Sunday, May 30, 2010

It's nice to be the next Preston Sturges

This is a typical story. In the mid 80’s my partner and I had a pretty good movie career going along with our TV work. (I think this was that honeymoon period between the time VOLUNTEERS was made and actually released…because that window was pretty short as I recall.) Disney wanted to meet us.

We trooped down to Burbank, appropriately entered the Dopey Building and met with this very nice energetic young executive. If we had any movie ideas he wanted us to bring them to Disney first. Because of our work on CHEERS we were the perfect writers for them. They were looking to do sophisticated romantic comedies with with and heart, and smart crackling dialogue. Very few people could do that but we could and that’s what they wanted. We were the next Preston Sturges (master of the screwball comedy). We were obviously very flattered and said when we came up with something we would call them. He then said, “Listen, while you’re here, we do have one project that’s open, and we think you guys would be perfect for it. EARNEST GOES TO JAIL.”

We graciously passed. We could write sophisticated comedy but we weren’t Noel Coward.

18 comments:

Dwacon® said...

Being “Coward-ly” for money... or empty-pockets for principles.

Hmm...

A. Buck Short said...

So it isn’t true you guys passed because you heard all of the Mannequin producers were attached to the sequel, working title: “David Begelman Gets Community Service?” Hey it’s Sunday morning and clear neither I nor Dwacon should have bothered getting up. But it’s all we got, and nature abhors a vacuum – almost as much as it detests a feeble stretch.

Ref said...

Was that Noel coward, or his cousins Complete and Utter?

WV: MANTI An aquatic mammal living in Florda.

Jon88 said...

Or Oscar Wilde.

jbryant said...

EARNEST GOES TO JAIL was based on the lost sequel to a noted work by Oscar Wilde.

VW: Imburpo -- Imbibe too much last night and you just can't stop belching? Try new Imburpo!

Simon H. said...

Your loss. Ernest Goes to Jail made Ernest Goes to Camp look like Ernest Rides Again. But it was no Ernest Scared Stupid.

Mike said...

Domestic Gross, Budget:
Volunteers (1985): $20m, -.
Ernest Goes To Jail (1990): $25m, $6m.
Mannequin 2 (1991): $4m, $13m.

And folks write in asking for career advice?

Paul said...

Ernest Goes to Jail is the Citizen Kane of Netflix Instant Watch.

Tom Quigley said...

Considering what it was they wanted re-written, you could have just as easily said you could write sophisticated comedy, but you can't walk on water or part the Red Sea.

D. McEwan said...

So that's why we never got "The Lady Ernest"?

Cap'n Bob Napier said...

I can imagine Ernest doing Catskill schtick humor. The world lost something when you guys said no.

pandoy said...

i rather to have money even i was called coward, hmmmm that was by me.



http://www.episodegoer.info

FlipYrWhig said...

EARNEST GOES TO JAIL was based on the lost sequel to a noted work by Oscar Wilde.

I think you mean _Earnest Goes to Reading Gaol_. That's the lost sequel to _two_ noted works by Oscar Wilde. It's a lighthearted romp involving a series of wacky misunderstandings after being convicted of two charges, sodomy and handbag theft, and sentenced to hard labor.

blogward said...

Noel Coward had his clunkers.

Ed Blonski said...

I always thought George Cukor was the master of the screwball comedy.

jbryant said...

FlipYrWhig: I made the pass, you made the touchdown. Good one.

Ed: Actually, I can't think of many (any?) screwball comedies by Cukor. Plenty of comedies, but none that strike me as screwball (Holiday and The Philadelphia Story coming closest, perhaps?)

I'd say McCarey, Hawks and La Cava mastered the form, even if they also worked in many other genres.

-bee said...

The Importance of Fleeing Ernest

Kirk Jusko said...

I don't know if they qualify as screwball, but Ernst Lubitsch and George Stevens also made some pretty good comedies during that era.