Writers in Hollywood


I spent the ensuing weeks across a table from Nic, hashing out plotlines. It gave me a chance to study him at close quarters. No one was more vehement about character and motivation than Nic. Now and then, he’d do the voices or act out a scene, turning his wrist to demonstrate the pop-pop of gunplay. He was 37 but somehow ageless. He could’ve stepped out of a novel by Steinbeck. The writer as crusader, chronicler of love and depravity. His shirt was rumpled, his hair mussed, his manner that of a man who’d just hiked along the railroad tracks or rolled out from under a box. He is fine-featured, with fierce eyes a little too small for his face. It gives him the aura of a bear or some other species of dangerous animal. When I was a boy and dreamed of literature, this is how I imagined a writer—a kind of outlaw, always ready to fight or go on a spree. After a few drinks, you realize the night will culminate with pledges of undying friendship or the two of you on the floor, trying to gouge each other’s eyes out.

I love True Detective and I loved, loved reading this profile of Nic Pizzolatto in Vanity Fair (from which I steal the above photo, credited to Art Streiber).


I did have a quibble, though.

Here’s what profile writer Rich Cohen says about F. Scott Fitzgerald in Hollywood:

Early in the history of film, when the big-time writers of the day, Fitzgerald most famously, were offered a role in the movies, they decided to write for the cash, forswearing deeper participation in a medium they considered second-rate. Perhaps as a result of this decision, the author came to be the forgotten figure in Hollywood, well paid but disregarded. According to the old joke, “the actress was so stupid she slept with the writer.”


Credit and power are shared. But by tossing out that first season and beginning again, Nic has a chance to finally undo the early error of Fitzgerald and the rest. If he fails and the show tanks, he’ll be just another writer with one great big freakish hit. But if he succeeds, he will have generated a model in which the stars and the stories come and go but the writer remains as guru and king.

Not sure this is totally accurate.  I’ve read a decent amount about F. Scott Fitzgerald in Hollywood.  The more you read, the more it seems like Fitzgerald really loved Hollywood, and tried really hard to be good at writing movies, and was distressed by his failures.  Fitzgerald loved movies:


When Fitzgerald worked on movies, it seems like he worked hard, was hurt when he was (frequently) fired, which sent him into tailspins that made things worse.  But he was trying:


Those are from the great Marc Norman’s book, highly recommended:


Or how about this?:


That’s from this great one, by Scott Donaldson:


Now, that’s not to say that Fitzgerald always did everything perfectly:


(from this one, very entertaining read:



On the other hand, William Faulkner did well in Hollywood.  He’s credited on at least two movies — The Big Sleep and To Have And Have Not, that you’d have to put in the all-time good list.  If he’d never written a single book, you could look at those credits and call Faulkner a pretty successful screenwriter.

What did Faulkner do differently than Fitzgerald?  Possibly, his secret was caring less:

IMG_8502 More, from Norman:

Murky, to be sure.

But you might say: the big difference in the Hollywood careers of Fitzgerald and Faulkner is that Faulkner teamed with a great director, Howard Hawks, who liked him and liked working with him.

That’s what Pizzolatto did too.  He teamed up with Cary Fukunaga. Cary Fukunaga directed all eight episodes of season one of True Detective (and a bunch of other things worth seeing).

Fukunaga’s not mentioned once in that Vanity Fair article.  That’s crazy.

Anyway. I’m excited for season two, it sounds super interesting.

Stray Items


Sorry I haven’t been posting more.  Trying to finish my book and get Great Debates Live organized (get your tickets by emailing greatdebates69@gmail.com.  We are legit almost sold out).  Honestly it’s a LITTLE unfair to be mad at me for not producing enough free content.

A few items too good to ignore came across our desk:

1) Reader Robert P. in Los Angeles sends us this item:

Dear Helytimes, 

Thought you might enjoy this wiki. There’s a great part about a riddle and another great part about conducting a trial. http://en.m.wikipedia.org/wiki/The_Numbers_Gang

Gotta say, this is one of the most intriguing Wikipedia pages I can remember.  I love when Wikipedia takes myth at face value.

2) Re: our recent post about Tanya Tucker, reader Bobby M. writes:

Saw that Tanya Tucker’s Delta Dawn popped up.  Love that one.  We like to joke that the lyrics are a conversation wherein some jerk is taunting an insanse person.  “Oh, and, Delta?  Did I hear you say he was meeting you here today?  And (aside to chittering friend: ‘get a load of this’) did I also hear you say he’d be taking you to his mansion.  In the sky?  Yeah, that’s what I thought you said, Delta.  Nice flower you have on.”  Midler’s version blows.

Bobby M. is one of the contributors to Lost Almanac, a truly funny print and online comedy mag.

3) We ran into reader Leila S. in New York City.  She was reading the letters of F. Scott Fitzgerald, and sends in some highlights:

to John Peale Bishop, March, 1925, he wrote “I am quite drunk” at the top of the paper above the date, then later in the letter: “I have lost my pen so I will have to continue in pencil. It turned up– I was writing with it all the time and hadn’t noticed.”
to H.L. Mencken, May 4, 1925, re: Great Gatsby:

“You say, ‘the story is fundamentally trivial.'”

to Gertrude Stein, June 1925, after a long letter kissing her ass:

“Like Gatsby, I have only hope.” Dude quoted his own book he just wrote!

to Mrs. Bayard Turnbull, May 31, 1934, after a long apology about his embarrassing behavior at a tea party:

“P.S. I’m sorry this is typed but I seem to have contracted Scottie’s poison ivy and my hands are swathed in bandages.”

to Joseph Hergesheimer, Fall 1935, re: Tender Is The Night
“I could tell in the Stafford Bar that afternoon when you said that it was ‘almost impossible to write a book about an actress’ that you hadn’t read it thru because the actress fades out of it in the first third and is only a catalytic agent.”
to Arnold Gingrich, March 20, 1936:
“In my ‘Ant’ satire, the phrase ‘Lebanon School for the Blind’ should be changed to ‘New Jersey School for Drug Addicts.'” [The letter continues about other things, then at the very end, emphasis his] “Please don’t forget this change in ‘Ants.'”

to Ernest Hemingway, August, 1936

“Please lay off me in print.”

As always you can reach helytimes at helphely at gmail.com

Scraps from F. Scott’s notebook

My edition of The Crack-Up, from New Directions, includes a bunch of other assorted scraps found in F. Scott Fitzgerald’s notebook. They are amazing.  Plots, lines, ideas, whatever.  Here are some from the two pages I happened to open to:

  • A tree, finding water, pierces roof and solves a mystery.
  • Girl and giraffe
  • Marionettes during dinner party meeting and kissing
  • Play about a whole lot of old people – terrible things happen to them and they don’t really care.
  • Play: The Office – an orgy after hours during the boom.
  • A bat chase.  Some desperate young people apply for jobs at Camp, knowing nothing about wood lore but pretending, each one.
  • Girl whose ear is so sensitive she can hear radio.  Man gets her out of insane asylum to use her.
  • Boredom is not an end-product, is comparatively rather an early stage in life and art.  You’ve got to go by or past or through boredom, as through a filter, before the clear product emerges. (hear that DFW?!)
  • Girl marries a dissipated man and keeps him in healthy seclusion.  She meanwhile grows restless and raises hell on the side

On the next page begins the section “Jingles and Songs.”


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