In the latest issue:

Real Men Go to Tehran

Adam Shatz

What Trump doesn’t know about Iran

Patrick Cockburn

Kaiser Karl V

Thomas Penn

The Hostile Environment

Catherine Hall

Social Mobilities

Adam Swift

Short Cuts: So much for England

Tariq Ali

What the jihadis left behind

Nelly Lahoud

Ray Strachey

Francesca Wade

C.J. Sansom

Malcolm Gaskill

At the British Museum: ‘Troy: Myth and Reality’

James Davidson

Poem: ‘The Lion Tree’

Jamie McKendrick

SurrogacyTM

Jenny Turner

Boys in Motion

Nicholas Penny

‘Trick Mirror’

Lauren Oyler

Diary: What really happened in Yancheng?

Long Ling

Show BusinessDavid Hare
Close

Terms and Conditions

These terms and conditions of use refer to the London Review of Books and the London Review Bookshop website (www.lrb.co.uk — hereafter ‘LRB Website’). These terms and conditions apply to all users of the LRB Website ("you"), including individual subscribers to the print edition of the LRB who wish to take advantage of our free 'subscriber only' access to archived material ("individual users") and users who are authorised to access the LRB Website by subscribing institutions ("institutional users").

Each time you use the LRB Website you signify your acceptance of these terms and conditions. If you do not agree, or are not comfortable with any part of this document, your only remedy is not to use the LRB Website.


