`Infamous Players` stumbles over well-trod ground

Last Updated: May 14, 2011, 19:19 PM IST

London: A sense of fatigue hobbles Peter Bart`s memoir about the management shift at Paramount Pictures in the late 1960s and early `70s and its impact on moviemaking.

Returning to that well-covered era requires a far more engaging and insightful treatment than Bart provides in ‘Infamous Players: A Tale of Movies, the Mob (and Sex).’

The machinations behind megahits like ‘The Godfather’ and ‘Love Story’ are well-known. Bart`s look back works best when he revisits ‘Harold and Maude,’ ‘Downhill Racer’ and other noteworthy but neglected films.

A journalist who became a Paramount executive, Bart does add some shading to the studio portrait, most of it dark. Production chief Robert Evans comes off more crude than genius, given his outlook on women, and Gulf & Western mogul Charles Bluhdorn gets a rough going over for his lack of studio savvy.

Twenty years ago, Bart`s memoir could have seemed relevant and eye-opening. Other writers, particularly Peter Biskind in ‘Easy Riders, Raging Bulls’ (1998) and Mark Harris in ‘Pictures at a Revolution’ (2008), have provided excellent analysis of the tumultuous transformation of Hollywood.

Too often, especially for a former editor-in-chief of Variety, Bart`s recollections are confused, if not downright wrong.

For example, Bart says he looked forward to moving to California in 1965, with the state being governed by Earl Warren and represented by a young Sen. Richard Nixon — but both were long out of office by then. He places ‘Jaws’ and ‘Star Wars’ in the 1980s, but both were movie icons of the `70s.

With Paddy Chayefsky writing the script for the Lerner and Loewe musical ‘Paint Your Wagon,’ released in 1969, Bart says he warned Evans that Chayefsky didn`t do musicals but satires like ‘The Hospital’ and ‘Network’ — movies not made until 1971 and 1976, respectively. In deriding Lerner and Loewe`s later work, he says their musical ‘Coco’ never played on Broadway; actually, it did, and for nearly a year.

Bart says he considered a young Michael Caine a potential breakout star for 1969`s ‘The Italian Job,’ but Caine had already been nominated for an Oscar for 1966`s ‘Alfie.’ He says he cautioned Evans that casting TV star Mia Farrow in ‘Rosemary`s Baby,’ released in 1968, presented the same problem they had with putting Ryan O`Neal in ‘Love Story,’ though that movie wasn`t released until 1970.

The `70s song ‘The Way We Were’ says memories can be misty and water coloured. To be worth sharing, however, they do need to be meaningful and accurate.

Bureau Report