A noted screenwriter himself, Pulitzer Prize–winner Larry McMurtry knows Hollywood—in Film Flam, he takes a funny, original, and penetrating look at the movie industry and gives us the truth about the moguls, fads, flops, and box-office hits.
With successful movies and television miniseries made from several of his novels—Terms of Endearment, The Last Picture Show, Lonesome Dove, and Hud—McMurtry writes with an outsider's irony of the industry and an insider's experience. In these essays, he illuminates the plight of the screenwriter, cuts a clean, often hilarious path through the excesses of film reviewing, and takes on some of the worst trends in the industry: the decline of the Western, the disappearance of love in the movies, and the quality of the stars themselves.
From his recollections of the day Hollywood entered McMurtry's own life as he ate meat loaf in Fort Worth to the pleasures he found in the Beverly Wilshire Hotel, Film Flam is one of the best books ever written about Hollywood.
Perhaps timed to piggyback on acclaim for McMurtry's latest novel Texasville, this stale collection of magazine pieces is a scam, all right, but it falls short of its titular pun only because the author demonstrates little of the delight in his art expected from the true con artist. McMurtry takes his self-effacing tone to an irritating extreme, claiming that he can't remember writing these pieces (most of which he churned out during a stint as a columnist at American Film in the mid-'70s) and that he would have forgotten them entirely if someone hadn't had the idea of putting them into a book. No wonderthere is little memorable here, other than the few efforts that actually live up to the subtitle, in which McMurtry observes the peculiar role of the writer in an industry that values images more than words. McMurtry's novels have served as the basis for some of Hollywood's finest films of the last decades, including Hud (based on his first novel, Horseman, Pass By The Last Picture Show (whose screenplay he co-wrote with director Peter Bogdanovich) and Terms of Endearment, so he is in a choice position to examine the writer's place in the Hollywood machine. Unfortunately, he strays from the material that he is uniquely equipped to handle and wanders uncompellingly into film criticism, book reviews and digressions about column writing. It is an odyssey easily forgotten.