One of the more notorious unproduced screenplays out there, with promises of DiCaprio galavanting through the sets of The Wizard Of Oz in order to solve murders.

Unfortunately, I’m off today, trying to make some last second changes so that a certain book by a certain person (hint: it’s me) can be ready to buy by next week.  For that reason, I’m bringing in one of our awesome new consultants, Steven, to tackle today’s screenplay.  And he doesn’t disappoint.  Sorry I couldn’t contribute on “Mann/Logan” guys, as I know it’s one of the more interesting projects stuck in development hell.  I’d still like to know what you think though, so I’ll be following the comments section closely.

Genre: Mystery/Noir
Premise: In 1938 Hollywood, MGM’s problem-solver falls in love with a famous actress while cleaning up her husband’s murder.
About: This script from writer John Logan (“Hugo”, “The Aviator”) came close to being made in 2007, with Michael Mann set to direct Leonardo DiCaprio, but New Line’s bid of $100 million came short of the projected $120 million budget. The project is now, presumably, defunct.
Writer: John Logan
Details: 122 pages – undated draft

Screenwriter John Logan

It’s pretty astonishing, when you consider the sheer amount of the creative power behind it, that “Mann/Logan” never got off the ground. Certainly all of the pieces were in place: a big-shot writer (Logan), a bigger-shot director (Mann), and the biggest-shot leading man (DiCaprio), working with a script so well-regarded that even the decidedly non-screenplay-centric website Slate did a two-page piece on it. Yet, despite that, not a single studio pulled the trigger on the project. Now all we have is the script itself, and some vague daydreams of what might have been.

It’s 1938 in Hollywood, and while the rest of the world prepares to burn, the major film studios are still enjoying their Golden Age. The money is pouring in for everyone, but MGM stands above them all. Indeed, for MGM, the future looks brighter than gold. It’s in the process of shooting a couple of films you may have heard of: Gone with the Wind, and The Wizard of Oz. Still, all that money can’t change the one simple truth about people: we’re none of us above doing something profoundly stupid, short-sighted, and ugly. Luckily for the rich and powerful (and for MGM), they have Harry Slidell on retainer.

Slidell, see, is what you’d call a fixer. Need to get out of a speeding ticket? Get a ride down to Mexico for a discreet abortion? Cover up a pill addiction? Call Slidell, an ex-cop in a fancy car who can make all of your troubles disappear. The script opens up with Slidell cleaning up a murder. Specifically, the murder of an Academy Award-winning producer employed by MGM. A producer who just happens to be the husband of one of MGM’s contract stars, the beautiful Ruth Ettis.
Slidell’s no slouch. He knows this isn’t a robbery gone bad (for one, the producer’s Oscar is still on the mantelpiece). All signs point to a domestic dispute, and that means all signs point to Ruth. Trouble is, his job is to keep her out of jail. That’s what MGM pays him for, after all. So he puts a c-note in the maid’s palm, makes the whole deal look like a suicide, and slips the cops some money to make sure they’re all in agreement. Easy peasy, right?

Nope! When Slidell goes into LB Mayer’s office at MGM for a quick debrief, Mayer refuses to believe Ruth did it. Why? Well, he claims a certain affinity for the actress—“Someone is trying to hurt my Ruth. I don’t like to see women hurt.” So he encourages Slidell to investigate further. Harry is skeptical, but the money is right. So off he goes.

Allow me a quick aside. There is literally no reason for Mayer to send Slidell on his forthcoming odyssey, other than for the pretty lame excuse that the plot needed something to put Slidell into motion. The question of who killed the producer is meaningless—even If Ruth did do it, Slidell already solved that problem for her and for MGM. And it’s not as though Mayer’s stated reason (that he cares about Ruth, and about women) is a sound one. Mayer and Ruth never interact in the entire script; in fact, Mayer doesn’t interact with any women at all. Because we’re dealing with film noir, you’d think that Mayer might be engaged in some sort of underhanded machinations, but you’d be wrong, alas. He’s just a plot device, masquerading as a character.

Look, I’m aware that this is a minor plot hole. Probably most of you think that I’m giving mindless pedantry a bad name. But this is the entire story’s inciting incident—all of the subsequent action flows from this one event. And if you can’t bother to tighten up your plot enough to make that inciting incident airtight, what hope does the rest of your script have?

In any event, before Slidell goes to see Ruth, he swings by the set of the Wizard of Oz to see Judy Garland. It’s obvious that Slidell has helped Judy out of a few jams in the past. Judy is deferential and melancholy but profoundly thankful for the unnamed services Slidell has performed for the troubled girl. Thankfully, there are no romantic undertones to the exchange. He’s more of a big brother figure, and he’s sweetly protective of her.

Finally, Slidell goes to visit Ruth on set, to see what she has to say. They have a meet-cute. Slidell still thinks she’s guilty, but he’s becoming less sure in his convictions as he spends more time with her. Romance bubbles up. He can see she’s an ex-dope fiend, and his protective nature begins to override his more rational suspicion that Ruth is a murderer. Then Ruth reveals that she’s being blackmailed by an anonymous someone who has incriminating photos from her days as the decidedly less-glamorous prostitute, Brenda Gomey. Ruth insists further that the blackmailer killed her husband after a scheduled meeting to pay off the blackmailer went awry.

