Monday, February 21, 2011

Another note on Herman Mankiewicz, Peter Bogdanovich, and the definition of 'hack'

Following up on an earlier topic, I had known that Herman Mankiewicz had worked on the Wizard of Oz, but I had left it out of this post because I assumed his contribution was insignificant. Then I came across this:
In February, 1938, he was assigned as the first of ten screenwriters to work on The Wizard of Oz. Three days after he started writing he handed in a seventeen-page treatment of what was later known as "the Kansas sequence". While Baum devoted less than a thousand words in his book to Kansas, Mankiewicz almost balanced the attention on Kansas to the section about Oz. He felt it was necessary to have the audience relate to Dorothy in a real world before transporting her to a magic one. By the end of the week he had finished writing fifty-six pages of the script and included instructions to film the scenes in Kansas in black and white. His goal, according to film historian Aljean Harmetz, was to "to capture in pictures what Baum had captured in words--the grey lifelessness of Kansas contrasted with the visual richness of Oz." He was not credited for his work on the film, however.
Aljean Harmetz certainly knows what she's talking about and, if she's quoted accurately, this would require an awfully broad definition of 'hack.'

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