The reviewer was until recently a senior editor at American Film magazine.
"The Industry" is a frank, funny and sometimes bizarre tale about what the author calls "life in the Hollywood fast lane." Battered by his own experience, film producer Saul David is particularly adept at describing all the insecurity and pain that underlie the glamor, money and success.
David arrived on the West Coast in 1960, after nearly a decade in New York publishing. He began as an executive at Columbia Studios in charge of locating story talent but he says, in his matter-of-fact style, that it was a "silly and irritating job which sounded good on the East Coast, where it was invented, but insane on the West Coast, where I simply appeared to be a spy for both sides." He didn't flounder there long. After an executive-level skirmish, he was left out of meetings, lost his secretary and even his ability to make outgoing calls. Not getting the message, David remained until he was emphatically fired.
David rebounded by turning his attention back to publishing. He collaborated with the erstwhile agent Arthur Landau and wrote "Harlow," which became a best seller. Columbia, which had settled his contract by paying him 25 cents on the dollar, demanded that he turn over the rights. Another studio threatened to sue him because it had repeatedly announced it was going to film the actress' life. He remained undaunted. In Hollywood, David says, "stuff like that is routine, it's called 'casting a cloud on the project,' and is the main way uppity types are brought to heel out here."
Next he played "literary obstetrician" to friend Helen Gurley Brown's "Sex and the Single Girl," and she entrusted him with the custody of the literary rights. Warner Bros. purchased the film rights, and David was back in the fast lane. He was hired by the studio to develop the screenplay with the understanding (his) that he would produce the film. Before the end of his contract, however, he was fired. Exit Saul David, who candidly admits, "I am something of an expert on getting fired. Since coming to Hollywood, I have never quit a job."
Before he left Warner, David was approached by a young Texas writer who was trying to sell a story about a group of POWs in Italy during World War II. The manuscript was "Von Ryan's Express," and the "outgoing" producer promised the author he would have no trouble making a deal. Twentieth Century-Fox bought the film rights and hired David to produce the film, but not before he found an agent to negotiate an ironclad contract for him. It was a smart move, because when the filming dragged on, in Italy and Spain, David had to resist tenaciously the forces of the star, Frank Sinatra; the director, Mark Robson; and the studio head, Darryl Zanuck.
David vividly describes, in several fascinating chapters, the behind-the-scenes hassles on "Von Ryan's Express" -- from Sinatra's demand that he be chauffeured to the set each morning in a helicopter to the nasty cables from the studio to keep the production on schedule. David's approach to the situation was one of cynicism tempered with realism. "In an industry where even the popcorn sellers get a piece of the action," he writes, "I was a salaried employee with the same rights as a grape picker before Chavez . . . but with a hell of a lot more money than I had ever seen before."
"Von Ryan's Express" went on to become a hit, and David was back in the driver's seat. He quickly produced "Fantastic Voyage" and then "Our Man Flint," which starred James Coburn. When David tried to finagle out of his Fox contract, the studio wouldn't release him because it wanted a sequel to "Flint." He produced "In Like Flint," but he became so enraged over the elimination of several minutes of film that he decided to commit career suicide by leaking the story to the press. The result -- fired again. By now, David was extremely confident concerning all things Hollywood, and he concocted a bit of revenge.
Twentieth Century-Fox was then involved in a major publicity effort labeled "Think 20th." On the studio lot the slogan appeared in huge letters on the side of a building. Late one night, with his days at Fox numbered, David climbed to a fourth-story men's room, opened the window, and gleefully inserted a comma so the sign would read "Think, 20th."
Later, David produced several other films, including "Logan's Run," and enjoyed a stint in feature film production for television. All of this experience has put him in a good position to make some fairly pointed observations about Hollywood. On parties: "Many people have little printed maps which they send out with invitations. The reason is that most industry people make a considerable effort, not exactly at privacy, but at being hard to find." On screenwriters: "They come by their paranoia honestly. They are the first hired and the first fired." On studio legal departments: "Their function is chiefly to employ the law in the way the Mafia employs the bomb -- to make antagonists think twice and then collapse in fear. It often works." On producers: "There are no producers' footprints in the forecourt of the Chinese Theater . . . you can hope for Rich but not for Famous." And finally, on film: "Money, sex, power, and all the myriad amalgams are behind the cameras. In front of them, add sentiment."
One must be an opportunist to move to Hollywood and a realist to stand back and write a book like "The Industry." David is so much of both that he has covered himself should any prospect for work pop up. He has eliminated the last names of all except the most famous; and he carefully avoids inciting his ex-wives by referring to them as "the lady of the house" or "a lady who gets a monthly check." With "The Industry" Saul David proves that he still knows how to shift into the fast lane.