The screenwriter was traditionally considered the lowest form of pond life in Hollywood, and there was the old joke about a ‘casting couch’ starlet so dumb she slept with a writer. An art form based on the moving image is bound to have an ambivalent relationship with the writer of dialogue, especially since, as William Holden points out in Sunset Boulevard, the man in the street thinks actors make up their lines as they go along. Hitchcock, as usual, hit the nail on the head. He, the most brilliant master of images ever, said that the success of a film depended on three things: the script, the script and the script.
To write a book about the history of screenwriting is therefore an inspired idea. In this brilliant but not flawless book Marc Norman, who co-wrote Shakespeare in Love, serves up nothing less than a complete history of Hollywood, for the examination of the screenwriter’s role necessarily involves discussion of the