  1. By registering for access to the LRB Website and/or entering the LRB Website by whatever route of access, you agree to be bound by the terms and conditions currently prevailing.
  2. The London Review of Books ("LRB") reserves the right to change these terms and conditions at any time and you should check for any alterations regularly. Continued usage of the LRB Website subsequent to a change in the terms and conditions constitutes acceptance of the current terms and conditions.
  3. The terms and conditions of any subscription agreements which educational and other institutions have entered into with the LRB apply in addition to these terms and conditions.
  4. You undertake to indemnify the LRB fully for all losses damages and costs incurred as a result of your breaching these terms and conditions.
  5. The information you supply on registration to the LRB Website shall be accurate and complete. You will notify the LRB promptly of any changes of relevant details by emailing the registrar. You will not assist a non-registered person to gain access to the LRB Website by supplying them with your password. In the event that the LRB considers that you have breached the requirements governing registration, that you are in breach of these terms and conditions or that your or your institution's subscription to the LRB lapses, your registration to the LRB Website will be terminated.
  6. Each individual subscriber to the LRB (whether a person or organisation) is entitled to the registration of one person to use the 'subscriber only' content on the web site. This user is an 'individual user'.
  7. The London Review of Books operates a ‘no questions asked’ cancellation policy in accordance with UK legislation. Please contact us to cancel your subscription and receive a full refund for the cost of all unposted issues.
  8. Use of the 'subscriber only' content on the LRB Website is strictly for the personal use of each individual user who may read the content on the screen, download, store or print single copies for their own personal private non-commercial use only, and is not to be made available to or used by any other person for any purpose.
  9. Each institution which subscribes to the LRB is entitled to grant access to persons to register on and use the 'subscriber only' content on the web site under the terms and conditions of its subscription agreement with the LRB. These users are 'institutional users'.
  10. Each institutional user of the LRB may access and search the LRB database and view its entire contents, and may also reproduce insubstantial extracts from individual articles or other works in the database to which their institution's subscription provides access, including in academic assignments and theses, online and/or in print. All quotations must be credited to the author and the LRB. Institutional users are not permitted to reproduce any entire article or other work, or to make any commercial use of any LRB material (including sale, licensing or publication) without the LRB's prior written permission. Institutions may notify institutional users of any additional or different conditions of use which they have agreed with the LRB.
  11. Users may use any one computer to access the LRB web site 'subscriber only' content at any time, so long as that connection does not allow any other computer, networked or otherwise connected, to access 'subscriber only' content.
  12. The LRB Website and its contents are protected by copyright and other intellectual property rights. You acknowledge that all intellectual property rights including copyright in the LRB Website and its contents belong to or have been licensed to the LRB or are otherwise used by the LRB as permitted by applicable law.
  13. All intellectual property rights in articles, reviews and essays originally published in the print edition of the LRB and subsequently included on the LRB Website belong to or have been licensed to the LRB. This material is made available to you for use as set out in paragraph 8 (if you are an individual user) or paragraph 10 (if you are an institutional user) only. Save for such permitted use, you may not download, store, disseminate, republish, post, reproduce, translate or adapt such material in whole or in part in any form without the prior written permission of the LRB. To obtain such permission and the terms and conditions applying, contact the Rights and Permissions department.
  14. All intellectual property rights in images on the LRB Website are owned by the LRB except where another copyright holder is specifically attributed or credited. Save for such material taken for permitted use set out above, you may not download, store, disseminate, republish, post, reproduce, translate or adapt LRB’s images in whole or in part in any form without the prior written permission of the LRB. To obtain such permission and the terms and conditions applying, contact the Rights and Permissions department. Where another copyright holder is specifically attributed or credited you may not download, store, disseminate, republish, reproduce or translate such images in whole or in part in any form without the prior written permission of the copyright holder. The LRB will not undertake to supply contact details of any attributed or credited copyright holder.
  15. The LRB Website is provided on an 'as is' basis and the LRB gives no warranty that the LRB Website will be accessible by any particular browser, operating system or device.
  16. The LRB makes no express or implied representation and gives no warranty of any kind in relation to any content available on the LRB Website including as to the accuracy or reliability of any information either in its articles, essays and reviews or in the letters printed in its letter page or material supplied by third parties. The LRB excludes to the fullest extent permitted by law all liability of any kind (including liability for any losses, damages or costs) arising from the publication of any materials on the LRB Website or incurred as a consequence of using or relying on such materials.
  17. The LRB excludes to the fullest extent permitted by law all liability of any kind (including liability for any losses, damages or costs) for any legal or other consequences (including infringement of third party rights) of any links made to the LRB Website.
  18. The LRB is not responsible for the content of any material you encounter after leaving the LRB Website site via a link in it or otherwise. The LRB gives no warranty as to the accuracy or reliability of any such material and to the fullest extent permitted by law excludes all liability that may arise in respect of or as a consequence of using or relying on such material.
  19. This site may be used only for lawful purposes and in a manner which does not infringe the rights of, or restrict the use and enjoyment of the site by, any third party. In the event of a chat room, message board, forum and/or news group being set up on the LRB Website, the LRB will not undertake to monitor any material supplied and will give no warranty as to its accuracy, reliability, originality or decency. By posting any material you agree that you are solely responsible for ensuring that it is accurate and not obscene, defamatory, plagiarised or in breach of copyright, confidentiality or any other right of any person, and you undertake to indemnify the LRB against all claims, losses, damages and costs incurred in consequence of your posting of such material. The LRB will reserve the right to remove any such material posted at any time and without notice or explanation. The LRB will reserve the right to disclose the provenance of such material, republish it in any form it deems fit or edit or censor it. The LRB will reserve the right to terminate the registration of any person it considers to abuse access to any chat room, message board, forum or news group provided by the LRB.
  20. Any e-mail services supplied via the LRB Website are subject to these terms and conditions.
  21. You will not knowingly transmit any virus, malware, trojan or other harmful matter to the LRB Website. The LRB gives no warranty that the LRB Website is free from contaminating matter, viruses or other malicious software and to the fullest extent permitted by law disclaims all liability of any kind including liability for any damages, losses or costs resulting from damage to your computer or other property arising from access to the LRB Website, use of it or downloading material from it.
  22. The LRB does not warrant that the use of the LRB Website will be uninterrupted, and disclaims all liability to the fullest extent permitted by law for any damages, losses or costs incurred as a result of access to the LRB Website being interrupted, modified or discontinued.
  23. The LRB Website contains advertisements and promotional links to websites and other resources operated by third parties. While we would never knowingly link to a site which we believed to be trading in bad faith, the LRB makes no express or implied representations or warranties of any kind in respect of any third party websites or resources or their contents, and we take no responsibility for the content, privacy practices, goods or services offered by these websites and resources. The LRB excludes to the fullest extent permitted by law all liability for any damages or losses arising from access to such websites and resources. Any transaction effected with such a third party contacted via the LRB Website are subject to the terms and conditions imposed by the third party involved and the LRB accepts no responsibility or liability resulting from such transactions.
  24. The LRB disclaims liability to the fullest extent permitted by law for any damages, losses or costs incurred for unauthorised access or alterations of transmissions or data by third parties as consequence of visit to the LRB Website.
  25. While 'subscriber only' content on the LRB Website is currently provided free to subscribers to the print edition of the LRB, the LRB reserves the right to impose a charge for access to some or all areas of the LRB Website without notice.
  26. These terms and conditions are governed by and will be interpreted in accordance with English law and any disputes relating to these terms and conditions will be subject to the non-exclusive jurisdiction of the courts of England and Wales.
  27. The various provisions of these terms and conditions are severable and if any provision is held to be invalid or unenforceable by any court of competent jurisdiction then such invalidity or unenforceability shall not affect the remaining provisions.
  28. If these terms and conditions are not accepted in full, use of the LRB Website must be terminated immediately.
Close
Moguls 
by Michael Pye.
Temple Smith, 250 pp., £9.75, June 1980, 0 85117 187 7
Show More
The Movie Brats 
by Michael Pye and Linda Myles.
Faber, 273 pp., £5.25, June 1979, 0 571 11383 4
Show More
Show More

