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'The Height Of Hubris'

April 15, 1990

Could it be that Robert Ward's credentials, earned working as a television producer, give some indication of why television is in such a sorry state? His categorical assertion in his review of "Writers in Hollywood" (by Ian Hamilton, Book Review, April 1) that "in movies, character is completely dictated by plot" seems to me the height of hubris and ignorance.

That may well be the rule on "Miami Vice," but it is certainly not true in the best of films. Indeed, what distinguishes fine films from the mediocre is character development, with stories that are driven by the interrelation of unique and interesting people.

Ward claims that " 'What does the hero do?' is the main question, not 'How does he feel?' or 'What does he think?' " In fact, one of the reasons that screen writing is a demanding form beyond the reach of many novelists is that the writer must rely on what his characters do to convey how they feel and what they think about. (In the best drama, as in life, characters often lie with words and tell the truth with their behavior--and this certainly includes film drama.)

I suggest Ward go see "Driving Miss Daisy," which won an Oscar for its writer, Alfred Uhry. There's not much in the way of plot, but there's 25 years of enlightening and moving character development.

JOHN CROWTHER

SANTA MONICA

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