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The Devil's Candy: The Bonfire of the Vanities Goes to Hollywood Hardcover – November 1, 1991

4.5 out of 5 stars 41 customer reviews

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Editorial Reviews

From Publishers Weekly

Wall Street Journal film critic Salamon systematically and incisively lays out the process that conceived of Bonfire as a socially relevant epic, then turned it into a successor to Heaven's Gate. Moving from pre- to post-production, she charts the ruinous situations--the stars' high salaries and scheduling problems, the limited range of Bruce Willis, the conflicting messages from studio heads and more. The requisite tidbits are here, as well--did Melanie Griffith have breast augmentation during the shooting? (Yes.) What does Brian DePalma drink for lunch? (Three cappuccinos.) There is also much detailed material on how a movie is made, including the range of instruments used to recreate sounds and the type of beading attached to Griffith's eye-popping party dress. Casual film fans may be overwhelmed by the scope of Salamon's information; aficionados will feel they've finally gotten enough. More speculation would have been welcome on whether Hollywood will learn from the mistakes of Bonfire or always fall prey to "the devil's candy"--that "impossible, expensive, possibly monumental thing."420 Photos not seen by PW. First serial to Vanity Fair.
Copyright 1991 Reed Business Information, Inc.

From Library Journal

Salamon, film critic for The Wall Street Journal , was given seemingly unlimited and early entree to the production of Brian De Palma's film version of Tom Wolfe's novel The Bonfire of the Vanities . This is apparently the first time a writer has been allowed such unfettered access to the creation of a film since Lillian Ross wrote Picture ( LJ 10/1/52) based on the filming of The Red Badge of Courage (1951). Wisely, Salamon's narrative includes not only De Palma and the leading actors, but lesser-known contributors such as the costume designer, production assistants, and location scouts. She is adept at interweaving all viewpoints and activities into the whole. Although the film was a colossal failure, for reasons which Salamon makes very clear, the book is an eminently readable success.
- Roy Liebman, California State Univ. Lib., Los Angeles
Copyright 1991 Reed Business Information, Inc.

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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 434 pages
  • Publisher: Houghton Mifflin Company; 1st edition (November 1, 1991)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0395569966
  • ISBN-13: 978-0395569962
  • Product Dimensions: 9.2 x 6.2 x 1.6 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.8 pounds
  • Average Customer Review: 4.5 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (41 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #468,967 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

By D. C. Palter on July 22, 2006
Format: Paperback
The Devil's Candy is the story of the making of The Bonfire of the Vanities. It is the best (and possible only) book in recent times to describe how a movie is made, in depth, from inception to casting to production to editing to screenings and focus groups through release and box office.

The subtitle, "The Anatomy of a Hollywood Fiasco" is misleading. This is not a book that analyses why a movie production went wrong. It is a journalistic look at how a movie is made, any movie, and this book uses the example of the Bonfire of the Vanities because that happened to be the production Julie Salamon was invited to observe from beginning to end. Tellingly, the original version of the book was subtitled instead "Bonfire of the Vanities Goes to Hollywood" and the new subtitle was obviously added for the paperback version to try to pump up sales.

Most of the other reviews have said this book is for industry insiders, but it isn't. For insiders, there is nothing new here. This book is for people on the outside who want to know how the movie industry works. And what we learn is that for all the glamour, movie production is mostly meetings and sitting around sets doing endless takes of scenes that eventually get cut.

Assuming you're interested in learning how Hollywood works, from the endless scouting of locations to who is responsible for carrying the director's thermos of coffee, you will be educated. This book, at more than 400 pages, goes into gory detail, from just about everyone's point of view, from the director to costume manager.
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Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
This is an exceptional documentary analysis of what goes on in the making of a film. The author, Julie Salamon, was given the opportunity to follow Brian De Palma for the total duration of a very difficult film project, Bonfire of the Vanities, the remake of the famous Tom Wolfe novel. It is an exceptional replay of everything that happened from original purchase of the rights to the novel, to the publicity and reviews of the famous movie, to the ultimate collapse at the box office. One only wonders how this book would have read had the movie been a success.
While I really enjoyed this book, I would not recommend this book to anyone that does not have an intense interest in Hollywood and the making of movies. Excessive time is spent poring over the roles of line producers, second unit directors and production assistants. The book gives you a great understanding not just of the stars but also what it takes to break into the business and what the career path can be. Particularly as it relates to De Palma's assistant looking for an assistant producer credit and the second unit director looking to break out and become a director of his own films. In addition, it does touch on the stars, both actors and director, and how their idiosyncrasies shape the movie and its making.
This is not a short book. So if you are looking for an exciting page turner, this is not for you. You will spend many pages following the tale of obtaining rights to shoot at certain locations, tales of screen tests of local judges, and boycotts and publicity by Bronx politicians.
Overall, this controversial book detailing separation of the haves and have-nots of the 80s becomes an even more controversial movie with screw-ups in producing of the movie and casting of the roles.
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Format: Paperback
Julie Salamon was lucky enough to get in at the beginning of what was anticipated to be a great film, and turned out to be one of the biggest critical and financial failures for Warner Bros. The book Bonfire of the Vanities was so popular and written in such a style that taking on the task of adapting it to film was a true challenge and doomed to fail. And fail it did. Salamon also gives a background of the steps it takes to get a picture made from buying the rights of the book to marketing the finished picture. She details the different roles of the movie set, answering the age-old question, "What does a grip do?". You gather a great understanding of how difficult it is to make a picture by studio standards and how the hierarchy on the set works. Fascinating insight from an outsider let into the circus of making a major motion picture. Brian De Palma must curse the day he agreed to let her chronicle the journey.
Also, I have to recommend reading Tom Wolfe's Bonfire of the Vanities. You can understand why he wanted no part of making the film adaptaton of his infamous book.
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Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
First rate account of the making of Brian De Palma's Bonfire of the Vanities. Salamon, at the time a reporter for the Wall Street Journal, received what appears to have been total access to director De Palma, the actors, costume designers, cameramen, and practically everyone else involved in the making of the movie. The level of detail may be too much for someone looking for a quick account of what went wrong in the making of this film, but I found it all fascinating. The only other book I know of that provides a comparably detailed inside look at the making of a movie is Lillian Ross's Picture, which was an account of the making of John Huston's Red Badge of Courage in 1951. A fair amount has changed in movie making since this book was written. For instance, Salamon devotes considerable time to following the second unit director as he attempts to set up some difficult shots, one involving the landing of a Concorde jet at sunset. These days, I imagine most movie goers would assume such a shot was actually cgi. I read the Da Capo Press 2002 reprint. (Interesingly, the subtitle of the book changed from "The Bonfire of the Vanities Goes to Hollywood" to "The Anatomy of a Hollywood Fiasco." Probably an indication that this film had been largely forgotten by 2002.) The reprint edition has an afterword that briefly discusses the reception of the book -- Bruce Willis was livid -- and the impact of the film on the careers of De Palma and the other people who are the focus of the book. Unfortunately, the photos from the first edition are not reproduced and the quality of the printing is a little off. Whatever reproduction technique was used imparted a bit of waviness to many of the lines of text.
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