Terry Southern, who was born this day in 1924, was a writer familiar with the movies. He adapted other people’s work—freely satirizing Peter George’s thriller novel Red Alert into Dr. Strangelove—and had his own work put on screen—Buck Henry adapted Southern’s sexual fantasia Candy for film in 1968.
So, when Southern has advice about writers whose work is so (un?)lucky to be optioned by Hollywood, it’s best to listen:
If a writer is sensitive about his work being treated like Moe, Larry and Curly working over the Sistine Chapel with a crowbar, then he would do well to avoid screenwriting altogether…The wise thing, of course, is to become a filmmaker.
Note that The Three Stooges in the Sistine Chapel would have been a keeper.
Today’s bit of perception about one of America’s most over-analyzed, unloved, and misunderstood “cities” comes courtesy of surrealist pie-thrower and comic raconteur Terry Southern (Candy, Dr. Strangelove). Interviewed at length for The Paris Review‘s occasional series on screenwriters (the interview took place in 1967 but wasn’t published until 2012) the Texas-born Southern expounded on that great Southern California sinkhole of creative energy and dashed dreams:
Hollywood, that is to say, Los Angeles, is not, of course, a city, and its sinister forces are very oblique. There’s no public transportation system whatever, so the people drive around as though they were living in Des Moines, and it has all the rest of the disadvantages of a small town, only filled with displaced persons. On the other hand, life there has an engaging surrealist quality, an almost exciting grotesqueness.
The cultural scene there in general is sped up, sort of concentrated. Southern California is a mecca for all manner of freakishness, beginning on the most middle-class level—hot-dog stands in the shape of a hot dog. If you go there, you’ll immediately see a carnival, Disneyland aspect that is different from any other place in America.
Southern also notes the differences between the ladies of Hollywood and those of the East Coast:
… girls who want to be writers come to the Village and girls who want to be actresses go to Hollywood.