So Slidell careens through sleazy Los Angeles to track down the blackmailer, who just might be the killer, too. He interrogates a series of suspects, each shadier than the last. He runs down the husband’s drug dealer at the horse races in Hollywood Park. He meets the obese queen of the Los Angeles underworld. He hangs out with famed gangster Bugsy Siegel for some reason. He goes down to Mexico to question Ruth’s former madam. Between each of these engagements, he falls deeper in love with Ruth.

If you’ve ever seen an episode of Law and Order, you’ll know immediately the identity of the mastermind. That’s fine, as far as it goes, because we go to the movies not for a great plot twist, but for great characters. After all, rosebud is in the vernacular not because the twist in “Citizen Kane” was so exciting, but because Orson Welles played Charles Foster Kane so memorably.

Which is why it’s so disappointing when an otherwise wonderful script has as its center an enormous black hole. In the case of “Mann/Logan”, that black hole is named Harry Slidell. Slidell isn’t given an inner-life, or much of a history, either. He has no hobbies, as far as we can tell. He seems to rely existentially on his work, but not in any sort of passionate way. He isn’t charming or funny, really, and he’s not exactly a forensic expert on the level of Sherlock Holmes. Almost all of his leads are the products of him greasing palms or bashing heads. He’s a blunt-force instrument, not a scalpel, and the former are inherently less interesting than the latter.

As a writer, you must always have a strong grasp of your protagonist. Without that, your script becomes unmoored. There’s a telling description late in Act 2, when Logan tells us that “Harry –always cool, always in control — blows.” Except that Slidell, from all available evidence, is never in control. He’s the consummate non-professional. He freaks out when a man tears his sport coat, and blubbers about how expensive it was. He kicks that same man in ribs after he has already been badly beaten and subdued by Slidell’s partners. He violently attacks a doctor for giving Judy Garland drugs. Etc. The result is that Slidell is a distracting, schizophrenic dichotomy, acting inconsistently throughout the script.

And that’s a real shame, because so much of the rest of “Mann/Logan” is top-notch. Bugsy Siegel is superfluous to the narrative, but his rise to the top is a blast to read. LB Mayer is similarly fun—imagine Al Swearengen in charge of MGM. The urban hellscape of Los Angeles, so convincing in its danger, might as well be its own character.

But by far the most interesting and effective aspect of Mann/Logan is its extraordinary portrayal of women. The only time the script sings is when it’s focusing on them. Judy Garland is heartbreaking, and her exchange with Slidell at the beginning of the script (“Judy, you eating?” “Not a lot. They don’t like it when I eat … I sneak malts.”) is poignant enough to give pause to any parents thinking of bringing their kids to Hollywood. Ruth Ettis is the polar opposite of the manic pixie dream girl. She’s one of those rare female leads that exists for reasons beyond bringing pleasure to the male lead, particularly in the way she grapples with how her movie star persona has allowed her to set aside her former life. Even one-offs like Rosalind Quinn, Ruth’s former madam, and Bess, the queen of the Los Angeles underworld, are tragic figures in their own right.

The Mann/Logan script wants to convince you that Hollywood is an indifferent beast, full of idle malice. Mayer, surveying his domain, explains to Slidell that “the river of money goes on forever. It is incapable of weeping for those left behind.” This is true up to a point. In a noir, everyone gets hurt in one way or another. In Mann/Logan, only the women do.

[ ] what the hell did I just read?
[ ] wasn’t for me
[x] worth the read
[ ] impressive
[ ] genius

What I learned: It’s important to steer into the curve. More crucially, it’s important to recognize that there’s a curve to be steered into. We’re all heard stories of writers setting out to create what they thought were serious dramas, but ended up as farces or slapsticks. This can happen on a more micro level, like when you structure your plot to be consistent with what a cool-as-a-cucumber private eye would do and say, except the private eye you’ve committed to page might be a lunatic with a short fuse. On a bigger level, you might think you’ve written a pulpy noir, when your real story is an eloquent takedown of the way Hollywood chews up its women. Find the most interesting parts of your script, and explore them further, even if—especially if!—it takes you away from your original vision.

  • http://twitter.com/npquinn Nigel Quinn
  • Murphy

    I actually read the Slate article the other day when reading up about this project. And while I don’t disagree that this is a good script, with a fantastic director already attached, I can’t see any mystery as to why this was never produced. It is a Film Noir, set in the 1930′s and they wanted $120m to make it – today that would be what? $150m, $200m? Absolutely bonkers, it would never break even. It might win an Oscar but surely there are cheaper ways to buy an Oscar?

    I would watch it, I love Noir and love old Hollywood, and I am sure that there is an audience for it, but $120m? I cannot fathom what they wanted that much money for, unless they were planning on cloning Judy Garland and bringing her back to life. What else were they going to spend the money on? L.A. Confidential was made for $35m btw and would probably still be the better movie.

    Anyway, the script itself. It was good, I loved the parts that were set on the MGM backlot, loved that Judy Garland was a major character. I agree with this review though that much of the story was just Slidell running around reacting to things. This review is spot on about his character some of the areas that would make the script better.

    He actually reminded me at first of ‘Michael Clayton’, obviously they have the same job and both get involved in a situation that tests them. With Michael Clayton we know much more about him, what drives him, but even more importantly we understand clearly that this is a man who is usually calm and in control hence when he is faced by something that is trying to control him we get it. With Slidell I never got any of that, i didn’t know him, I didn’t understand him and thus I didn’t really care enough as to whether he found the killer or not.