Michael Pye has now written two books (the first with Lynda Myles) trying to explain how American show business feels to those who make their lives inside it. The first, The Movie Brats, succeeds because it keeps close to the work of the young film-makers with whose careers it’s concerned, but also because they demonstrably exist as a group. Coppola, Milius, Scorsese, De Palma, Lucas and Spielberg do have a great deal in common. Moguls, on the other hand, is one of those unhappy publishing ideas for yanking together random essays on a false subject. Any definition of the word ‘mogul’ that’s going to stretch to include Jules Stein and Trevor Nunn is so loose as to be worthless.

In the first two essays in Moguls, Pye seems to want to examine the corporate structure of the American entertainment industry, to examine it as if it were any other kind of business. Stein was a particularly unattractive band agent of the Thirties who tried, Mafialike, to wrap up the whole circuit. William Paley was the founder of CBS and was responsible, in part, for the idea of network television. For as long as he’s explaining the deals these two men did, Pye’s book is interesting, though it seems odd that he never considers the work for which Paley is responsible, nor tackles the obvious problem that network television in America is an abomination and the man who invented it should be shot. This point is, after all, forcibly made in Robert Metz’s Reflections in a Bloodshot Eye, a much fuller and more frightening account of Paley’s career, and a book which, incidentally, CBS employees are forbidden to carry onto the premises. (By CBS’s standards, this is not particularly censorious. Secretaries have their pinboards checked by executives for potentially offensive photographs or slogans.) When Pye drifts on to portraits of David Merrick and Trevor Nunn, the book loses its way, and the last essay, on Robert Stigwood, is fanzine stuff. The film Sergeant Pepper is presented as a dismaying hiccup in Stigwood’s otherwise brilliant career. No consolation is offered to those who paid to sit through it.

It is odd that Pye is so uncritical in his account of these men, because The Movie Brats rightly stresses how knowing the new generation of Hollywood film-makers has had to be, both in their choice of subject-matter and in their early judgment of just how hard it was going to be to get any good work done. I believe English directors so often foul up in Hollywood not for artistic reasons, but because they have no inborn sense of how to deal with the particular kind of American who runs the movies. Any director here relies on his English instincts in his battles with, say, the BBC. If they are bastards at the BBC, they are at least our kind of bastard. We were brought up among them, some of them went to the same schools as we did. So when they pull their tricks – banning and censoring their own employees’ best work, for example – the English director does at least have some native instinct for the right counter-punch, and for ways of getting interesting work past the bureaucracy the next time. But you have to be raised in the US to survive the characteristic problems of that system, and the scale of the pressure will be in direct proportion to the amount of money involved. To endure it will mean giving your whole life. The Movie Brats shows how Coppola and the rest have faced, sometimes willingly, sometimes not, the prospect of becoming the uneasy hybrids the system demands: half-artists, half-businessmen.

The balance is fiercely difficult to maintain, and I have great admiration for anyone who, so against the odds, gets a good film made in modern Hollywood. Most strangers to the film industry tend to assume it is full of producers who, presumably through some unhappy or embittering experiences, have reluctantly become crooks. This is the reverse of the truth. Hollywood is full of crooks who for very good reasons have become film producers. After all, if a film is made, the producer will make money, irrespective of the film’s success or failure. He will take his fee out of the ludicrously inflated budget. Once the deal for the film, and its subsequent TV sale, is made, the producer’s most important job is often over: the rest may as well be public relations. Do you wonder that faced with the prospect of a dangerous and uncertain career in gangland, many crooks opt instead for the easier life in Hollywood?

