Packard Lit Pick: What Happens Next? A History of Hollywood Screenwriting

WhatHappensWhat Happens Next: A History of American Screenwriting

By Marc Norman
Three Rivers Press
List price: $17.95

Brawling, boozing, brilliance and all manner of ballyhoo swirl around like a brandy in a snifter in this deliciously vivid, vibrant and endlessly fascinating work from Marc Norman.

F Scott Fitzgerald and Zelda running amok at Hollywood parties, stealing purses and boiling them in Sam Goldwyn’s kitchen. Irving Thalberg’s story conference with Laurence Stallings and King Vidor at Mabel Normand’s funeral mass.  Nathanael West coping with writers block by hunting birds in the Republic Studio trees. David Selznick fist fighting with Charlie MacArthur. Ben Hecht scrawling obscene lipstick love messages on a passed out Herman Mankiewicz’s stomach. It’s all in there in Norman’s beautifully written, tirelessly researched and knee-slappingly entertaining history of Hollywood screenwriting. The names Robert Riskin, Anita Loos, Frances Goodrich, Albert Hackett, and Nunnally Johnson pop up regularly in Hollywood text—but this marks the first time the Hollywood screenwriter has a published history to call their own.

Detailing the turbulent and often downright angst-ridden history of the Hollywood scribe, What Happens Next manages to be both a serious scholarly achievement, and an irreverent page-turner. It deserves a special spot on every film fan’s bookshelf.

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Film writer and social media marketing professional. 2019 Social Ambassador for the 10th Annual TCM Classic Film Festival. Previously: social media associate at Warner Archive and script writer for Turner Classic Movies. Working on a Montgomery Clift biography due late 2020.

3 thoughts on “Packard Lit Pick: What Happens Next? A History of Hollywood Screenwriting

  1. I love these kinds of reads. I can totally picture Nathanael West hunting for birds at the Republic studio. I would like to hear what would happen if a writer was wandering the lot attempting to do the same today! This book will be on my radar now the next time I’m at the store.

    1. Oh I know Robby, they’re just the best, aren’t they? The combustive writerly temperament in the adolescent years of Hollywood = a terrific read!

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