    It was a great read in many ways but certainly not a perfect script, but I do not believe that the script is the reason this was never shot. I don’t think this was ever a high profile studio movie, it surely would work much better as an independent, mid-budget production hoping to attract some A-Listers to work on the cheap in exchange for a trip to Cannes and an Oscar nom?

    • http://www.facebook.com/daniel.morris.524 Daniel Morris

      I really enjoyed the read. There was something really interesting and intriguing about the screenplay and I do hope it gets made. My only problem is with the new Franco OZ movie coming out is there much of a market for it?
      D x

    • Paul

      Was writing my own comment when I noticed Murphy pretty much summed it up for me. The script has a great atmosphere to it; it’s easy to visualize and understand. I think that’s why even though Slidell isn’t as deep or unique as a character we still want to see where the world goes in this story.

      I think the Hitchcock script was striving for something similar, but Mann/Logan does it with a little more flair and interest.

  • FD

    I can only judge from the (excellent) review, as I didn’t read this one, but it looks as though this was meant to be a mood/character piece, rather than one driven necessarily by plot logic. Di Caprio and other A-listers love complex characters, and with a production team like this one, I’m sure it would have made a great film. I’m only saying this because I watched Leaving Las Vegas last night – one of the best love films ever – and I’m pretty sure that that script doesn’t hit all the screenwriting buttons either.
    Just my 2 cents

  • Jovan Jevtic

    The script was average. The story had no real high stakes and if you strip away the MGM back-lot part it becomes evident that this story has been told and retold. The ending had not real big twist, and I get it why they chose not to go ahead and waste 120mil.

  • sweepsteve

    I agree with Jovan and Steven’s review above – if you take away the background the narrative has been seen many times before. The background of 30′s LA is awesome though. The characters and sets are fascinating not because they are well presented but you know them as actors and producers and gangsters. Is Film Noir with twists and turns but with a final twist you can see a mile off. The running gag of Scarlett was nice but not enough and the point made by Steven about the inciting incident is very true. Harry reminded me of a one dimensional Harry Bosch. Thought the setting superb and story nicely convoluted but flat in the end. Still I would give it a ‘Worth The Read’ score. Goodnight.

  • Thomas A. Schwenn

    This is a movie I would see, and probably enjoy. But I love noir/crime dramas. But I understand why this never got off the ground: the budget (Hollywood period piece) and it doesn’t really bring anything new to the table. It has a lot of the pieces, but doesn’t really push any new boundaries.

    Once you get to the end, you realize that Harry’s really just waiting for the killer at a party. The rest is more or less unnecessary. It’s not like he’s come to some awakening. He’s just waiting.

  • http://twitter.com/thrillpill Elvis D.

    I will concede Steven’s first point right off the bat: bad inciting incident.

    This is a script about a certain time in Hollywood (and the world). The value of this story (and the movie that may someday come from it) is in the way it offers a glimpse into Hollywood then, and a mirror for how it is now.

    How much has changed? In the business, and the world.

    That exchange between Mayer and Warner was so revelatory, and isn’t that type of behavior just as prevalent today?

    And everything you needed to know about Harry is right there, on the page. Steven just chose not to see it. Harry is cool, Harry is in control, and sometimes Harry uses violence to enforce that control.

    It has already been established that he is protective of Garland so when he finds out she’s being drugged of course he’s going to beat up on the doctor who did it.

    And remember, he also went up against Bugsy when he thought the gangster was taking advantage of an underaged Garland. Seeing how Bugsy had previously dealt with the local gangsters it didn’t bode well for Harry that he’d got in Bugsy’s face. And then what happened?

    Did you see how the screenwriter made things square between Harry and Bugsy? That is interactive storytelling right there. As audience members we are thinking Harry’s in trouble and then as audience members we are impressed with the way he sorts things out.

    Harry is a protagonist through and through. What’s not to like?

    Black hole? I don’t think so.

    Also, and I quote Steven here: “After all, rosebud is in the vernacular not because the twist in
    “Citizen Kane” was so exciting, but because Orson Welles played Charles
    Foster Kane so memorably.”

    What the hell does that have to do with SCREENWRITING? Are we not discussing a screenplay here? What’s the point of dissing the central character in a SCREENPLAY by calling to mind an actor’s performance of another central character in a MOVIE? Even if Steven was claiming that DiCaprio is not as good an actor as Welles, that is hardly the point here, is it?

    This script has a distinct voice. It tells an evocative story. It does so around a magnetic central character. And clearly it has been written by a man who is pretty close to the top of his game.

    I am not convinced that the reviewer ‘got’ the script. If that is the case when we are talking about the product of an A-lister’s effort, what hope is there for writers seeking to improve.

  • fragglewriter

    I read until pg 28 and had to stop. I familiar with some of the history regarding the stars so Judy & Cable didn’t surprise means they also didn’t add anything to the script. I think if they were used to push the story forward (I don’t know if that’s the case since I bailed earlier) for example “Midnight in Paris”.

    I also thought the detective boring and the story should of centered on Mayer as he has a lot to lose since he’s the fixer. If it centered around MGM oran employee of the company partaking in illegal activities and can’t be leaked to the public that would be interesting.

