Many people ask me “What is your purpose in all this, Stephen?”
From Bringing Back The Old Hollywood:
We’re in a family room in the year 2023.
“You guys are so cute with your old movies.”
“Thanks, sweetheart,” Mom laughs.
“Can I ask you something?” the daughter responds.
Putting the film on pause, Dad says “Sure. What’s up?”
“It must have been so cool for you guys to have lived during a time when they still actually made new movies every year. What was that like?”
It’s up to us.
The Last Resort
….and you’re a pair of brown shoes?”
(George Gobel, The Tonight Show, 1962)
Whither The Palm Trees
Near the end of the original Rocky, Rocky Balboa is about to fight Apollo Creed for the world championship. The night before the fight, Rocky tells his girl friend Adrian that he isn’t fooling himself about his chances of actually winning. He just wants to be standing at the end.
In screenwriting classes, that scene in Rocky is considered perhaps the best example ever of managing expectations. Screenwriter and star Sylvester Stallone knew that having Rocky actually win the fight would really stretch credulity. He didn’t want the audience to start watching the climactic fight with the sense that Rocky had to win in order to feel that he had accomplished his mission.
So, with a nod of thanks to Sylvester Stallone, it’s important for me to share with you how I approached writing this book so that we begin this journey together with the same expectations.
First, unlike Rocky, I expect that we will win and that The Old Hollywood will rise again.
Second, I’m writing this book because I was born into The Old Hollywood, grew up in it, worked in it, and just recently realized that my entire life’s work has been a reflection of my yearning to help bring it back.
I was indeed blessed to grow up around, know, and work with dozens of stars and personalities from The Old Hollywood.
I take no credit for that circumstance. I was simply born into it.
In that regard, I see myself as somewhat like the characters that Woody Allen and Tom Hanks played in Zelig and Forrest Gump. (On a personal level, much more Woody than Tom, that’s for sure.) The lead characters in both of those films just seemed to find themselves immersed in fascinating situations with extraordinary people. I certainly had some wild times with them and I learned a lot as well.
Third, I hope and believe that my experiences will be both fun for you to vicariously experience and also give you a sense of who this guy is that is both making a passionate plea to bring back The Old Hollywood and also outlining some very real possibilities about how to do just that. (Chapters Fifteen through Seventeen).
I am indeed utterly convinced that The Old Hollywood itself must now re-emerge.
The spirit of The Old Hollywood was, at its core, a state of mind. As such, it can, (and in my opinion must) be renewed, relocated, and reborn.
As audience members, we felt the love of movies themselves from the stars, writers, directors, producers, studios, and crews that made The Old Hollywood films. There was a sense of passion, fun, drama, hope, and humanity that made us feel that we could go into a darkened theater and share the larger than life experiences that unfolded before us on screen.
Movies were our shared, national passion.
We miss The Old Hollywood even more when today we see the eighth sequel to some mindless action film, or the same formulaic story told over and over again, or comedy so crass that it embarrasses us, or violence so graphic that it numbs our senses, or the seemingly endless parade of dark, cynical, nihilistic films that masquerade as “deep” but in actuality make us feel ashamed even to be human.
Lastly, I discovered an exquisite metaphor that so symbolizes the massive transformation of filmed entertainment that we are now experiencing that it compelled me to stop fooling around, ignore the tuxedo of conventional wisdom, put on my brown shoes, and write this book.
More than any one image, the palm trees of Southern California have symbolized Hollywood to the world. Like the moguls who gave birth to the dream that was Hollywood, the palm trees of Hollywood were transplanted from far away places in the golden age of Hollywood during the 1920s and 1930s.
Those palm trees are now dying.
In 2006, the Los Angeles City Council decided that the dying palms are going to be replaced, not by new palm trees, but by sycamores and other trees more indigenous to Southern California.
When I first heard that, it made me very melancholy.
Now, however, I know that those of us who love and miss The Old Hollywood can take heart. The fading away of those palm trees does not in any way mean that the state of mind that was The Old Hollywood is also dying.
Far from it.
The dazzling images and memories of The Old Hollywood still resonate in our hearts and minds and beckon us now to be transplanted to new places and a new time.
“If you call someplace paradise,
You’re kissing it goodbye.”
The paradise of the Eagles’ song was Southern California, the previous home of The Old Hollywood, not The Old Hollywood itself.
On one level, the adventures I describe in this book are both a reminder and also a celebration of the paradise that was The Old Hollywood, that marvelous place in which I grew up and worked.
On a deeper level, the spirit of The Old Hollywood is engrained in my soul and in the souls of hundreds of millions of people around the world. As such, this book is a passionate declaration that The Old Hollywood is most definitely not gone forever.
The Old Hollywood has faded into the mists, but like Brigadoon, it has been but cocooned, soon to emerge in a newer and more dazzling form.
I invite you then to join me on this journey to welcome back The Old Hollywood as it is reborn someplace else.
Actually, in many someplace elses.
That rebirth can come sooner than we can even imagine.
Because we are the ones who can now bring it back.