Wednesday, July 15, 2009

Jews, nuns, musicals

Screenwriters are uniformly contemptuous of the people who run the Hollywood movie machinery, especially when it comes to getting notes about their screenplays. But even though it's an old story, it can still be told entertainingly as in Paul Rudnick's essay for the current New Yorker Fun with Nuns. The entire thing is not available for free, but you can read it online if you are already a subscriber.
Another, equally gung-ho (Disney) executive appeared, carrying, in his palm, a three-inch-high plastic figurine of the Little Mermaid herself, with her chunky cascade of red hair and her skimpy sea-shell bra.

"Look at her!" the exec said. "Isn't she hot? I'd do her!" Other staffers convened for the meeting, and they all agreed that the figurine was indeed hot and doable. As in all decent studio meetings, everyone was "totally stoked" about "Sister Act" and eager to "fast-track" the property. Most of the executives' notes were about shaping the material for Bette Midler and about how much they all loved nuns.

"Nuns!" I declared. "I'd do 'em!" Everyone cheered.
Rudnick discusses both nuns, Jews and nuns and Broadway musicals in the piece and in my mind those things have always been linked anyway. When I was eleven, two of my girl cousins, around the same age, and I spent a week with my aunt the nun (nome de nun: "Sister Martin Joseph") in her convent in Delaware, and the thing that made the biggest impact on me was her Broadway musical album collection which I listened to on her very nice stereo system. Ironically, my aunt the nun's copy of "Fiddler on the Roof" was my first real introduction to Jews. The other thing I remember was her taking us girls to see What's Up Doc starring Barbra Streisand.