- Lion of Hollywood: The Life and Legend of Louis B. Mayer
- Irving Thalberg: Boy Wonder to Producer Prince
- MGM: Hollywood’s Greatest Backlot
- A Bright and Guilty Place: Murder, Corruption, and L.A.’s Scandalous Coming of Age
- L.A. Noir: The Struggle for the Soul of America’s Most Seductive City
- Hitler: A Biography
- Hitler: Ascent, 1889-1939
- Reporting on Hitler: Rothay Reynolds and the British Press in Nazi Germany
- The Collaboration
- Hitler in Los Angeles: How Jews Foiled Nazi Plots Against Hollywood and America
That’s more or less in reverse order, latest book to earlier.
I still have
- Without Lying Down: Frances Marion and the Powerful Women of Early Hollywood
- Into the Dark (Turner Classic Movies): The Hidden World of Film Noir, 1941-1950
That last is a bit out of the era but I wanted to pull film noir elements back to their roots, and weave them in.
I would love to find Frances Marion’s How to Write and Sell Film Stories, but dammit, the only thing on eBay is a signed copy for $250, and a listing on Abe’s books for $525. I’d love to hear Frances’ voice on what she would want to say about what she was doing, but not for that.
I started with 1930’s Los Angeles, and just started feeling my way around the era. I had my main character walk into Louis B. Mayer’s office at MGM. I found she was walking into a blank space, I didn’t have a feel for that man in that time yet. From Louis B. Mayer I found Irving Thalberg, then Frances Marion. I narrowed the time down to the 6th academy Awards date, 16 March 1934. Then reading to get a feel for what’s accurate, what will have a natural and cohesive feel for that time and how do these people see their role and how this industry is at that time.
I also found a couple of more screenwriting books. I’m actually surprised there are any I don’t have, by this time. But – there were yet more.
Frankly out of everything I’ve read of screenwriting, three stand out as the least touted and most helpful as a writer so far
Which Lie Did I Tell?: More Adventures in the Screen Trade, and it’s predecessor, Adventures in the Screen Trade are two. William Goldman is absolutely worth reading. Not specific lessons but the approach followed by a very successful master. His voice as a writer is a joy.
And The Hollywood Standard for the nuts and bolts of formatting.
The new books were How to Write a Movie in 21 Days: The Inner Movie Method, which sounds like it hits right at the pieces I’ve been experiencing so far, and I can read it in tandem with the Frances Marion bio. The second was The Nutshell Technique: Crack the Secret of Successful Screenwriting, which is another view on what makes up a story.
I keep starting to write and realizing again I’m still filling in the picture and the era. There will come a point where the details feel real and the imagery won’t be superficial and trite, and as I walk that character through the office, Louis B. Mayer will be alive in the imagery and on the page, not a cut out figure, and the office will have depth and detail.