Life in Hollywood, below-the-line

Life in Hollywood, below-the-line
Work gloves at the end of the 2006/2007 television season (photo by Richard Blair)

Wednesday, August 20, 2008

Christopher Isherwood Quote

Two of the comments on last Sunday's post had to do with a passage on Hollywood by Christopher Isherwood. I know almost nothing about Isherwood or his work, but as luck would have it, an old friend ("RD", a 30 year veteran of the camera department) sent me the following a couple of months ago -- and I believe this is the quote referenced in both comments.

Here's the e-mail, followed by the quote:

I came across this insightful simile by Christopher Isherwood and wanted to share it with you and your readers. It's from Christopher Isherwood's 1945 novel about the movie business, "Prater Violet". Christopher Isherwood spent time working as a screen-writer in both London and Hollywood. His writings about his experiences in pre-Nazi Berlin were the inspiration for the play, "I Am A Camera", and subsequently, both the Broadway musical and movie, "Cabaret".

“You see, the film studio... is really the palace of the sixteenth century. There one sees what Shakespeare saw: the absolute power of the tyrant, the courtiers, the flatterers, the jesters, the cunningly ambitious intriguers. There are fantastically beautiful women, there are incompetent favorites. There are great men who are suddenly disgraced. There is the most insane extravagance and unexpected parsimony over a few pence. There is enormous splendour which is a sham; and also horrible squalor hidden behind the scenery. There are vast schemes, abandoned because of some caprice. There are secrets which everybody knows and no one speaks of. There are even two or three honest advisers. These are the court fools, who speak the deepest wisdom in puns, lest they should be taken seriously. They grimace, and tear their hair privately, and weep.”

That's Hollywood, all right. Looks like I'll have to find a copy of "Prater Violet" to put on the shelf next to Nathanael West's harrowing X-Ray vision of life in Hollywood during the 30's: "The Day of the Locust."

Thanks, RD.


Unknown said...

Ah ha! Thanks for the quote (and source.)
Does sound like it would go well alongside "Day of the Locust."

-K- said...

Wow, what a great insight into the studio world. And it seems to be an apt comparison.

Scripty said...

I was so hopeful the show would work out for you, and so disappointed that it did not. Thanks for taking us along for the ride... giving us insight into the TV world. And I love the true!

Nat Bocking said...

Ah yes, that's the one. It must sit alongside what Hunter S. Thompson said about the music business.

Where can we get the t-shirt?

Incidentally, my Mom must have been prescient about my career. She named me after Nathaneal West!

Nat Bocking said...


I945 review in Time:,9171,852449-1,00.html

"..Prater Violet, like all good books, adds up to a lot more than the sum of its parts. It is not merely a survey of the boa constrictions of the modern movie company, and a vigorous defense of the artist caught in its coils. It is not merely a lament for the shortcomings of contemporary intellectuals. In Friedrich Bergmann, Author Isherwood sees a giant of a passing generation—a mature, tough, revolutionary artist in whom the will to live and feel is practically indestructible."

Anonymous said...

...please where can I buy a unicorn?