Sunday, July 02, 2006

Niven Busch On Getting Fired

Another tale about old Hollywood. This time, Niven B. tells about the first time he was fired from a Hollywood studio... I got a writing credit on Howard Hawks' "The Crowd Roars," and then I wrote two more pictures at Warners. Hawks was a big influence on me because he showed me how a ruthless, cynical story grabber could really score in Hollywood. Hawks sold "The Crowd Roars" as an original, but it was really "The Barker" by Kenny Nicholson. Hawks sold it four times, I think, because he liked the basic story. He put it in the Maine Woods at a lumber camp, at the auto races, and other places. Nobody recognized it was the same story, and that Warners already owned it. That didn't stop Howard Hawks from selling it back to them. The second picture I wrote after "The Crowd Roars" was a dog that got me fired. Zanuck had gone to Europe and left me with Doug Fairbanks Jr., and we wrote and produced a picture called "Scarlet Dawn." Doug was supposed to produce it but he really didn't. William Dietrle directed. When Zanuck saw it it didn't have any title, and according to the story I heard (I wasn't there by that time), Darryl said: "The worst picture we ever made on this lot was called "White Dawn," but this picture is a son-of-a-bitching sight worse, so we'll call it 'Scarlet Dawn.'" I wasn't the only one who got fired. Fairbanks was also let go because of it. Probably anyone who's gotten let go by a studio can relate to this. It's always painful, but it's always true that there is life beyond the pink slip... In actual fact, "Scarlet Dawn" isn't anywhere near as bad as Busch makes it out to be. The epic centers around Russian aristocracy during the Soviet overthrow of the czar, and is available on video in a sparkling transfer. (Amazing considering the film was made in 1932. But that's what happens when you have the original negative and/or a pristine, fine-grain print.)


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