Biographies – “Mr. Wilder and I”: One Foot in Fiction

One meets the Austrian in Hollywood, Billy Wilder, one of the most legendary directors, in Jonathan Koe's new novel.
One of them meets the Austrian in Hollywood, Billy Wilder, one of the most legendary directors, in Jonathan Koe’s new novel “Mr. Wilder and Me”. – © dpa

You are as good as your best,” Billy Wilder once said. In the new novel, “Mr. Wilder & I” (Paper), the legendary film director at a point in his life where he begs the question of whether he has actually created the best – and perhaps nothing better can come. Writer Jonathan Koe accompanies him to the set of his penultimate film “Fedora”, a young Greek woman Calista, whom Wilder met on a trip to Hollywood, is the narration that means the end: She and her friend ask Wilder over dinner what guys are doing in the cinema now. The conversation is repeatedly interrupted by fans interested in Wilder’s films – “Some Like It Hot “The Apartment” Strips which are undoubtedly among the best in movie history, but are 15 at the time of this meal, and during this meal Wilder also made films. He and co-writer Eze Diamond dealt with these compliments Contrasting with humor.It turns out that the two were painfully aware of the rivalry from Steven Spielberg’s “New Hollywood” or Francis Ford Coppola, who turned narrative patterns upside down in the 1970s, and want to keep up.While filming “Fedora” on Madurai Island, Wilder used Calist as an interpreter. The third part takes the entire film crew to Germany, where exiled Austrian Wilder talks about his time as an American cultural officer, when he made educational films about disguise. He searched for his mother in every pile of concentration camp bodies.

It is so exhilarating to see such a touching and charismatic character in this novel, which the world had to bid farewell to in 2002. It also has the allure of identifying the man known to be a self-confident actor with a cigar in his mouth as insecure. Unfortunately, Coe’s novel ended up on paper, with the protagonist of all things who knew how to tell unmatched good stories, which is a shame.

Documentation and invention

Time and time again, real people are placed in fictional worlds by the book. This happens to filmmakers significantly more often – perhaps because they come from a world supposedly closest to imagination. Joyce Carol Oates shows that paper can also be filled with sensory life. Marilyn Monroe turned into a fictional character in her novel “Blond”. The book should not be read as an autobiography under any circumstances, the writer asserts as literary pressure. But since Oates’ fiction is as far from biographical history as the white, pleated skirt from his next subway column draft, you might learn more about Monroe in this 1,000-page treatise—or, in this case, Norma Jean Baker—than in the memoir. traditional. A woman with a broken childhood (a mother in a psychiatric hospital) growing up in various institutions, a woman who sacrificed her identity for a new character invented by studio heads, an artist who struggles desperately to be taken seriously, a woman who surrenders to her (and not only) erotic influence as an archetype for blondes more than Just awareness. Oates also sometimes works with real documents, for example to show that one list is sufficient to describe a woman in the McCarthy era: the one that the FBI compiled about Monroe’s sexual partners.

Speaking of which: Oates takes you down a sink called Hollywood and you learn a lot about Old Hollywood customs along the way. Harvey Weinstein’s sexual abuse of power cannot surprise anyone who has read this novel, which is based in part on porn. “Blond” was reissued this year (Ecco-Verlag) and the fact that Oates’ meticulous interweaving and assembling of what is real, what is believed and invented is a genius that shows that reading it again makes it implausible that the novel is 20 years old.

Stan without Ollie

John Connolly uses a similar tactic in his autobiographical account of Stan (Rowohlt). In it, he gets close to comedian Stan Laurel. Laurel was half of Laurel and Hardy or Stan & Olly (people in this country who grew up with Herbert Pricopa’s “Laughter Things” know the different duo under the disrespectful name “Dick and Dove”). This is also the starting point for Connolly’s novel: these two actors are not known as individuals, one defining the other. Of course, this wasn’t just an outsider’s perspective. Stan Laurel ended his public life after the death of Oliver Hardy. “He never appeared on TV again, did no more interviews, and when he got an honorary Oscar, he said he was sick and refused to go,” Connolly says. In Irish Stan not only creates a sobering tradition of friendship that is so much more than just a set of work. Of course, the two complement each other perfectly: Laurel is the chief creative officer who writes gags – coming from a vaudeville cabaret – he uses physical humor to perfection, Hardy is a talented actor who can actually elicit laughter with an eyebrow raised. Laurel’s sense of rivalry with Charlie Chaplin comes from a realm of fantasy or from improbable speculation. They launched their career together, but Chaplin took off faster and is still considered an outstanding comedian.

Dickens has

Surprisingly, Charles Dickens is a guest in these autobiographical poems. One of them is “Drud” by Dan Simmons (Heine). The author, usually known as horror, fuses the last five years of Dickens’ life with the unfinished crime story “Edwin Drood Mystery” – certainly with elements of horror. After surviving a train crash (indeed, in the 1865 Staplehurst Railroad Accident, a bridge under a moving train that Dickens was also riding collapsed, killing 10 and injuring dozens), he becomes obsessed with the name Drood, whom he encounters during the accident. That’s not enough to interfere with biography: Wilkie Collins, a fellow Victorian writer and friend of Dickens, told the story—and appropriate, since he wrote his first mystery thrillers. “Drud” is also a 900-page monster, but Dickens would have loved it. In “Portrait of a Medieval Master” (Karl Hanser), Colm Toiben devoted himself to another writer entirely without any fantasies. He accompanies Henry James from theatrical failure to exile from England, where he finally creates his masterpieces.

Compared to this detailed account, Bob Marley has only one guest appearance in Brief History of Seven Murders (Hayne). In the thriller, Marlon James paints a picture of 1970s Jamaica ravaged by drug corruption, starting with a burglary at the home of a reggae musician.

James Lever probably took this style of narration to an extreme in I, Cheetah (English only, Class IV). Here it takes you back to Hollywood, the author knows them all, Rex Harrison, Johnny Weissmuller, Marlene Dietrich. He is one of them just wait – a monkey. Because Cheeta, who tells the strange story, is known to be the famous chimpanzee from the Tarzan movies.

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