    I think the script got so much attention due to who were attached to it and the budget.

    {x} what the hell did I just read

  • ripleyy

    I don’t think we read the same script because I found it be quite boring, thus I left it at page 40 and no less. The first sentence caught me straight away “not anymore, he’s dead” was brilliant but it was after those words that the script just…didn’t catch my attention.

  • shewrites

    Good review, Steven.
    I agree with you about the inciting incident. It makes no sense that Mayer would send Slidell on that investigative mission since Ruth has already been “cleared”.
    But it’s easy to correct. What if the evidence is so compelling that the Police can’t be bought and Ruth is arrested? The only person they can buy is the judge so he lets Ruth out on bail. Ruth has to be out because she just started in a huge budget movie. Not only can’t Mayer afford to have production stop but it’s also Ruth’s first real break. Because of her backstory, former prostitute wanting to make it, we root for her to get to finish her movie and be cleared of the murder.
    Now Mayer has a god reason for wanting to get Ruth off the hook (it doesn’t hurt that he has a thing for her).
    That would up the stakes which from the review, I haven’t read the script yet, I gather there aren’t any since Ruth’s been already cleared.
    I would go see the movie. I love film noir and the story being set in the world of Hollywood at its height makes it even more appealing to me.

    • ChadStuart

      I guess the problem with that is that if Ruth were arrested, her career would be dead. Studio bosses were very careful to cultivate the image of their actors. Even something as simple as an arrest would scar her career beyond repair. That was Harry’s job. He was sent in to clean things up before the newspapers got wind of it and published it.

  • http://twitter.com/mildeabandon Eudora Quilt

    I don’t see the plothole with the inciting incident: Sure, the hero immediately succeeds in drawing attention away from the actress, but the fact, that someone apparently set her up to take the fall for a murder, clearly shows us that she has enemies. There’s no reason to assume that those enemies would stop to fuck things up for her, just because their first attempt failed. For someone who cares about her, it makes perfect sense to send a detective after her enemies.

  • TGivens

    I really enjoyed this script, even with its flaws. It’s an easy read, good writing, some decent dialogues. I think if they work some more on the protagonist it would be a great movie, especially with Mann and DiCaprio.

  • Pointbreak

    Has anyone read RINGERS yet by the late Blake Snyder (of Save the Cat fame).

    It’s a bank robbery… with a twist script. You read this yet Carson?

    I read this yesterday and I must say I am SHOCKED. This was one of the most on-the-nose simplistic scripts I have ever read. I wouldn’t expect an amateur to produce a draft of this calibre. I really respect Blake’s grasp of the mechanics of screenwriting, getting the basics across in an insightful manner, but this script is poor.

    My biggest problems (and there are just untold here): serious spoiler alert.

    See how easily all the characters simply decide to take part in the robbery
    Caesar’s language is so cliche I almost laughed out loud
    Every character here is paper thin
    The lapses in logic are just unbelievable
    How can Caesar (up on a murder charge) get bail because a guy thinks he might have been a mugger?

    The list goes on and on

    The huge swathes of on-the-nose dialogue

    The bumbling cops

    Characters telling each other things they know

    Characters completely changing their on life-changing subjects on the back of one line of dialogue. Nothing in this script was earned.

    The decision at the end of the film when Colette plays along is just hilarious (she doesn’t know Tony except for a brief meeting in a park then a coffee (with her kid in tow), but simply because her husband was a bad husband, she is willing to risk becoming an accomplice to armed robbery and murder (risking her own daughter’s future and removal from the family unit if she is convicted) to be with Tony

    Maybe, it was just me but this script was awful. I am amazed this guy who has been so successful could write this (and he worked with a partner).

    Anyone else read this, have a different view. I would like to hear it.

    • cjob3

      Yeah, you’d expect more from the guy who wrote “Stop! or my Mom will shoot” and

      “Disney’s Blank Check.”

      • Yellomamba

        LOLOLOLOLOLOL you’re making the cult angry!

        • cjob3

          hey, I’m just fun-ing the guy. I like Save the Cat as much as anyone. But you can tell Blake’s sense of humor is pretty cornball.

    • Malibo Jackk

      You will occasionally hear professionals making fun of the gurus and screenwriting textbooks that so many newbies swear by.

      (At the Austin Film Festival, one of them was a smart, well respected producer who suggested that there are really only about 15 things that a screenwriter needs. She also mentioned that she had once read a McKee script — inferring it was terrible. She’s recently been active in exploring psychology and how it might apply to movie audiences — and sharing those views with studios, strongly suggesting that they can afford to be more open with the types of movies they make.)

      • carsonreeves1

        Breaking scripts down and writing them, I’ve found, are two skill sets more diverse than you’d think. The thing with Blake is that he’s not trying to be John Logan. He just wants to write light fluffy family fare. As for Ringers, I haven’t read it yet.

        • Malibo Jackk

          Just so you know, I wouldn’t be reading your commentary if I didn’t think it was helpful.
          (Don’t want you to get the wrong idea.)

        • JakeBarnes12

          Why don’t people get this? It drives me nuts.

          There was a commenter in the last week who claimed that ANYONE can analyze a text; for him, that was easy. Just shows how little the commenter understands (and possesses) the skills involved.

