Re: Lloyd Biopic (Was: Possible biopics)

From: David P. Hayes
Newsgroups: alt.movies.chaplin
Date: Wednesday, February 25, 1998 10:14 AM

Feuillade wrote in message
>David Hayes writes:
>> I believe we miss a great chance at exciting action sequences
>> and a fuller understanding of Harold's personality, screen persona
>> and life by cutting the story off after "Safety Last." Why not have
>> the finales from "Girl Shy" and "Speedy"?
>Here's where you start making the same mistake that the writers of "Chaplin"
>Just because something is interesting doesn't mean you should put it in.
>A story has to have a structure -- and the Lloyd biopic outline that I laid out
>has that structure.

My story does have a structure, just not the one that you have. I have indicated that Lloyd's increasing efforts to go further and to explore new opportunities (business, photography) would be the common thread. The scenes I selected are not merely occurrences of Lloyd triumphing over the missing fingers and against the odds of making it in Hollywood (the latter of which is such a cliche that it should be downplayed in any new movie), but of staving off the decreased agility in older age and of not falling into the common trap of slovenliness once wealth makes work unnecessary.

I didn't suggest the scenes quoted above because they were interesting (you're adding to your interpretation to my stating that omitting these scenes would be "miss[ing] a great opportunity"), but because they would fit into and expand upon a story about accomplishment.

Perhaps you foresee that the story I envision would be one recreated thrill-scene after another, each seemingly interchangeable. I tried to indicate that that would not be the case, because each was filmed under different circumstances for Lloyd, different times in his business life. The scenes would be written for that context, so that as he is between takes on one film, he is conferring with associates about business, children, whatever, with clever lines that connote what is going on in his movie with what he is doing in his life.

>you then have to cut out *everything* that does not
>contribute to the telling of that story.
>This requires the kind of ruthless elimination that was beyond the makers of
>"Chaplin." And why I would end the Lloyd biopic with the filming of the climb
>in "Safety Last."

You seem to believe that one such scene becomes the summation of all of Lloyd's strivings. Why not recall or look at the very successful biopic "The Jolson Story." Many of Jolson's stage productions and movies are represented (though certainly not all of them--a good selection process was used), yet there is a sense of the man's ambition driving him forward to reach for the next important event. The movie does not stop with "The Jazz Singer" nor "The Singing Fool" (Jolson's second sound feature, a bigger box-office success than his first, and the pinnacle of his popularity in movies, before his dissent into seven subsequent movies, the only true success of which limited his footage to about 30 minutes), but with his return to nightclub singing when retirement did not jive with him; this is still ten years prior to the making of the biopic (at which time Jolson was still alive), but it provides a sense of the man's life while still telling a comprehensive story.

>Then he meets Hal Roach. You realize that the partnership with Hal Roach is
>going to be a major part of the film. Probably the single most important
>relationship that Lloyd will have with any other character in the film is with

I agree that Roach should be a continuing character, but this fits in with the story I envision. Roach remained friends with Lloyd after their business association ended and Roach visited Lloyd during the 40s to see the stereoscopic photos that Lloyd photographed and that I suggested be brought into the biopic. Thus, Roach AND the semi-retirement photographic experiments would jointly be part of later scenes.

Yes, the makers of the "Chaplin" biopic presented an unintegrated jumble of unrelated scenes, but that's not part-and-parcel of presenting a long timespan. Recall from my previous posting the example of "The Glenn Miller Story," of how it made the man's seeking of artistic fulfillment its overriding story element. That movie, too, begins with an artist's early career and ends with the end of his life. (Miller's relatively early death necessitated a death scene, but in Lloyd's case a Golden Years scene of triumph [the climbing of the Golden Gate Bridge] would be suitable.)

"Chaplin" suffers from decisions not endemic to long time spans but to an unintegrated approach to structure. This is the same problem with the same Richard Attenborough's "Gandhi." That earlier film actually begins with a title that says that it was hard to compress six (?) decades of a man's life into a few hours and that for this reason we would be seeing a succession of snapshot-like fragments of the life which we were to let create an overall impression. (I'm sure my paraphrasing is far from exact, but I've had no desire to see that bore a second time, restricting my seeing of it to one viewing in a theater within a year of its release. How such a jumble of dispersed, diverse elements could win an Academy Award for Best Picture is beyond me.) Such is the approach of today's ideas about writing, that a writer shouldn't impose his ideas of "order" upon "subjugated" audiences; such is what led to "deconstruction" as a literary tool and as a model for contemporary writers. Such is why Twentieth Century-Fox is asking university archives for the return of the studio's decade-ago screenplay drafts, so that the studio can show today's writers how scenarios are supposed to be constructed.

David Hayes


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