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The Devil's Candy: The Bonfire of Vanities Goes to Hollywood.

THE DEVIL'S CANDY, The Bonfire of Vanities Goes to Hollywood by Julie Salamon (Houghton Mifflin, 434 p.) is not the first, and certainly won't be the last of the "inside" books about movie making. It may however, be the most revealing and depressing of all the accounts so far, in part because Miss Salamon, critic for the Wall Street Journal, is a very good reporter and writer who focuses simply on what she saw and heard, and in part because the movie is such a crass example of the devastating, manipulative and often nasty ego structure that underpins and depletes the Hollywood effort.

Miss Salamon's book is a first-rate account of how the studio system had deteriorated, of how personal vanity and personality quirks can destroy any project, how the insanely high budgets (and salaries) can and will interfere with the artistic as well as the commercial process, and how the isolation and limitation of studio executives, and the frictions that prevail, along with the whims of the director, impact on the final product.

The Bonfire of Vanities, directed by Brian De Palma, ultimately ran up to around $40 million. It starred Tom Hanks, Melanie Griffith and Bruce Willis (many thought that a very odd cast) and was made for Warner Brothers. It was based on the Tom Wolfe bestseller, which most producers felt couldn't transfer to the screen. They were ultimately proven right. The film was a resounding flop at the box office.

Mr. De Palma no doubt regrets having given Miss Salamon permission to hang around during the shooting, and to interview anyone in sight. So, most likely, do a lot of other people, including the Warner executives in charge - Mark Canton, Lucy Fisher - whose lack of judgment apparently was monumental and who certainly seemed unable to control the director.

Miss Salamon has a great eye for incident, and a wonderful ear for dialogue. No question, De Palma towers over the proceedings as a moody, opinionated, unpredictable, private man who most of the time seemed to prefer being somewhere else and who treated the film like his private domain. Fortunately, she finds plenty of time for the crew, who suffered under the eccentricities of De Palma - his inability to make decisions, his ego involvement vis-a-vis the studio, his artistic pretensions ranging from casting to locations, which drove the budget sky-high. Miss Salamon is at her colorful best in describing his uneasy entourage. FH
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Publication:Video Age International
Article Type:Book Review
Date:Feb 1, 1992
Words:405
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