It was Vanity Fair's first Los Angeles book party, a star-studded affair at Morton's on Thursday night. The event honored writer-directors Billy Wilder and Cameron Crowe, who collaborated on a book, excerpted in the magazine, that Knopf is publishing in November.
"Conversations With Wilder" arose out of a visit Crowe made to Wilder, asking him to play a veteran sports agent in his 1996 movie "Jerry Maguire." Wilder turned him down, but the two started talking and a friendship was born.
"I loved Truffaut's dialogues with Alfred Hitchcock," Crowe said. "This is our version of that. And what better way to spend an afternoon? It was like going to a great film school."
Wilder sat in a center booth framed by clips of "Sunset Boulevard," "Sabrina" and "Stalag 17" projected on the wall. "Some were good, some not," he said. "Still, tonight is a minor triumph. I'm 94 and don't expect to direct anymore, so this is my last show."
Who Was There: Lew and Edie Wasserman, Jack Lemmon, Raquel Welch, Jon Voight, Sherry Lansing, Larry Kasdan, Artie Shaw, Jim Brooks, Arnold and Anne Kopelson, Steve Martin, Shirley MacLaine, Mick Jagger, Curtis Hanson, Art Linson, Angie Dickinson, Cyd Charisse, Brendan Fraser, Eva Marie Saint, Jeffrey Katzenberg.
Manhattan on Melrose: Vanity Fair editor Graydon Carter denied calling a Los Angeles book party "an oxymoron," as rumor had it. But a friend told him that Angelenos use books as coasters, he allowed. "I disagree," he said, flashing a grin. "This turnout is tremendous. Of course, you're dealing with a guy who is very beloved--one of the true masters. Of the 50 great movies of all time, he's probably done three or four."
The Buzz: Kasdan commented on Wilder's "rigorous lack of self-mythologizing." The crowd paid homage nonetheless. Lining up to get their (free) books inscribed, they drew parallels with Capra, Fellini, Ford and Kurosawa. "What set Billy apart was a great sense of humor, which, unlike many, he was able to transmit," said Universal Studios Chairman Emeritus Wasserman, who, as an agent, represented Wilder from 1945 to 1962. "Some directors can shoot some great scenes," said Lemmon, who starred in Wilder's "Some Like It Hot" and "The Apartment." "But the strand of pearls--the whole movie--is rarely as strong as his."
Deja Vu: The event had a ring of familiarity to MacLaine, another star from "The Apartment." "Whenever someone honors Billy for being alive, I usually present the award," she observed. "Now it's getting to the point where they should present the award to me."
Sunday Book Review
* David Thomson critiques the collection of conversations with the director.