…   – “The Cinematic Faulkner: Framing Hollywood

Jill Faulkner Summers found the screenplay for the vampire film Dreadful Hollow among her father’s papers in 1999.  An adaption of Irina Karlova’s lesbian vampire tale of the same title, it remains unpublished (except for excerpts) and unproduced… but not unstudied:

The screenplay is an important contribution to Faulkner scholarship in particular and film adaptation studies in general because the script has not been altered or edited in any way by anyone other than Faulkner. Because the film has not been produced, the multiple script revisions that usually occur when a film goes into production have not happened.  The script is completely Faulkner’s own and reading the screenplay allows a rare glimpse into Faulkner the screenwriter after he had been at it in Hollywood for over ten years. This essay provides the first thorough analysis of Faulkner’s unpublished screenplay for Dreadful Hollow. The first section gives an overview of how the script came to be, Hawks’ attempts to get the film made, and a detailed summary of the screenplay with new plot details not mentioned in earlier published summaries.  The second section focuses on the screenplay as a vampire narrative that borrows conventions from earlier vampire texts and catalogues the significant changes Faulkner made to the vampire novel on which the screenplay is based.  Faulkner chose to emphasize the vampire’s lesbianism to a greater extent than any earlier female vampire text, which is all the more striking because a female vampire film had not been made since Dracula’s Daughter (1936).  He also added details and made filmic changes to the story that cause the vampire’s destruction to appear as a rape or lynching and a revenge response to her lesbianism.  Finally, the essay shows how Faulkner reworks the novel’s conventional detective narrative for the film by including his own specific interests in crime narratives to give Hawks another vehicle for his vision.  He was rewriting the detective stories, “Knight’s Gambit” and “An Error in Chemistry” for publication while working on the screenplay and had just completed the screenplays for To Have and Have Not (1944) and The Big Sleep (1946) for Hawks…

Faulkner wrote Dreadful Hollow immediately following To Have and Have Not and The Big Sleep, and so it should be read along with those two films as indicative of the kind of work he produced for Hawks at the time. The screenplay reveals Faulkner’s approach to adaptation was to add elements that could deepen an audience’s appreciation of a form. In doing so, he resists the Hollywood Studio system’s tendency to whitewash corners and soften the shadows of source materials, something that would have been appreciated by his friend and sometimes employer, Hawks. Because the film has not been produced, the multiple script revisions that usually accompanied any script Faulkner wrote for a studio have not happened and the script is completely Faulkner’s own. The screenplay reveals him to be a serious and focused screenwriter with a wide knowledge of early film narratives and techniques who by 1945 had become quite good at his trade. Faulkner stamped the screenplay with his signature multiple times and so it contains large traces of his more canonical work. These echoes serve to further blur the lines between his “literary work” and his “commercial work” and suggest, instead, that for Faulkner, the distinction was perhaps not as clear as scholars have made it out to be. It therefore, should be considered a supplement to his more literary work. I wholeheartedly agree with Kawin’s 1977 assessment of the script: It’s Faulkner’s best screenplay and it deserves a place among his better-known and published work…

Grateful TotH to friend CE…

For a review of Faulkner’s entire career as a screenwriter, visit the essay cited at the top: “The Cinematic Faulkner: Framing Hollywood.”

* William Faulkner

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As we reframe fame, we might spare a thought for Martin E. Segal; he died on this date in 2012.  A Russian emigre to the U.S., Segal built a successful international human resources and employee benefit consulting firm.  But he is much better remembered for his passionate support for the arts– perhaps most particularly, as a champion of Lincoln Center and as the co-founder (in 1969, with William F. May and Schuyler G. Chapin) of the Film Society of Lincoln Center, and as its first President.  Now know as Film at Lincoln Center, it hosts The New York Film Festival and (with the Museum of Modern Art) the New Directors/NewFilms Festival.

As The New York Times noted in its obituary, while Marty “was generous with his money, he was perhaps most admired for the donations he managed to extract from others. He used to say he had no trouble giving people the ‘opportunity’ to contribute to the causes he cared most about, whether it be Lincoln Center’s redevelopment project, which updated the campus; Public Radio International [now PRX], of which he was a founding member; or the Library of America, a nonprofit publisher dedicated to publishing, and keeping in print, editions of America’s most significant writing.”

sub-segal-obit-superJumbo source

 

“If it’s zero degrees outside today and it’s supposed to be twice as cold tomorrow, how cold is it going to be?”*…

 

One of the most famous literary riddles in literature is also the most frustrating … because it came without an answer! In Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland, the Mad Hatter poses this puzzle to Alice:

“Why is a raven like a writing desk?”