    • ripleyy

      I was expecting the most mind-blowing, awesome script in the existence of screenwriting but all I got was pretty much the same…I felt embarrassed to be honest because it’s something that would be ridiculed on Amateur Friday

  • K_Sharp

    I was so ready for this; vintage L.A. noir has to work hard to make me dislike it.

    Love the atmosphere. Love the settings. The two best characters were LB Mayer & Judy Garland. The mystery was just ok (the Law & Order comparison was a good one).

    But when will I read one of these that doesn’t involve *gangsters*?! The Bugsy Siegel stuff could’ve been cut with no problem. Yes, there were gangsters involved in L.A. during this period. That doesn’t mean writers have to keep going back to that well.

    Seriously, does anyone watch CHINATOWN and think “This would be so much better if Mickey Cohen had a scene or two”?

  • IgorWasTaken

    Carson, at the moment – at the bottom of the homepage, there is no link to click to older reviews. (At least not in my Firefox browser.) There’s just a link that reads “ScriptShadow Screenwriting and Screenplay Reviews” that takes you (back) to the homepage.

    And while I’m providing feedback… While I know it’s a Disqus thing, it would be great to have the old functionality of seeing who liked a comment, versus simply a count of likes/dislikes.

    • Poe_Serling

      Also, a quick reminder to Carson that the comments are still getting stuck in moderation… I’m not sure if there’s a big switch to turn off that feature or not.

      • carsonreeves1

        yours are getting stuck for some reason. I don’t know why, Poe.

        • Poe_Serling

          Is that your way of saying I’m the most controversial poster on this site? Dammit! I knew that my Wizard of Oz comments were gonna cause a firestorm of debate. ;-)

  • alanbsmithee

    Not really connected with today’s posting but… I just got you know what from you know where and I wanted to thank Carson for putting it out there. I got it last night and couldn’t put it down. There are others who write about screenwriting but few who can put it in a way that is logical, easily digestible and immediately applicable. Thanks Carson for this, screenwriting just got better.

    • carsonreeves1

      appreciate it! :)

      • sweetvita

        Hey Carson… just got mine. Have a 1:30 meeting, but so looking forward to tearing into it when I get back. HUGE congrats to you, mister!

    • Acarl

      Well put, well said. Could not agree more.

      • carsonreeves1

        Once again, thank you. That means a lot. :)

    • Murphy

      Just placed my order, will see if I can find a quiet moment today to have a quick look through it. I am sure it is going to be a valuable addition to my screenwriting books.

  • Poe_Serling
  • http://twitter.com/nobodyphilip Nobodyphilip

    “In the case of “Mann/Logan”, that black hole is named Harry Slidell.
    Slidell isn’t given an inner-life, or much of a history, either. He has
    no hobbies, as far as we can tell. He seems to rely existentially on his
    work, but not in any sort of passionate way.”

    That pretty much describes the protagonist in most of Mann’s films.

  • sg7

    It’s a generally well-written script that’s like a time travel tour back to old Hollywood as we’re safely shuttled through some wonderful sights. The two scripts that come first to mind are “Chinatown” and “Michael Clayton”, but here main character Slidell is never fully tested, never really looks inward, never turns against his employer and/or never really has his mind blown. There’s great individual scenes and secondary characters, but the parts don’t really add up to an overwhelming whole. If Slidell was a P.I. character on a weekly TV show, this would make for a wonderful 2 part episode. He essentially just goes own with his life at the end and while that probably ties into the script’s theme, we’re not left with a shattering emotional or cathartic experience.

  • Malibo Jackk

    Some names will be changed to protect the err… innocent.

  • Malibo Jackk

    Don’t worry about the book Carson.
    We can all edit it for you.
    :)

  • Acarl

    Poe- That is yummier than my mother-in-law’s home made gravy.

    • Poe_Serling

      lol. You forgot to add – ‘poured over her freshly whipped mashed potatoes.’

  • http://www.facebook.com/kevin.lenihan1 Kevin Lenihan

    LOVED this review! Insightful, and still fun to read.

    Noir is a difficult way to build a protagonist. Strong character goal? Noir characters are cynical, jaded, guarded. If they have a goal, they are likely to hide it from us, perhaps even from themselves. If noir characters have a goal, it is more likely to be an obsession, usually a forbidden one. And the writers do seem to understand that here, attempt to tap into it.

    Noir films are style over substance. Gritty reality should not be confused for depth and dimension.

    And that’s why noir films are often something we convince ourselves we are a fan of, but when we go back and revisit them we discover we are not. We love the harsh tones, the biting dialogue, the violence which lurks in every shadow.

    But there is generally something missing. And it’s missing here as well, as Steven points out with precise insight. The noir protagonist is difficult to connect to, to bond with, and that is the case with Slidell, who is perfectly noir as the writers intended. And perfectly lacking as the result.

  • ChadStuart

    About halfway through I realized there were a LOT of scenes that involved walking and talking. At first I thought I stumbled into an Aaron Sorkin script, but then I realized that the walk and talk really was the bread and butter of film noir. Which is strange because that really flies in the face of what we as writers are taught, i.e. show don’t tell. Maybe that’s why Film Noir died out, eventually. It just couldn’t keep up with the changing times.

    And in that respect this reminded me a great deal of “The Artist”. Sure, that film did an amiable job of recreating a lost form of film, but there’s a reason silent films died out. At the end of the day, a great homage is still just a copy of other work. This script left me with the same feeling. It’s a dead form for a reason, audiences moved on.

