Friday, July 11, 2008

Wilson Mizner: "Don't talk about yourself; it will be done when you leave"

Above: Wilson Mizner in his cynical prime.
Writers in Hollywood have never been given their due. You probably don’t know his name, but his words and the shot of gritty language and cynical attitudes he injected into movies and popular culture are quite familiar and are with us still. Snappy patter, wise guys and gals, con artists of every stripe, and fast paced sarcasm are the stuff of early ’30s films.

If you’ve ever enjoyed the bittersweet romance of One Way Passage, the hard and funny look at political shenanigans in The Dark Horse, the tough guy patois of the cons and sharp cookies in 20,000 in Sing Sing or Hard to Handle, the deep-dyed cynicism of Heroes For Sale or The Mind Reader, you’ve encountered vintage Mizner on the screen. Even Damon Runyon and Ben Hecht,who may have profited the most as highly successful and influential writers selling their wares in the studio era, well known for striking the toughest pose of them all in such great films as The Front Page or His Girl Friday, may be said to have cut their teeth on the well-placed mots juste they learned to hone under the tutelage of Wilson Mizner as well as on the streets of American cities.

Slowly dying in 1933, just as Roosevelt was inaugurated, the banks closed for a needed “holiday”, and California endured a powerful earthquake, Wilson commented that it was really “too much melodrama at once” and this confluence of events really wasn’t dramatically credible, which gives you some idea of the detachment he could strive for, even when his own life was what hung in the balance. His own life teemed with the elements of melodrama, though perhaps his latent artistic streak was wont to acknowledge it at times. He certainly found ways to streamline his often unsavory moments in his life into entertainingly stylish fictions on stage and off...More on TCM Movie Morlocks


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