Wednesday, February 22, 2012

Hollywood Called

I'm rereading Frank Gruber's fascinating book about his career as a writer THE PULP JUNGLE. One of the most amusing sections is about his relationship with Hollywood.

In the 30s a good sale to Hwood was $500 for book rights. He was doing well writing pulp stories but he kept hearing about all these people making Hwood dough. It finally happened to him. He got a call about one of his characters maybe being optioned by Darrel Zanuck no less. He was thunderstruck. The Zanuck deal went away but he immediately got himself a hot shot movie agent who started calling him every day with possible deals. He was talking fifty thou and even a hundred thou,

Gruber couldn't think straight. In fact he couldn't think at all straight or otherwise. He was so caught up in the frenzy of maybe this and maybe that he couldn't write. He owed stories, he needed money but he couldn't write. All he could think about was that Hwood moolah that was BOUND to come through. It didn't of course. He dumped the hot shot and got back to work. Later Gruber went on to become a successful movie and tv writer but not at that time.

Many mid-listers have been through this (stars have better results) . Early in 80s I got my first Hwood calls and they were all I could think of for days. I kept writing my stories and books of course but I had drunk the poison wine of HOLLYWOOD. Everything fell through. And I heard all the cliches my favorite being "You know everybody in Hollywood is talking about Ed Gorman." Uh-huh. A respectable director said that. Another respectable director said something else to me. He'd optioned my book and written the screenplay himself. He wanted to reoption it after I read the screenplay. The problem was that I hated what he'd done so much I wouldn't let him have the option again. He actually screamed into the phone "I'm going to flood the studios with this and nobody'll be interested anymore. And yoi'll never work out here again!" On my honor he screamed that.

I've made decent money with options but over the years I've learned to never get excited about any Hwood deal. I've mentioned before that ABC had optioned my novel Black River Falls, cast it, announced it and just as it was about to be green lighted canceled The Sunday Night Movie when a new Programming dude came in. I've had four movies announced that never got past the script stage; and one that even warranted a press conference went painfully away.

I knew a writer who got a very nice option then decided to quit his job and write the screenplay with the director. He had a very good job and of course the movie never got made. He found himself heavily in hock with a second mortgage on the house and a wife and kiddies paying the price for his folly.

Reading Gruber you realize as Ike said the more things change the more they stay the same.

--------------Thanks to Tom Piccirilli for letting me know that Amazon is now offering our annual year's finest collection
Between the Dark and the Daylight: And 27 More of the Best Crime and Mystery Stories of the Year (Best Crime & Mystery) for only $5.49. I can't be objective of course but this looks to me like a great deal.

 Between the Dark and the Daylight: And 27 More of the Best Crime and Mystery Stories of the Year (Best Crime & My..


pattinase (abbott) said...

And thanks for allowing me to be a part of that collection.

Bill Pronzini said...

Your experiences with H'wood pretty much mirror mine. Most of the La La Landers I've dealt with have been crazy to one degree or another, or totally self-involved, or so full of bullshit they reeked. One exception was Cornel Wilde, who optioned one of my novels back in the early 80s; he was a genuinely nice guy, if something of a cheapskate, and nothing at all like the cool, dynamic characters he played on the screen. I remember one phone call from him in which he spent 45 minutes regaling me with every detail of his hip replacement surgery.

Ed Gorman said...

Nameless would make a great series of movies or tv episodes. The writers would have so much to draw on. Hopefully somebody will pick up where Wilde left off.

Ed Gorman said...

Thanks for the shout out for the book, Patti. Your story init is one of the best.