    Although this was a great homage, it’s still just a copy of something I’ve seen before, and therefore just not for me.

  • ff

    Sounds very interesting. Can’t wait to check it out!

    Thanks for the review as always!

  • scouter119

    wasn’t going to read this, (end of the year too much happening, so my free-reading time is limited), but after the review i’m curious. will give it a go, then pop back in with a worthy comment…

  • Yellomamba

    Scriptshadow Secrets book review:

    [x] What the hell did I just read?

    LOLOLOLOLOL

    • Yellomamba

      Jk, it’s pretty good so far. Fuck Kindle, though, I want paper!

      • carsonreeves1

        Hey, I can take it! I’m a big boy. I’ve been giving my opinions on other writers for years. :)

  • bbfoot

    I loved this script. True, the central mystery is not all that surprising and maybe Slidell isn’t the deepest character, but there’s so much that’s good here. What made me want to read this was the promise of behind the scenes action for Wizard of Oz, which is one of my all time favorite films. (By the way,read “The Making of the Wizard of Oz” by Aljean Harmetz if you want more info on that. It’s a great read.)

    While I would have liked more behind the scenes of Oz in this script, I realize that for most people, this offers enough. The character of Judy Garland, in particular, was a joy to read.

    Loved how this story took us from the top of old Hollywood to the deepest, darkest seediest places. Really enjoyed meeting all the characters along the way. Really felt like I’d seen this movie as I read it, which means there’s a lot to learn here about writing. There were no overly written descriptions or action, but always just enough to paint a vivid picture. And while sometimes the writer told us things that could not be filmed, and therefore that the audience couldn’t know, that didn’t bother me so much in this script because it really felt like it added something important to our understanding of the characters — something that would inform the acting if this were to get made.

    Also loved the dialog. It did a good job of being film-noir snappy and character-specific without sounding like a bad SNL movie spoof.

    And the secretly gay, tap-dancing assistant? Genius.

  • ElliotMaguire

    Great review, sounds very “L.A. Confidential”, anybody know where/how to find it? From the sounds of it, DiCaprio and Mann would have ironed out the creases in the character, I remember reading the “Collateral” script and finding the characters unrealistic, pretentious, and damn annoying. Worked on film though. Maybe we’ll see this one day, let the Scorsese and DiCaprio bromance get hold of it, worked well so far.

  • NYANGL23

    This was a easy, fun good read. But I would not really be interested in seeing this movie.The whole time I was reading this I just felt like I have seen all of this before. Nothing new here, nothing exciting and different and with the talent involved I kind of expect greatness. On another note why did they even bother about the old pimp lady Rosalinda? They get no real information from that trip & I wish she had given us something since she was mentioned so much. Maybe something small that led us to Kurt?

  • http://twitter.com/andyjaxfl amuller

    I liked the script a lot and Logan’s storytelling style really pulled me into this world. I don’t think it’s as good as L.A. Confidential mainly because Harry wasn’t that interesting of a main character (as many posters have already mentioned). And I thought it was out of place for a “man who never loses his cool” to explode in violence so many times.

    Maybe they can take another angle on Harry by making him a guy who doesn’t like violence and feels it is the last resort of a limited mind (and so they say). I don’t think it’ll necessarily make him a wimpy or uncool character that no A-Lister would want to touch (Jack Nicholson gets thumped a few times in Chinatown and he came out of that movie as the coolest man on the planet). So now you have a guy who abhors violence who suddenly delivers a vicious beating to some fellow and it becomes that much more powerful of a scene when it happens since he’s betrayed a crucial principle in his life. I don’t have the script in front of me so I might be mistaken, but didn’t Harry quit the force because a rich kid bought his way out of a crime? I thought it was an interesting bit of dialogue, but it was never mentioned again. I think it could be used here.

    Anyways, just some thoughts from a newbie.

  • TruckDweller

    Personally, I was totally wowed by this script. I’ll have to read the reviews in a second before they color my feelings. Superbly written. The dialogue was gritty yet real. So many details interwoven, though perhaps not seamlessly. Reminded me of LA Confidential with more glitz. Totally enchanting movie. Harry wasn’t unique, but he felt real to me. I do wish we filled in some of the backstory between his partners, his days in the force and his past with Judy.

    IMPRESSIVE and nearly Genius.

    Now to see what I missed that has this so low in the ratings.

  • Thunk24

    I found this script to be incredibly romantic. I’m not talking about Harry and Ruth, but about the love affair the writer has with 1930s Hollywood. I completely bought into that. I enjoyed meeting Judy the teenager and the flying monkey. Despite Harry’s over-zealous use of the glass ashtray, night stick, gun, frozen fish and whatever else he could pick up and hit someone with, I enjoyed it. The running gag about who was going to play Scarlett was a treat.

  • sweetvita

    Off topic. The 7th paragraph in the, well… you know, needs to be taped to every screenwriter’s computer until it’s burned into their brain cells.

