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."