The script-writer's place in the Hollywood has traditionally been somewhere near the bottom of the food-chain, 'Below the heads of publicity but above the hairdressers' said screenwriter Donald Ogden Stewart. In this vastly entertaining book Marc Norman seeks to reverse that perception by tracing the whole history of the industry from the perspective of the oft-abused and much-derided individuals who actually provided the foundations upon which the directors, stars and studio bosses erected their titanic egos. He takes us through the early days of silent movies when teams of anonymous hacks churned out storylines and sub-titles on a weekly basis, through the 20's and 30s, when it sometimes seemed as if half of Manhattan had relocated to California as the studios sought to corral literary lions in their gilded cages, into the dark days of McCarthyism and the Hollywood blacklists and on into the era of the auteur and the rise of the writer-director. Along the way we learn how movies were made - and how close many came to never being made; glean choice bits of hard-won wisdom: 'Emotionally involving the audience is easy,' advised George Lucas.
'Get a little kitten and have some guy wring its neck'; watch William Faulkner and Scott Fitzgerald fail as screenwriters; witness Paddy Chayefsky's rage as the director turns his script into 'a Ken Russell film' without changing a single word; and watch as Francis Ford Coppola struggles to both write and direct Apocalypse Now - 'The walkie-talkies on the set would crackle, "He's on his way with another two pages," as his helicopter lifted off in the morning.' Marc Norman was co-writer, with Tom Stoppard, of the Oscar-winning script for Shakespeare in Love. This is his first non-fiction book.