  • tea_and_crumpet

    I really liked this script. I agree that Slidell had little in the way of back-story (as expressed in the script, except for the ex-cop gig), and I agree that Slidell didn’t develop much through the script. However, I really enjoyed the time-and-place of 1930′s Hollywood, and the film-noirish quality of this who-dunnit. For me, it had a similar gritty feel, like Chinatown, where both protagonists were on the top of their game. Chinatown ends with Gittes beaten by the system, Slidell succeeds within the system even to the last line.
    What I learned: The author loves his environment. This comes out in both how the scenes play out, and in the small off-hand remarks the characters make. More importantly, the author fulfills on the premise of film noir Hollywood because the script has a decent story. Writing in genre, the movie must still be entertaining to watch.

    • Poe_Serling

      That was well put!

  • http://twitter.com/nicksansone Nick Sansone

    Great review, Steven! You really seem to know your stuff. Well done!

    I was really looking forward to reading this script. For one, it’s currently ranked #39 on the Scriptshadow Reader Top 50. And two, I’m a huge Michael Mann fan, so I thought it would be interesting to see what him and super-screenwriter John Logan could come up with (especially because Mann’s “Public Enemies” was partly shot in my hometown!)

    And you know what, I really liked it. I thought John Logan did a great job of keeping his descriptions clean and readable but also very picturesque, as he only gave us the information we needed to know.

    I LOVED how Steven pointed out how respectfully the women were portrayed in this. As you probably know, I’m a HUGE supporter of strong women in film (especially when they’re the main characters). And while I know the main characters aren’t women, when the women get page time here, my heart freaking broke. I loved these women. I wanted them to find happiness. I even teared up during the exchange between Judy Garland and Slidell. This is the kind of thing every male writer should be thinking about. It’s why I’m the only person in the world who loves Kenneth Lonergan’s “Margaret”. We should all be putting just as much (if not more) effort into our female characters as well as are males.

    And, obviously, that’s just me scratching the surface. There’s a lot more good in this script. But I’ve gotta freaking get to bed. Anyway, really good script and I’m sad it won’t be getting made.

    • carsonreeves1

      #39? Man, Nick knows stuff about this site that not even I know!

    • Poe_Serling

      Hey Nick-

      If I’m not mistaken, I remember you being a big fan of Chloe Moretz… any thoughts on her lead role in the new Carrie?

    • sweetvita

      Hey Nick! Huge Mann fan here, too. Can only imagine what he would have brought to this project. You’ll like what Carson has to say about female characters… it’s in the, well, you know ;) Sweet sleep…

    • Malibo Jackk

      “We should all be putting just as much (if not more) effort into our female characters as well as are males.”

      Hey Nick. Thought you might find this interesting.
      Recently watched a pod cast of women actors talking about the craft. All seemed to want to play flawed, interesting characters. But there’s a catch. As one actress pointed out, it’s not men that find this disrespectful — it’s women.

      (In television commercials, it’s usually the wife who is super intelligent but, for some reason — she married a stupid man.)

    • Malibo Jackk

      Sorry. Forgot to mention.
      One of the scripts I’m working on has a strong female protag.
      “We should all be putting just as much (if not more) effort….”
      I’m working on it. Just wanted you to know.

      Thumbs up.

  • Tim

    I really enjoyed the script – but after reading the Slate article, it makes a lot of sense not to put 120 million into. Instead they should make Ringers for less than half that! While it didn’t blow anyone away, it was easy, fun, and a pretty cool idea. Ringers!

  • keyst

    I wanted to like this script, but it just didn’t engage me at all, I felt no connection to the characters. Even picturing Leonardo DiCaprio as Harry didn’t make him seem like a full character.
    A lot of the descriptions about Harry on the page, or even the blurb on page 1, are not things the audience sees. For readers, yes this creates an image, but the audience has to be shown this character through action not told it. Showing not telling is something new screenwriters have drilled in to them so I was really surprised to see it all over this opening.
    by the time it got to page 30 and Harry finally meets Ruth it got more interesting, but that;s 20 – 30 mins an audience is waiting…. by which point they may have given up.
    There was also use of the same words they ‘roar up’ and then ‘roar off’ again.
    It was certainly a slick read but I think it would have needed actors of the calibre of Dicaprio to give this film so heart and capture audience attention. A lot of the scenes just seemed to go over old ground.

  • http://twitter.com/npquinn Nigel Quinn

    If this ever got made I’d be intrigued to know what the films title would be. Any ideas?

    • Citizen M

      Under The Rainbow

      • http://twitter.com/npquinn Nigel Quinn

        Cool. ‘No Place Like Home’?

      • Poe_Serling

        How funny… remember the Chevy Chase comedy with the same name. It also featured a whole Wizard of Oz story thread.

        ‘In World War II era Los Angeles, the manager of the Culver Hotel leaves
        his nephew in charge for a weekend. The nephew changes the name to the
        Hotel Rainbow and overbooks with royalty, assassins, secret agents,
        Japanese tourists, and munchkins (from the cast of _Wizard of Oz, The
        (1939)_ ). Secret Service agent Bruce Thorpe and casting director Annie
        Clark find romance amidst the intrigue and confusion.’

  • Malibo Jackk

    With reference to the unfilmables, I wonder if they bother Joe Logan, Michael Mann or even the studios. As you mentioned, they can aid the reader (and later others — actors, directors, set designers, ect.)
    Are there too many? I can’t be the judge. I haven’t read the script.
    There are, of course, those who think unfilmables have no place in a script. And you must be an amateur. Because no professional would do that.

    If someone detests unfilmables, they should hear some of the directions David Fincher gives his actors. I highly recommend the DVD extras on The Social Network DVD.