Eight other head-scratchers (with answers to all) at “9 of History’s Best Riddles.”

* Steven Wright

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As we puzzle, we might spare a thought for Terry Southern; he died on this date in 1995.  Best remembered as a novelist and screenwriter–  Dr. StrangeloveThe Loved OneThe Cincinnati KidEasy Rider, Candy, and The Magic Christian, among others; Southern’s work on Easy Rider helped create the independent film movement of the 1970s.  But perhaps as importantly, Tom Wolfe credits Southern with inventing New Journalism with the publication of “Twirling at Ole Miss” in Esquire in 1962.

Southern, photographed by Stanley Kubrick

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Written by (Roughly) Daily

October 29, 2016 at 1:01 am

“Country music has always sort of been country music”*…

The DeZurik Sisters, Mary Jane and Carolyn, began performing on St. Paul’s KSTP in 1935, when they entered and won a talent contest.  The next year they moved to Chicago to appear weekly on National Barn Dance, and later, also Purina’s Checkerboard Time, at WLS-AM.  The girls called their act The Cackle Sisters…

Read more about the singing siblings– and their place in the annals of yodeling– here and here.  And find an remarkable collection of acetate transfers of their work at the ever-extraordinary WFMU. * Miranda Lambert

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As we marvel at Minnesota throat-singing, we might send dramatic birthday greetings to Sir Tom Stoppard OM CBE FRSL; he was born on this date in 1937.  A journalist and drama critic, he turned to playwriting in 1960– and has since written such prominent works for the stage as Rosencrantz and Guildenstern Are Dead, The Real Thing, Jumpers, Travesties, Arcadia, and The Coast of Utopia.  Sir Tom is also an accomplished screenwriter, whose many films include BrazilThe Russia House, and Shakespeare in Love. He’s won four Tony Awards and one Oscar.

How the hell do I know what I find incredible? Credibility is an expanding field… Sheer disbelief hardly registers on the face before the head is nodding with all the wisdom of instant hindsight.

– George, Jumpers, Act I

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Written by (Roughly) Daily

July 3, 2014 at 1:01 am

“Devise, wit; write, pen; for I am for whole volumes in folio”*…

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The ever-illuminating Jason Kottke dips into Statistical Reasoning for Everyday Life (Bennett, Briggs, and Triola; Addison Wesley Longman; Second Edition, 2002) for a measure of Shakespeare’s vocabulary.  Using a method recounted here, the authors concluded:

This means that in addition the 31,534 words that Shakespeare knew and used, there were approximately 35,000 words that he knew but didn’t use. Thus, we can estimate that Shakespeare knew approximately 66,534 words.

Linguist Richard Lederer observes (as cited in in this piece) that Shakespeare hadn’t begun to reach the bottom of the barrel:  there are currently over 600,000 entries in the Oxford English Dictionary (and in Shakespeare’s time things were especially fluid– as witnessed by the Bard’s own fevered invention of new words and phrases).

Still, Shakespeare’s facility is easier to appreciate in context when we recognize that the average English speaker has a vocabulary of (only) 10,000 to 20,000 words, and, as Lederer observes, actually uses only a fraction of that (the rest being recognition or recall vocabulary).

* Love’s Labour’s Lost I,ii

As we reach for our copies of Word Power, we might wish a glittering birthday to Anita Loos, who was born on this date in 1888. A writer from childhood, she sold a movie idea to D.W Griffiths at Biograph while she was still in her teens– and began a career through which she wrote plays, movies, stories/novels, magazine articles, and finally memoirs.

She’s probably best remembered for her 1925 novel Gentlemen Prefer Blondes.  Loos claimed to have written the spoof, which she started on a long train ride, as an entertainment for her friend H. L. Mencken (who reputedly had a fondness for Lorelei Lee-like blonds).  In any case, the book was an international bestseller, printed in 14 languages and in over 85 editions. It was a hit on Broadway in 1949, then adapted again into a movie musical in 1953– the Howard Hawks classic in which Marilyn Monroe reminds us that “Diamonds Are a Girl’s Best Friend.”

Loos with fellow writer (and sometime husband) John Emerson
by Edward Steichen for Vanity Fair, July 1928

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