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Authors Out Here
Fitzgerald, West, Parker, and Schulberg in Hollywood

Tom Cerasulo

A bold reevaluation of the screen-writing years of a quartet of iconic writers often at odds with the film industry

F Scott Fitzgerald, Nathanael West, Dorothy Parker, and Budd Schulberg exercised as much of an impact on Hollywood as it had on them during their respective screen-writing careers, Tom Cerasulo argues in Authors Out Here. Cerasulo explores the often tense relationship between these accomplished writers and the film industry in which they were immersed and finds that this marriage of talent and power was mutually beneficial if not always happy. Combining film studies with literary analysis, this alternative view of the creative negotiations between representative writers and the studio system advances our understanding of the meaning of authorship in the first half of the twentieth century.

Cerasulo's quartet of subjects wrote for and about the burgeoning film industry during the halcyon days of the studio era. Popular accounts of this period characterize the Hollywood careers of these writers as motivated by revenge, mocking the studios and their hold over literary creativity. Cerasulo argues that, rather than ruining talent, time spent in the film industry benefited artists such as Fitzgerald, West, Parker, and Schulberg by providing the financial, creative, and social resources each needed during a complex moment in American cultural life. In texts from West's The Day of the Locust and Schulberg's What Makes Sammy Run? to Fitzgerald's The Last Tycoon and Pat Hobby stories, Cerasulo finds these writers capable of interrogating the film industry while simultaneously offering some of the earliest examples of American film theory by carefully examining studio culture and the writer's place within it.

Screenwriters and the producers and directors to whom they reported not only battled over creative control of individual texts but over larger notions of authorship and authority. As paid employees crafting screenplays for a collaborative mass medium in which words were not primary and writers resided near the bottom of the hierarchy, many authors were forced to question their callings. But recognition that they were collaborators in a culture industry was never artistically devastating, and it was never a vocation killer. Cerasulo illustrates how this realization that writers were creative workers in a larger endeavor also served to inspire some of this group's best creative work and invigorated their post-Hollywood careers.

Tom Cerasulo is an assistant professor of English and the Shaughness Family Chair for the Study of the Humanities at Elms College in Chicopee, Massachusetts. Cerasulo holds a Ph.D. in English and a certificate in film studies from the Graduate Center of the City University of New York. His research has been published in American Writers, the Arizona Quarterly, the Encyclopedia of the Jazz Age, Studies in American Culture, and other publications.

 

"Few authors perpetuated the myth that Hollywood is inimical to the man of letters as thoroughly as F. Scott Fitzgerald. Few critical studies have in turn demonstrated as convincingly as Tom Cerasulo's Authors Out Here exactly how writers profited from that nest-of-vipers plot. Hardly literary naifs, the fiction writers examined here arrived in La-La Land more than willing to leverage their artistic credentials against the cold cash that the screen machine dangled in front of them. As Cerasulo shows, the ones that succeeded saw the opportunity to address an audience without condescension. The ones that failed, by contrast, were perhaps a little too tied to their romantic notions of originality and genius. The discussions of Fitzgerald and West here are concise object lessons in why authors shouldn't sweat the spectacle, while the chapter on Parker gives due credit to the underappreciated skills of professionalism and collaboration. Perhaps most exciting is the discussion of Budd Schulberg, whose reputation this study goes a long way toward reestablishing. Cerasulo gives us a great opportunity to rewind some of literary culture's most cherished myths of Hollywood as hack factory, inviting us to view what that interpretation has long left out of frame."—Kirk Curnutt, author of The Cambridge Introduction to F. Scott Fitzgerald, Dixie Noir, and others
 
 

 


 

LITERARY STUDIES | FILM STUDIES
(2010)
6 x 9
216 pages
14 illustrations
ISBN 978-1-57003-903-4
hardcover, $29.95s
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