    No disrespect intended.

    • Narcoleptic_Ninja

      I certainly don’t detest ‘unfilmables’ – but I do think there were way too many in this script. They absolutely can help orientate the cast and crew, but would I fear raise a red flag to studio readers (after all, they are working from a check-box, and don’t like anything that strays from that). Of course, in this case, the script would have skipped the reader level, so as you say, may not have been an issue.

      It does bring us to an interesting point – one that I don’t remember seeing anyone address…is different versions of the script for different people in the process. For example, many actors find unnecessary stage direction irritating (they like to figure those things out for themselves), whereas a producer might find that sort of thing helpful to get a feel for pacing and movement. Sometimes tailoring a script a little, depending on the final reader, might be worth considering. It’s something that is often done with a felt-tip marker to help table reads flow – someone goes through the script and crosses out stage-direction, thins out descriptions etc.

      There may have been an article on this already on the site, but it might be interesting to look at how studio readers work? They have huge amounts of scripts to get through – so subtly tends to get missed…which leads to certain types of scripts more likely to make it up the chain. Also, the check-box system was a real eye opener for me. I haven’t found that many reader reports online for films that actually got produced – if anyone has any, I’d like to see them. I do have Charlie ‘Kaufman’s Synecdoch, New York’ reader report is it of use to anyone (maybe Carson can disseminate it?).

      • Malibo Jackk

        An article on reader review sheets would be cool.

        Like you suggest, I always thought that some actors used the black felt pen approach. As I understand it, there are four different schools of acting. And a few directors that actually insist that the actors deliver their lines exactly by the script. There are also Academy Award winning actors who insist that this damages their creativity. And hate it when someone suggests how they should play the part. (There Will Be Blood)

        But here’s something I found curious. I recently heard a professional screenwriter (Pirates of the …) recommend that you avoid using questions in your dialogue. Actors don’t like it. They’re often uncomfortable with the lines and where to place the emphasis.

        Thanks for your post.

  • Poe_Serling

    Yeah, I only saw Return to Oz once…many years ago. I do remember that it was directed by Walter Murch – the sound man for the films Apocalypse Now, Godfather 2 and 3, Ghost, The English Patient, and so many more.

  • aecotten

    This was a fantastic script… very descriptive, always engaging. I loved the constant guessing of who was going to play Scarlett… thoroughly enjoyed the character interactions, the subplots and how they wrapped together with other subplots… there was a fine line (in my head) between the stiff/stuffy character like a Joe Friday -esque, but felt Harry had more depth, especially seeing vulnerability (his affection towards Judy and Ruth)… this was just a story well told. It was dirty, gritty, glamorous all wrapped around Hollywoodland. I was impressed how it unfolded.

    ( ) worth the read
    XX
    ( ) impressive

  • PaknSave

    Pretty much agreed with Steven. Main character was flattt but loved the world.

  • James Inez

    Great review! I finally finished this one and I thought it was really good. I think Logan is a fantastic writer with superb eye for detail and for character. The little bits of information that he gives about the characters really help the story and help with understanding who these characters really are. I love noir and I loved the fact that it was about HollywoodLand in the 30′s. I would love to see this made and to watch it.
    I give it
    [xx]worth the read

  • CKirich

    This was a fun script to read, but we’ll never see. To pull this off would take over 150 million to create the many scenes. If you chop outthe scenes, you’re really gutting the script. So much of the script that madeit fun to read is based on the locations. The story is not unique, and moved
    into a modern setting would be a less than an average crime/drama. Half of the reason you love the characters is based on location, again the killer of the movie. The mix of real life characters injected into the story IS the screenplay and why it’s a good read. So at the end you’ve read a good story, not a movie that will be made.

  • Jordi Insley

    This is the first guest review where I forgot it wasn’t Carson writing. (That’s a good thing!)

  • Colin Moriarty

    This needs to happen. Please make it happen, Megan Ellison.

  • madriverglenn13

    Anyone who has this script willing to share it? ancutrone@gmail.com

  • jeff gallashaw

    I think the selling point of the film is more the movie history with a fictional story. Impressed with it’s own brilliance, though i did find it a fascinating read and enjoyable. Despite the few problems i had with it. I’d rather see movies like this made then some lazy screenplay that is centered on a market rather then creativity and enjoyment

  • Moviegoer71

    Good, not great but ..ok. After reading ‘Gangster Squad’ it was fun to see young Mickey Cohen appearing in one scene. Solid enough structure but still nothing to write home about.

  • Exley

    Hello everyone,
    I would love to read this. Where is the link for the pdf please?

  • AnotherCornelius

    this is so stupid but can someone send me a copy of this script. i can’t find it online.

  • elduderino465

    Very interesting concept, and a pretty good script. Could have been better though.

  • RyanMFB

    I gotta say I was underwhelmed by this script. I had high expectations, but I felt like the turn didn’t have any real emotional punch. He’s going for Chinatown but falling way short. I felt like Pat’s character was sort of wasted- he seemed interesting at first, but nothing happened with him. The love story was also pretty telegraphed, and the constant references to classic moviemaking felt a little too nostalgic.

    My guess is this got canned after Gangster Squad was greenlit. Which is unfortunate, because it looks like they’re taking GS into Dick Tracy territory and it looks pretty goofy.

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