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Picture Paperback – June 1, 2002


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Product Details

  • Paperback: 400 pages
  • Publisher: Da Capo Press (June 2002)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0306811286
  • ISBN-13: 978-0306811289
  • Product Dimensions: 8.7 x 5.5 x 0.8 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 11.2 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.5 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (13 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #130,968 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Editorial Reviews

Review

NPR.org, 3/17/11
“You will never forget this book.”

From the Inside Flap

When New Yorker staff writer Lillian Ross heard that John Huston was planning to make a film of Stephen Crane's The Red Badge of Courage, she decided she would follow the movie's progress "in order to learn whatever I might learn about the American motion-picture industry." In the spring of 1950, Huston visited New York and called the young writer to say that progress was not smooth: "Come on over, kid, and I'll tell you all about the hassle."
"the funniest tragedy that I have ever read."
   William Shawn, then managing editor of The New Yorker, described Picture for the jacket of the first hardcover edition, writing: "On the surface, Miss Ross has written a precise, marvelously detailed account of how one motion-picture, The Red Badge of Courage, was made. Beyond that, exuberant, she has presented everything any sane person should want to know about how a big film studio functions. And beyond that, she has written what must be called, for lack of a more appropriate word, the definitive book on
the Hollywood community--its language, its manners, its preoccupations, its ideas. Last, she has
told a dramatic story about some extraordinary people, and, in a
triumph of interlineation, has
written a treatise on human nature."   Lillian Ross's marvelous description of John Huston's work and the film's subsequent fate at the hands of its studio bosses was first published as a serial in The New Yorker and was released in book form as Picture in 1952. It remains the best account of the inner workings of Hollywood. Picture received tremendous praise not only for the sheer quality of the writing but also for its technical innovation--the presentation of reporting as a novel. Picture received plaudits from the worlds of film and literature in equal measure. Charles Chaplin acclaimed it as "a brilliant and sagacious bit of reporting," and S. N. Behrman deemed it --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

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Customer Reviews

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The cover of the 50th Anniversary Edition has the critical quote from Newsweek: "The Best Book On Hollywood Ever Published".
E. Hunter Hale
Anyone who suspects that there never was a golden age of Hollywood without inept executives and corporate committees will enjoy this book.
Charles M. Howell
It's ironic that her report of the making of John Huston's "The Red Badge of Courage" artistically surpassed the movie itself.
C. C. Black

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

13 of 13 people found the following review helpful By Charles M. Howell on July 17, 2004
Format: Paperback
Lillian Ross, a writer for the New Yorker, heads to Hollywood in 1950 to watch John Huston make his next picture, "The Red Badge of Courage" at MGM, and manages to capture a horrifying snapshot of the studio system at its worst during a difficult time of transition for the film industry. She happens to be on hand to see Louis B. Mayer forced out and Dore Schary installed as studio head while the film is in mid-production. There are several scenes of Huston grinning and bearing it as Schary pompously lectures the great director of "The Maltese Falcon," "Treasure of the Sierra Madre" and "The African Queen" on how to make a movie. Schary pompously cites how he "solved story problems" in several of his own stodgy, now-forgotten pet projects as producer, like "The Next Voice You Hear." In one hillarious scene we see Arthur Freed, MGM's great producer of musicals, playing yes-man to Schary, and we glean, perhaps, how Freed, by appeasing the new boss, managed to keep some autonomy for his own expensive production unit through much of Schary's cost-cutting reign.
Then come the ill-conceived (or deliberately rigged) sneak previews. This serious war drama is screened at a local theater for an audience that came to see a Ginger Rogers romantic comedy, and the audience response is... (surprise!) vociferously negative. They find the film depressing, and many walk out. The old adage that new executives try to kill the projects put into the works by their predecessors may apply. Schary uses these preview results to justify having the movie re-cut while Huston is out of the country working on another film.
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5 of 5 people found the following review helpful By S. A Sayre on May 11, 2005
Format: Paperback
Lillian Ross made her name with this New Yorker series about a half century ago. It was startling in its cynical and very humerous view of the self important and self delusional power players at MGM. With all that we have learned about this industry during the intervening 50 years the story has lost much of its potency, but is still a classic of the genre.

I read it in its original form all those years ago. It was a wonderful and hilarious read. But the protagonists, of course, were extremely upset and hated it. Happily,Lillian has survived; still writing for New Yorker.
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6 of 7 people found the following review helpful By A Customer on November 28, 1999
Format: Hardcover
Lillian Ross has given movie fans and those with a serious interest in film an extraordinary book about the final days of the studio system--and shows exactly why it collapsed. A few years later the independent film-maker emerged, and another book details that experience. Interestingly enough, both books deal with Audie Murphy. Like the Ross book, A THINKER'S DAMN by William Russo recounts the foibles of movie-making, this time in Saigon with Joe Mankiewicz in 1957. Each provides a timeless impression of a bygone movie era.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful By Ronald S. Tamoschat on February 17, 2009
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
I FOUND THE BOOK TO BE A FASCINATING , BLOW-BY-BLOW ACCOUNT OF HOW THIS MEMORABLE BUT OVERLOOKED FILM WAS MADE. I HAVE THE MOVIE ON DVR AND CAN WATCH THE SCENES AS SHE DESCRIBES WHAT IS GOING ON BEHIND THE CAMERA IN THE BOOK. THE BOOK LEFT ME WITH A SENSE OF LOSS , BECAUSE OF THE DESCRIPTIONS OF ALL THE MEMORABLE FOOTAGE THAT WAS CUT, AND IS NOW LOST. HER DEPICTIONS OF THE KEY INDIVIDUALS INVOLVED IN THE MAKING OF THIS MOVIE , FROM PRODUCER , PLAYERS , STUDIO HEADS AND ALL OTHERS INVOVLED IN MAKING THIS MOVIE IS FASCINATING.
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2 of 3 people found the following review helpful By A Customer on May 13, 1999
Format: Hardcover
An entire book on the creation of John Huston's "The Red Badge of Courage." What's most amazing is that Ross seems to be a fly on the wall. She attends big meetings with Hollywood execs. She is along with the gang during casting, shooting, editing, and previews. This is reporting like reporting was meant to be. It is such a good first-hand account, that people uninterested in movies will find favor with it.
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Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
I enjoy books about the motion picture business in the 1900s -- at least up to mid-century.

This book got glowing reviews, so I bought it. I didn't enjoy it very much, so I didn't bother to finish it. After starting to read it, I also remembered that I had bought a copy some years ago -- and didn't enjoy it then either.

I thought it moved pretty slowly, even though it is a small book. I have read several much longer books -- biographies of major players in the motion picture industry -- and enjoyed them to the last page. It seems like I should have enjoyed this one, but I didn't.
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Format: Kindle Edition Verified Purchase
A definitive insider account of the twilight phase of the Hollywood studio system, as represented by MGM as the top studio for "quality" productions and a record of the insidious impact on the film-maker's art, specifically John Huston's The Red Badge of Courage. Alongside recorded interviews and objectively reported accounts of key participants, there is close and dispassionate detailing of the MGM production budgetary controls and the underlying corporate in-fighting.
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