Of course, there are exceptions: honourable producers, good men whose hair no sooner falls out than they sew it back in. But there are often hopeless problems of communication. The oldest practical drawback of the medium is that the film the producer has anticipated is very rarely the film the director has made – and least of all is it ever likely to be the one the writer intended. (An early Paramount executive once summed that side of the business up for all time: ‘We like to keep fresh blood filtering through the writing department.’) Men like Scorsese and Coppola have devised new solutions to this traditional problem. They have evolved methods of improvisation, both on set and in the editing room, which defy anyone to understand in advance what the hell they are going to do: the studio is effectively cut out. Notes, yet to be published in this country, is Eleanor Coppola’s diary of the making of Apocalypse Now and it is, in part, the extraordinary record of a man who carried on working when even he had no idea what film he was making. (I say ‘in part’ because Mrs Coppola unfortunately suffers from the Californian delusion that the outside world is interesting only for its effect on your own life. From being an account of the making of a film about Vietnam, the diary deteriorates into an account of how making a film about Vietnam may do your marriage no good, Coppola’s adultery becomes an event equivalent to the war itself.) The idea that you may be ignorant of the direction in which your own subject-matter is leading you and still come through with a film which is formidably intelligent may seem strange to an outsider, but it is characteristic of Coppola. The chief fault of the final film was an ignorance of its own power. The same points were made over and over, because Coppola did not seem to realise how effectively he had made them the first time. The Movie Brats contains fascinating accounts of how the editing of Coppola’s films coaxes them into sense. On set, he shoots and re-shoots, seemingly without purpose. The method at worst produces films which are windy and inflated; at best, it has produced masterpieces.

Coppola and Scorsese would in any age be first-rate directors. The waywardness of their methods is, in them, a sign of great vitality, and their subject-matter is regularly worth the amount of technical brilliance they command. I can’t really see that the same is true of De Palma who like Milius, comes across in the book as a man whose chief obsession in life is not to be thought anybody’s fool. Milius is openly contemptuous of liberal Hollywood (his calling Coppola ‘the Bay Area Mussolini’ seems particularly inappropriate, since Coppola is hardly known for bringing his movies in on time), but his rebelliousness seems shallow – more like the pose of a sophisticated man who is determined not to be caught out in any fashionable attitude. In my view, this personal unpleasantness marks his films – he wrote Dirty Harry – whereas De Palma’s are simply fatuous: enjoyably fatuous when the schlock is whipped thick enough, and unendurably fatuous when it isn’t. Pye and Myles’s interview catches him exquisitely unhappy that he has not yet had a monster hit like the others. He feels he needs it as a passport to power within the system. But in his case the power seems purely for its own end. He wants to fashion objects which are more successful than other people’s objects, but I can’t see, at least from the evidence of the heavily menstruating Carrie, that he has much idea what the power might be for.

All these men are immensely wary and self-conscious, determined not to sell out as fast or as publicly as some other generations. Coppola is trying to bypass the old Hollywood by taking as much control of the process as he can: he has set up a studio, Zoetrope, which he hopes will provide a complete alternative to the old set-up. Lucas talks romantically of restoring what he has called ‘good value’, of making ‘real gee-whiz movies’. But that kind of talk has a way of going off, like fruit. He quickly followed up Star Wars with The Empire strikes back, which represents exactly the kind of pompous and dreary bad value he once set his face against. Spielberg has also recently suffered from elephantiasis, the generic disease. He used the I-don’t-know-what-the-hell-l’m-doing method on 1941 to much less happy effect than some others before him. Most of these men will get eaten, partly because the lobby for stupidity in California is almost indestructible, but also because few lifetimes in the arts sustain excellence. It turns out to be very hard to plan for. However conscientiously you study old movies, however encyclopedic your knowledge of Hawks and Ford, however regular your devotions at the Cinematheque, and however skilled your campaign against the indignities of your own profession, the hard thing will always be to find new images for the new land. Meanwhile, however, this group has already made some films for which the English feel a paralysed awe, and The Movie Brats is the best place to read about them.

Send Letters To:

The Editor
London Review of Books,
28 Little Russell Street
London, WC1A 2HN

letters@lrb.co.uk

Please include name, address, and a telephone number.

Read anywhere with the London Review of Books app, available now from the App Store for Apple devices, Google Play for Android devices and Amazon for your Kindle Fire.

Sign up to our newsletter

For highlights from the latest issue, our archive and the blog, as well as news, events and exclusive promotions.