Washed-up Hollywood producer Charlie Berns has mailed in his updated obit and is about to suck his Mercedes tailpipe and fade to black when a miracle materializes: his nephew, a wannabe screenwriter from New Jersey, has scripted the life story of Queen Victoria's prime minister Benjamin Disraeli, which Charlie manages to turn into a hot property that reinstates him as a player. But as the deal heats up, a few conceptual changes morph the project into Lev Disraeli: Freedom Fighter, an action thriller with a black Jewish superstar, a Yugoslavian location, a mad Polish director, and even a real-life kidnapping. Is Charlie Berns being eaten alive by the system? Or is he giving the Hollywood hotshots a run for their money? Peter Lefcourt's hilarious satire proves the old adage that in Hollywood you're never quite as dead as people give you credit for.
In the preface, Lefcourt explains why he considered but decided against altering some of the dated pop culture and industry trappings of his 1991 Hollywood satire. This candor provides some valuable context for contemporary listeners as they are transported back to a world where mobile phones were a novel accessory in select luxury automobiles, and e-mail wasn't ubiquitous. Macy (who co-stars with Meg Ryan in the upcoming film adaptation) certainly does justice to the characters. He gives pitch-perfect voice to Charlie Berns, a down-on-his luck producer, whose rise from the ashes would qualify as inspirational were it not for the absurdity of his tactics. Macy also delivers especially memorable turns portraying Lefcourt's lovable eccentrics, including a hard-drinking, reclusive script doctor and Charlie's studio-assigned secretary who speaks with maddening pauses in between her words. A Washington Square Press paperback (Reviews, Feb. 22, 1991).