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Hollywood Memoir: A Young Woman's Intro to Filmmaking in The Golden Age

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by Tova Laiter
July 3, 2014 3:13 PM
4 Comments
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Jack Nicholson in 'Chinatown'

At around the same time, on the same lot, they were also shooting "Chinatown." One evening, my cinephile PA colleague Phil and myself were walking to the set when we saw Roman Polanski gesturing animatedly with his hands in what seemed like a heated argument with his editors just outside the editing rooms.

Brimming with excitement upon seeing his idol, Phil could not contain himself and ran toward Polanski, breathlessly bowing to him: "Excuse me for interrupting, Mr. Polanski...but you are my favorite director, the greatest, really ...you are a genius of cinema!" "Thank you," said Roman, pointing toward his editors. "Do you mind telling those fuckers this?"

Another movie shooting on the lot was John Schlesinger's "The Day of the Locust" with its massive cast of extras portraying Hollywood in the 30s.

All of these pictures were period films. Everywhere you looked on the lot, from the stages to the commissary, were thousands of actors and extras in period costumes and makeup. It felt like we were transported to the glory days of the studios of the 30s and 40s, humming with activity and creativity. I was fresh enough and romantic enough to think that it would always be like this.

Within a few years, the first wave of women broke through to become studio executives (Marcia Nasatir, Nessa Hyams, Sherry Lansing). And not long after, some women did become producers, often with a male partner (Julia and Michael Phillips), and then on their own (Tamara Asseyev and Alexandra Rose). Eventually, many other women followed, myself included.

We all sat now in big offices selling each other movies, talent and ideas in a way that I imagined executives in other businesses sold their wares: "I have a fabulous dress for you with a zipper in the front…No? We can put the zipper in the back, no problem."

It was largely great fun for many years. But my fondest memories go back to my magical introduction to Hollywood on the 1973 Paramount lot. It was the Golden Age of Cinema indeed.

4 Comments

  • Veronika | July 5, 2014 12:26 AMReply

    Can't wait to read more stories! please ;-)

  • Tova Laiter | July 4, 2014 5:00 PMReply

    Thank you. I think more women of that time will contribute their recollection of that time...

  • Nancy Nigrosh | July 4, 2014 7:02 PM

    Tova,
    I'm certain you have many more charms on your bracelet...give us more!

  • rgm | July 3, 2014 5:19 PMReply

    More.....??? I certainly hope so.

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