And the winner is . . .
February 22, 2008 9:41 AM   Subscribe

Oscar Night In Hollywood "If we can huckster a President into the White House, why cannot we huckster the agonized Miss Joan Crawford or the hard and beautiful Miss Olivia de Havilland into possession of one of those golden statuettes which express the motion picture industry's frantic desire to kiss itself on the back of its neck?" The Atlantic reprints an indispensible Raymond Chandler article from 1948.
posted by Skot (11 comments total) 14 users marked this as a favorite
The quality of the work is still only recognized in the context of success. A superb job in a flop picture would get you nothing, a routine job in a winner will be voted in. It is against this background of success-worship that the voting is done, with the incidental music supplied by a stream of advertising in the trade papers (which even intelligent people read in Hollywood) designed to put all other pictures than those advertised out of your head at balloting time. The psychological effect is very great on minds conditioned to thinking of merit solely in terms of box office and ballyhoo. The members of the Academy live in this atmosphere, and they are enormously suggestible people, as are all workers in Hollywood.

this is priceless. it's also sad to realize that in 60 years The (Once Glorious) Atlantic went from Raymond Chandler to Andrew Sullivan
posted by matteo at 9:51 AM on February 22, 2008 [2 favorites]

That was great, thanks!
posted by Alvy Ampersand at 10:02 AM on February 22, 2008

I think they misgauged where the motion picture industry is kissing itself.
posted by arcticwoman at 10:13 AM on February 22, 2008 [5 favorites]

Chandler and the movie industry were like oil and water. The accounts of Chandler working with Billy Wilder on the screenplay for Double Indemnity are amusing. (I recently re-read one account in City of Nets by Otto Friedrich, a good read even if Friedrich is a little too willing to repeat Hollywood apocrypha.) Chandler would fume whenever Wilder asked him to do something not involved with writing ("Ray, could you close that blind, please") and even more so when Wilder would wave his malacca riding crop in his face. I don't think Chandler and Hitchcock got on very well either.
posted by Man-Thing at 11:18 AM on February 22, 2008 [2 favorites]

that was incredible, and every word of it about the oscars' complete lack of relevance to the artistic integrity of the medium still holds true today. Best Picture is often almost totally meaningless as a measure of anything other than dividends.
posted by shmegegge at 11:32 AM on February 22, 2008

A snarky friend of mine pointed out that you could replace Luise Rainer with Gywenth and re run it today.

Everytime I read Chandler, I'm reminding that he's at least part of the reason I moved to LA. I'm also reminded that I wish I could write like he did. The rhythm that he builds in his prose is fantastic. Especially impressive is that second page paragraph of semicoloned "ifs". It's breathless and you can feel the beating of it.
posted by drewbage1847 at 11:51 AM on February 22, 2008

Plus ca change plus c'est la meme chose.
posted by caraig at 3:10 PM on February 22, 2008

I love Raymond Chandler in ways I'm not prepared to discuss in public. For another example of Chandler's seething hatred for Hollywood, read The Little Sister.
posted by Rangeboy at 3:18 PM on February 22, 2008

A snarky friend of mine pointed out that you could replace Luise Rainer with Gywenth and re run it today.

Your friend can sit next to me any time. It's Ms Paltrow's voice more than anything. Why do American actors (and worse, radio folk, notably on NPR) not trouble with voice? Forget pulling the bogus English accent (any decent mimic can do one), and work on getting rid of that flat, whiny, nasal thing.

That said, the working stiff actors, and I've known a few, I do feel for. Decades living in hope and day jobs. As he says- Actors are threatened people. Before films came along to make them rich they often had need of a desperate gaiety.

Many still have need of desperate gaiety.
posted by IndigoJones at 5:17 PM on February 22, 2008 [3 favorites]

It's gone beyond kissing itself and into autofellatio territory at this point, methinks.
posted by jonmc at 5:27 PM on February 22, 2008

That's a great link, thanks.

I've often wondered why writers get such short shrift in Hollywood. In plays they often get larger billing than the directors, but on screen? Virtually nothing.

Chandler's talking from self-interest, but I think he's right that writing and cinematography matter much, much more to a film than the acting, in almost all cases. I can think of some superb acting, of course, but of all my top films, it's really down to the writing that I love them.

Yet, of course, we interview the actors and ask them about their character's motivations, or the intricacies of the plot. Pshaw.
posted by bonaldi at 12:50 PM on February 23, 2008

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