[Editor's Note: Here's abstew with 5 Hollywood on Hollywood pitches. Co-sign!]
It's no secret that one of Film's favorite subject matters is, well, itself. The past two Best Picture winners (The Artist and Argo) have had Hollywood and the art of film-making at their core. And this weekend another film-on-film, Saving Mr. Banks, about Walt Disney's decades long struggle to bring Mary Poppins to the big screen expands across the country in its quest to join those previous films in Oscar glory. The story seems ready-made for the movies - beloved source material, larger-than-life characters/personalities, and, just because it can, a hard-knock-life childhood back-story thrown into the mix. (If the old Hollywood angle doesn't win them over why not add the Academy's other irresistible allure: the biopic. It's two films for the price of one!)
I'm sure many people were unaware what went into trying to convince author P.L.Travers to sign over the rights to Disney and I'm sure even fewer people knew about Travers' back-story. But so many classic films have equally fascinating behind-the-scenes stories that would make just as compelling films. In honor of Saving Mr. Banks, here are 5 other classic films that deserve their own film treatment. So, quiet on the set...Action!
The Wizard of Oz
If a film about the making of Mary Poppins can have alcoholic fathers and attempted suicides, then I say bring on the R-rated version of the making of this other childhood staple. Because this production was hardly G-rated. Starting with poor Judy Garland being turned into a drug addict at the age of 16 by the studio. They gave her uppers during the day and downers at night for the few hours of sleep she was able to squeeze in during the 6 month shoot that consisted of 16 hour days at least 6 days a week. Then there's the Munchkins. Most of them were circus performers and during their off hours turned the Culver Hotel into drunken orgies. But you would too if you were being paid less than Toto the dog. And let's not forget the near deaths that happened on set. Original Tin Man, Buddy Ebsen, had to drop out of the film after an allergic reaction caused him to be hospitalized. And Wicked Witch, Margaret Hamilton, suffered second degree burns on her face and hands when the green grease-paint caught fire during the filming of her departure from Munchkin land. And perhaps the legend of the man who hangs himself in the Tin Man's forest can be put to rest. A film about the troubled making of this classic would certainly cause you to look at your favorite childhood film in a different light.
Gone With the Wind
While not nearly as salacious as Oz, this other classic from 1939 has a history as epic as the completed film. When producer David O. Selznick set out to make a film version of Margaret Mitchell's wildly popular (and Pulitzer Prize winning) novel, the two year, pre-production process was widely reported by the major newspapers and every casting choice was closely scrutinized - and all before the age of internet and twitter! While a television movie was already made in 1980 (with Tony Curtis as Selznick) about the process of casting Scarlett, perhaps they could focus on another aspect of the production. (Although, I would still love to see a big-screen version of when Vivien Leigh appears against a backdrop of the Burning of Atlanta, after the movie had already started filming without a Scarlett cast. Appearing like a firery answer to Selznick's prayers.) They could follow in Saving Mr. Banks' footsteps and flashback to Margaret Mitchell's writing of the novel (did you know Scarlett was originally supposed to be named Pansy?!) and her childhood in Atlanta - showing the real-life inspiration for the fictional story. Or perhaps Oscar winner Mo'Nique could finally do that Hattie McDaniel biopic she's been wanting to make and have the film from her point of view. Of course, the climax of the film would be when she gets up from her place at a segregated table to accept the Best Supporting Actress Oscar.
A Streetcar Named Desire
Okay, so maybe all I really want is a Vivien Leigh biopic. But instead of a cradle to tomb structure, they should focus solely on the actress during the filming of this iconic film. Leigh did the stage version of the play in the West End in London and at the time was first diagnosed with bipolar disorder. She would receive electroshock therapy during the day and then go on stage to play Blanche at night. When the time came to make the film version, Leigh was the only one not reprising their role from the Original Broadway production. (With a virtual cast of unknowns, Broadway's Blanche, Jessica Tandy, was recast with the Hollywood star of the most successful film of all-time.) Feeling like an outsider and dealing with her illness, director Elia Kazan exploited her vulnerability to the fullest getting a performance out of her that she later said tipped her over into madness. Add in a young sex-on-a stick Marlon Brando (who apparently had the pockets taken out of his pants so that Stanley could play with himself in scenes. You know, for the "character".) and you have a film that might just combust with the crazy/sexy/cool-ness of it all.
I was almost tempted to include the filming of Cleopatra on here, but I think we've had enough television movies made about Elizabeth Taylor to last us a Lifetime. After a faux-Broadway musical and an Oscar-nominated biopic about a week with her, it seems like it's time to let Marilyn Monroe rest as well. So, why make a film about the making of her last completed film? For the men: Arthur Miller, Clark Gable, and Montgomery Clift. Have the film focus on the three of them with Marilyn as the through line. Miller was the screenwriter on the film and in between rewrites on the troubled film had to deal with his marriage to Marilyn falling apart as she became more and more dependant on alcohol and prescription drugs. In 1960, Gable, who had been Monroe's favorite movie star growing up, was a long way from being the number 1 box-office draw that he had been in the 30's. The film also proved to be his last as well, suffering a heart attack two days after filming. And, of course, Monty. The actor, years after his disfiguring car accident, was well into his battle with alcoholism. Monroe once remarked that he was the only person more messed up than she was. Matt Bomer has said that his dream-role would be to play Montgomery Clift. Perhaps a film about the making of The Misfits could be that vehicle.
What Ever Happened to Baby Jane?
Bette Davis and Joan Crawford were the biggest movie stars of the 30's and 40's and both Best Actress Oscar winners. But by the 60's, their stars had started to fade and the women found it harder and harder to find parts. It was also common knowledge that the two loathed each other. So, when the two actresses appeared in their one and only film together, stories about the on-set rivalry almost seemed more juicy than the actual film produced. (Which is really saying something because Bette Davis in her baby-doll, kabuki make-up is bat-shit crazy perfection in the film.) During filming, Davis would take pictures of herself and the crew drinking Coca-Cola and send them to Crawford, whom had been married to the president of Pepsi. And even bashed Crawford's head with a shoe during filming, causing her to get stitches. And it all led up to Oscar night where Davis had been nominated for her 11th Best Actress Oscar. The un-nominated Crawford, had written all the other nominees and asked if she could accept in their behalf is they happened to win and not be able to attend. When Anne Bancroft's name was announced, up walked Crawford to accept with a scowling Davis looking on. I would love to cast two other rivals - Courtney Love as Davis and Madonna as Crawford in the roles. Neither really looks all that much like the real-life actresses, but it would be too campy to resist.
Now your turn - what Classic Film do you think should have a film made about it? Sound off in the comments!