Saturday, May 09, 2015

Daniel Fuchs: From Proletariat Williamsburg to Criss-Crossing Noir

AT FIRST GLANCE, Daniel Fuchs's screenplays bear little if any relationship to his fiction. While his best and most evocative scripts- The Gangster and Criss Cross- are, to differing degrees, prime examples of hardcore film noir, the novels Fuchs produced prior to those films, based on his formative years during the 1920s amidst Brooklyn's Jewish community, stand firmly in the tradition of first-generation, street-corner proletariat fiction.

Fuchs arrived in Hollywood in 1937 as much on a wing as a prayer, and stuck around for some four decades. Unlike many of his cohorts, he was able, upon permanently shutting the lid on his studio typewriter, to return not only to writing novels, but also nonfiction books covering a range of subjects, from Jewish culture to the poetry of Wallace Stevens. As critic Irving Howe once said, "In the writing of fiction, talent came almost as easily to Daniel Fuchs as to Willie Mays in the hitting of baseballs." Easy it might have been, for, for Fuchs, writing in those early years was a necessity, allowing him to escape a claustrophobic ghetto in much the same way Robert Tasker and Ernest used their writing skills to extricate themselves from prison and a life of crime. But just as Tasker and Booth would come to realize that working in Hollywood constituted just another kind of prison, Fuchs would conclude that, for better or worse, Hollywood was itself in fact just another kind of ghetto...

(To read more go to the L.A. Review of Books website)

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