Quentin Tarantino attending the 73rd British Academy Film Awards held at the Royal Albert Hall in London. Photo date: Sunday, February 2, 2020.
Quentin Tarantino’s retro novelization of Once upon a time in hollywood, packaged like an antique pharmacy paperback, is subtitled Hollywood 1969 … You should have been there! It’s a kind of almanac written by someone who celebrated their sixth birthday that year.
Much of what the book recounts actually happened. Sharon tate was married to Roman Polanski. KHJ was call Radio chief Y made plays the Monkees and Paul Revere and the Raiders, along with less remembered groups like 1910 Fruitgum Company (“Simon says”). Spaghetti Westerns They were it’s still considered career suicide for cowboy actors. Mannix was in the second year of its eight years of execution.
Once upon a time in hollywood It reads like young Quentin is standing at a Danish coffee table at his parents’ cocktail party, prompted by Uncle Sal to recite everything he knows about 1969. And when I say “everything,” I mean that in the first chapter, Tarantino drops 110 names of actors, movies, TV shows and cigarettes, including Ralph Meeker, Michael Callan, Y Gardner McKay; The Chapman report; The virginian; Y Virginia slims. I hope the adults are suitably impressed, or at least drunk.
I mostly enjoyed the movie of the same name, although I found myself really present only during the Cielo Drive scenes, and not just because Brad Pitt was shirtless. I live two blocks north of there in Benedict Canyon, and I was hoping to see my house. I did not do it.
Tarantino’s novel is not bogged down by petty clogs like plot or character, freeing him up to devote a large chunk of a chapter to Alan Ladd’s career, including what may be Hollywood’s innermost baseball sentence that. I’ve read: “William Bendix, Robert Preston, Brian Donlevy or Ernest Borgnine, they all looked like Hungarian actors compared to him.” The second chapter of the book is an exegesis on Swedish politics and Generalissimo Franco’s impact on it, as described in the erotic pioneer (not this novel) of 1967, I am curious (yellow). Brad Pitt’s character, a stuntman named Brad Cliff, lists his five favorite Kurosawa movies (number one is a tie between Seven samurai Y Ikiru), and we get the full backstory on Cliff’s dog.
What runs through the central narrative of the book (and the movie) is that Rick, a downcast television cowboy who drowns his sorrows in alcohol, tries to save the remainder of his career with the help of Cliff, his former stunt double. action, now demoted to loyal friend. Sharon Tate and Roman Polanski live next door, and Sharon hates being in her husband’s convertible because “my hair!”
Charles Manson and Squeaky Fromme make appearances without adding a hint of tension. Charlie’s music career gets a lot of attention, but after Doris Day’s son Terry Melcher refuses to leave a forwarding address after he rents his home to Polanski and Tate, Manson disappears from sight.
Squeaky’s goal is to be the only female member of the Manson family who can live inside the house and, spoiler alert, she succeeds. Where Squeaky did not succeed in real life was in his subsequent attempt to assassinate President Gerald Ford in 1975.
Manson’s “family” had much better luck with Sharon Tate and her friends. But not in this book. Those looking forward to the film’s big counterfactual climax, in which Rick gets off his pool float and roasts the Manson family with a flamethrower, may be disappointed to find that Tarantino downgrades that thrilling scene to a throwaway memory of roughly 100 pages in this new version, the home invaders are just a couple of nameless hippies. The fact that Rick wastes them makes him a favorite of the Nixon Right law and order.
I was hoping that the second half of the book would take a whole new turn, perhaps even absurdly violent. Unfortunately, it is dedicated to the first time Rick is cast as the bad guy, in Lancer, a real television western. Rick is very upset when he is forced to wear a long dark “hippie” wig and stick on a drooping Pancho Villa mustache. They convince him, but not his two-dimensional agent, nor his best friend Cliff, nor the star of the television show, Jim Stacy.
No, Rick’s enlightenment comes from his stage partner, an eight-year-old girl, who becomes his de facto acting coach, his life coach, and, in a particularly creepy twist, his stalker, hell-bent on moving in with him. . So out of nowhere, like a seventh grader who finally hit the 250 word mark on his book report, Tarantino finishes his novel.
Tarantino, the film director, is so adept at rewriting the tragic story to give it a happier ending (Sharon Tate lives; a brave and beautiful Jewish woman defeats the Nazis; a black man defeats slavery) that I wondered if he had mentioned James Stacy. to rewrite Stacy’s life. In 1973, this rugged television star lost an arm and a leg in a horrible motorcycle accident. Although the Jim Stacy in the book rides a motorcycle, he and he remain upright.
To be sure, there are a myriad of political, cultural, and social reasons why Tarantino reveres 1969 so much. He probably misses the time when everyone smoked, drank mugs of whiskey sour beer, and could be as casually misogynistic as they wanted, all pleasures that he was probably too young to experiment at the time.
World War II was still recent enough that men could be unmistakable war heroes.
Movies were made by men, for men, to take to their dark dates, which led to a lot of mansplaining.
In an early passage rich in testosterone, Rick instructs his agent: “Bill witney not only did he direct the action, he made up action. You said you like westerns, you know everything Yakima canutt action gag where he jumps from horse to horse, then falls off and goes under hooves, on fucking John Ford Diligence? “
Marvin nods his head.
“William fucking Witney did it fucking first and did it a year before John Ford, with Yakima Canutt “.
Women were valued for how short their skirts were, how freely they offered their “pussies,” a word the author talks about with almost Tourette-like frequency, and how little this story has to offer.
I guess this is a powerful thing when Tarantino looks back at kindergarten. Once upon a time in hollywood the novel suggests that he never grew up.