SHOOT OUT: Surviving Fame and (Mis)Fortune in Hollywood. Peter Bart and Peter Guber. Putnam's; 2002.
Just what we need. Another book on how Hollywood works – or doesn't – from one producer and one former producer who wish to impress upon us their own self-importance while mentioning all the “brilliant” hit movies they made. To be fair, for much of its length the book is a good read, more or less intelligently dissecting the way Hollywood operates today [nobody seems to know anything, for one thing] with some good anecdotes along the way. But there's little here that even a Hollywood outsider doesn't already know or at least suspect. Who doesn't know that mega-corporations have taken over the studios, and that any film that is over the heads of the target teenage audience is having a tougher time getting made? Who doesn't know that most Hollywood types don't like to read, and rarely do? Still, there are some insights into the whole process, especially in the marketing and promotion of films [the ads for What Lies Beneath, a well-made suspense thriller with Harrison Ford and Michell Pfieffer, did not feature the stars because they were considered too old to attract the teen audience!] And there are quick mini-descriptions of certain Hollywood assholes, such as the studio executive who would listen to pitches from writers while letting a distracting toy woodpecker peck out how much time they had left before they were through. There are some stupid moments, such as when Bart, writing about Darling Lili, mentions that “it already was getting out that [star Rock] Hudson was not exactly captivated by women in general, or by Andrews in particular” which seems to trade on the old stereotype of gay men hating women. And unintentional hilarity when the authors write that David O Selznick “didn't have to beg talk shows to book his stars.” Talk shows? – back in the days of Gone with the Wind! On the other hand, the authors rightly assess why The Great Gatsby has never worked as an adaptation in any medium: “there's really no story there, and Gatsby is more a metaphor than a character.” Both Bart and Guber come off as men who are not necessarily stupid, but rather pedestrian.
Verdict: An interesting but non-essential read. **1/2.