Thursday, January 31, 2008

Stories from other stories

I've always been intrigued by how one writer reads a piece by another writer and does a riff on it that ends up entirely his own. Well, almost entirely.

I've been reading one Alain Silver's fine books of interviews, this one dealing with Hwood directors, writers and cinematographers involved in noir films.

In the course of talking with Billy Wilder, Wilder mentions how he got the germ of the idea for The Apartment from a Noel Coward play. In Coward the hero is the man who uses the apartment of his friend for his tryst. But Wilder says he was more interested in the friend who let him use it. What was his story? Thus, the great film The Apartment was born.

Likewise, performances feed one into the other as well. This afternoon TCM showed the 1938 screwball comedy Boy Meets Girl. If you want to know where Cagney-Wilder got the Cagney performance for One, Two, Three (1961) it came from here. Slicked up, timed better, with much better writing in the later version but the hellzapoppin frantic punch line-punchline-punchilne rythm of One is certainly here to see.

Boy Meets Girl is sloppy, hasty and nonsensical (there are moments when you think you're watching Marx Brothers outtakes) but it sure ain't boring. And the always long-suffering Ralph Bellamy as the studio VP is another portrait of a dumb guy way out of his element. But here he's not the innocent he usually plays.

Fir the record here's the storyyline from TCM bloggers:

Two lazy screenwriters need a story for the studio's cowboy star. A studio waitress turns out to be pregnant. This gives them the idea for a movie about a cowboy and a baby. The waitress's baby becomes the star. The cowboy and his agent run off with the waitress and her valuable asset. The writers retaliate by hiring an unemployed extra to impersonate the baby's father. But the extra already knows the waitress... Written by David Steele

A Hollywood film studio in receivership and courted by a British outfit has all the signs of being run as a madhouse by Elliot Friday. To complete the image, screenwriters Law and Benson pretty well run rampant over the lot. When canteen-girl Susie is found to be pregnant they hatch the idea of making her expected a new star. Owner B.K. starts to realise this is no way to run a railroad. Written by Jeremy Perkins {}

1 comment:

Martin Edwards said...

Ed, I share your interest in these connections, and by a weird coincidence I'll be posting shortly about the strange origin of a crime novel called 'The Sleeping Bacchus'.