Matt Weinstock –January 27, 1959

A Sunny Gomorrah?

Writers are still talking about Rod Serling’s biting drama, "The Velvet Alley," on Playhouse 90 last week. It was about a humble, hard-working New York writer, admirably played by Art Carney, who sells a TV script, comes to Hollywood and is corrupted by the big money, the intrigue and the phony success exemplified by a home with a swimming pool.

Some fellows I know who write for a living resent the implication. They greatly admire Rod Serling as a writer and Playhouse 90 for not softening the tragic ending, but they consider the story’s premise outrageous nonsense.

They don’t think it’s true that New York has a monopoly on integrity and that Hollywood is just a sunbaked Sodom and Gomorrah. They reject the notion that the Broadway theater is art, and movies and TV are merely commercial.

"Velvet Alley"

Here’s the work of one of America’s great writers, Rod Serling, before "Twilight Zone."

A WRITER who has written books, plays, short stories and TV scripts said, "Take the case of a humble, hard-working Los Angeles writer who sells a play to the New York stage. He is hustled back to the big city for conferences and gets caught up in the pressure whirl. What does he find? That a one-bedroom apartment there costs as much as a home with a swimming pool here. He finds the Beverly Hills atmosphere duplicated by Westport and Fairfield, Conn. Even the restaurants are about the same. And likely as not he finds that the producer who will do his play has one foot in the real estate business, which controls many theaters."

Unanimous conclusion: "Hollywood doesn’t corrupt a good writer. He destroys himself."

* *

NOMINATION of Hugo Friedhofer’s music for "The Young Lions" for an Academy Award recalled an incident months ago in the Fox studio cafe. Over lunch, he and conductor Lionel Newman were deep in a discussion of the score when a spectacular young lady ambled by. Glancing up briefly. Hugo remarked, "A little over-orchestrated, wouldn’t you say?"

* *

He prefers to listen to Bach
often and less to Oflenbach.

* *

IT’S THE jet age, of course, and Sunday while American Airlines’ new jet transport whisked 112 passengers to New York in 4 hours and 3 minutes, I was doing a little pioneering myself.

My brother Chuck wanted to put some mileage on his new car, and we headed up the Ridge Route, Highway 99, always a pleasurable ride to those who remember the nightmare it used to be. A few miles north of Gorman we turned left to Frazier Park, a place I’d never been, thence up to Mt. Pinos, 8,826 ft.

There was some white stuff all over the place, and we stopped to check it. It was snow. We made a few snowballs and threw them and took a few searing inhalations of the crisp, cold air, which I understand has been there all the time. Felt like a battery recharge.

* *

ANYONE WHO drives in outlying areas can’t help wondering about the abandoned highway settlements he passes. There, obviously, people confidently started a new life and dreamed nice dreams, but now all that remains is a cluster of weather-beaten, window-broken shacks. In some of them there’s one sure indication when hope was lost- when a For Sale sign was put on the real estate office.

* *

AT RANDOM — Dig, the teen-ager’s magazine, prints "Stupid Stickers," suitable for clipping and putting on windshields. This month’s output: "Made in Jail by Tom Dooley" and "Help Stamp Out Homework" . . . Georgia Harns, a Hollywood secretary, asks, "If a human goes to the moon in a rocket that is manned, does a rodent go to the moon in a rocket that is moused?" . . . Martin Ragaway thinks he knows what’s wrong with some playboys- they keep putting women up on a footstool . . . Two judges, who would rather not be mentioned, were talking about Gov. Brown’s appointment of Delbert Wong to the municipal bench, and one said, "No matter what he does, he’s still Wong" . . . The phase "must sac." in classified ads always prompts Paul Mundel to ask why they don’t get some sleep.

About lmharnisch

I am retired from the Los Angeles Times
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