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Hollywood Rat Race

Ed Wood, Jr.

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To purchase Hollywood Rat Race

Title: Hollywood Rat Race
Author: Ed Wood, Jr.
Genre: Advice
Written: 1960s
Length: 138 pages
Availability: Hollywood Rat Race - US
Hollywood Rat Race - UK
Hollywood Rat Race - Canada

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Our Assessment:

C+ : not especially revealing about Hollywood (or particularly well done), but does provide further fun insight into the wild world of Ed Wood, Jr.

See our review for fuller assessment.

Review Summaries
Source Rating Date Reviewer
Publishers Weekly . 22/2/1999 .
Time Out B- 30/6/1999 Brian Case
The Washington Post C 7/3/1999 Jennifer Howard

  From the Reviews:
  • "While this brief book isn't quite bad enough to rank with Wood's most distinctive creations, dedicated fans will find it a howler." - Publishers Weekly

  • "Amusing." - Brian Case, Time Out

  • "Though about as polished as his movies, Hollywood Rat Race has its charms." - Jennifer Howard, Washington Post

Please note that these ratings solely represent the complete review's biased interpretation and subjective opinion of the actual reviews and do not claim to accurately reflect or represent the views of the reviewers. Similarly the illustrative quotes chosen here are merely those the complete review subjectively believes represent the tenor and judgment of the review as a whole. We acknowledge (and remind and warn you) that they may, in fact, be entirely unrepresentative of the actual reviews by any other measure.

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The complete review's Review:

       Hollywood is one tough town, and so who better to take advice from than a man who would not let himself be beat into submission by it, despite a career of failing continuously at all his undertakings ? Ok, that lack of success aspect is problematic, but the will to forge ahead, despite the absence of almost any chance of success, that's certainly something one would like to pick up from Mr. Wood, who excelled at it as perhaps no man ever has.
       Hollywood Rat Race is a near legendary book -- a very small legend it was, but still. Wood toiled at it for several years in the 1960s, but never published it. Now Four Walls Eight Windows presents it to the reading public.
       It is certainly no great piece of literature, and it is not even that good a how-to book (not helped by the fact that it is quite dated). It is, however, an interesting document of the times, and specifically of the bizarre character that was Ed Wood, Jr.
       The angora-loving, transvestite obsessed director and writer now has something of a cult following. He never achieved much success during his lifetime, as film after film of his bombed. It certainly wasn't for want of trying. Few people seemed to try harder than Wood. Quite certainly it was for lack of talent -- despite all his efforts, Wood was amazingly ungifted at everything he tried his hand at. He seems to have no concept of what makes a film, no concept of story, writing, dialogue.
       He must have had some understanding of Hollywood, however, as he continued to survive there. Just barely, perhaps, but his tenacity is inspiring. Wood was not entirely deluded (except, perhaps, about his own talents), and on page after page of Hollywood Rat Race he condemns his reader to failure, teaching them to expect it at every turn. The lesson he drills in: everyone is looking to rip you off, and your chances of success are practically nil. But he also understands that his readers don't care, that their goal is to achieve stardom and that they will do anything to do it, and that nobody will be able to convince them that it is a hopeless cause. Wood himself is, after all, one of these people.
       So it is not a despairing book, and even where he talks about the gritty and seedy and tough life in Hollywood, there is a cheery undertone, admitting that it is something to deal with and accepting it. Wood happily talks about how to escape creditors, even about the possibility of living in Griffith Park if one has absolutely no money. He's upfront about the casting couch, and the pros and cons of reclining on it.
       Wood also talks about his own success (sic !) and those of others he knows, a litany of actors and actresses by and large completely unknown today (and, one suspects, already forgotten in the 60s). Bela Lugosi, his one true star, is cited as something of an example, but Wood doesn't use him or his other examples too effectively to make his point.
       It is a fairly haphazard book, cobbled together. There's some real advice (about getting photographs, agents, a message service) and Wood is a realist. Get a trade, he suggests. Learn as many things as possible -- like riding: it can always be something needed by the studios. Try to get an agent before getting to Hollywood. And, again and again: be prepared for failure.
       The organization of the book is a bit lax and loose, but it makes for a fun read and gives something of a picture of Hollywood. Wood obviously stood on a strange periphery, stuck in the late 40s and 50s as Hollywood completely passed him by, but it is an interesting vantage point.
       Wood writes that: "Most of you reading these chapters are either in the later years of grade school or teenagers in high school." Certainly the book is a bit too raw and real (and just plain odd) for the little kiddies, but Wood himself seems stuck at high school sophomore age, and that does seem his demographic. The school-play enthusiasm which he begins the book with seems to be the stage-struck bug that got him. Unfortunately he never got much beyond it, and neither does the book.
       Not meant to be taken seriously, this is a fun little document. Certainly not for everyone, but for those curious about the bizarre filmmaker and/or Hollywood in the 50s certainly recommended.

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Hollywood Rat Race: Reviews:
  • Other books by Ed Wood, Jr. under review:

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    About the Author:

           American filmmaker and author Edward D. Wood, Jr. (1924-1978) is one of Hollywood's more unusual legends. Responsible for low and no budget films that have been called among the worst ever made he also wrote nearly two dozen pulpish novels. Since his death he has developed a larger following, and he was the subject of Tim Burton's 1994 film, Ed Wood.

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