Christopher Silvester

Waspish Wit

‘It’s the Pictures that Got Small’: Charles Brackett on Billy Wilder and Hollywood’s Golden Age

By Anthony Slide (ed)

Columbia University Press 368pp £23.95 order from our bookshop

The screenwriter and producer Charles Brackett was that rare thing: a WASP in Hollywood. He was also a Republican, but although he was scornful of communists and naive, fellow-travelling liberals, he was never a red-baiter. Hollywood had its fair share of loud-mouthed right-wingers, some of them dwelling in a land called Paranoia, but Brackett was not one of these. Born in 1892, he was from a fairly well-off Yankee family from Saratoga Springs, New York. He attended Williams College and Harvard University and wrote theatre reviews for an upstart publication called the New Yorker, as well as a handful of novels that have been forgotten. He married and had two daughters, but his wife drifted into alcoholism and died in 1948. Brackett subsequently married her sister. Was he a closet homosexual? The writer Gavin Lambert believed so, but neither Anthony Slide nor Brackett’s grandson Jim Moore has found any evidence to support Lambert’s claim. There is no hint of it in these diaries.

I first came across the Brackett diaries in typescript form several years ago, while researching a social history of Hollywood. The manuscript diaries run from 1932 to the early 1960s, but only the years up until the end of 1949 have been transcribed. This marks a natural break in Brackett’s professional life:

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