John Huston’s Train Wreck

Melissa Anderson at Bookforum:

First published in 1952, Lillian Ross’s Picture, an eyewitness report of director John Huston’s adaptation of The Red Badge of Courage, remains the paradigm of a slim genre, the nonfiction account of a movie’s making (and unmaking): from shooting to editing to studio meddling to publicity planning to preview screening to more studio meddling to, finally, theatrical release. The book is populated by raffish heroes (Huston) and tyrannical philistines (Louis B. Mayer), by the beleaguered (producer Gottfried Reinhardt) and the overweening (MGM head of production Dore Schary), and by various hypocrites, toadies, greenhorns, and wives. Envisioned by Ross as “a fact piece in novel form, or maybe a novel in fact form,” Picture endures as a key work of proto–New Journalism. Though Ross, a writer for more than sixty years at the New Yorker—where Picture, under the title “Production Number 1512,” was first published, in five installments—was renowned for her fly-on-the-wall reporting, she is not always invisible in the book; “I” pops up intermittently.

more here.