Budding Writer, 1979: Great minds think alike?

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About this series: I revisited my journals from my first year as a freelance writer and found they told a story of their own. In this series I get the rare opportunity to give myself, and other writers, career advice with nearly 50 years of hindsight. Enjoy!

My first solo venture in the Journal Opinion office came when the editor, Robert, took a well-deserved day off. I celebrated that night with a new hit movie.

A busy day; a day of fun and camaraderie at the office. While the cat’s away, I suppose. I sat in for Robert and processed a veritable gruntload of copy. I was pleased with myself …

Went to see Woody Allen’s Manhattan tonight. Good film, but I wish the guy hadn’t stolen my ideas for Rhapsody in Blue. Oh, well. Maybe this means great minds think alike.

Journal, Volume II
14 June 1979
Woody Allen’s ‘Manhattan’ was cinematographic brilliance with a great sound track. But it was a little creepy, even before Allen was accused of sexually molesting a minor.

Remember what I said about taking prose in the context of the times when it was written? This is one of those times.

Woody Allen is persona non grata today because of allegations that he sexually abused his adoptive daughter. In the 1970s, though, he was on top of the world with a run of hit romantic comedies including Annie Hall and Manhattan. I recently watched the latter to refresh my memory.

Manhattan, filmed in stunning black-and-white, is more a love story to the city itself than to its characters, who are the typical shallow Manhattanites of Allen’s films. Today the romance is more than a little creepy because it centers on a middle-aged writer (Allen) and his infatuation for a 17-year-old actress (Mariel Hemingway, then 17).

Creepiness aside, Manhattan has a soundtrack of George Gershwin melodies that is as stunning as the cinematography. My complaint was that one of my plot ideas — which I haven’t mentioned in this series — was a story that would follow the melodic flow of Gershwin’s Rhapsody in Blue. Allen’s video treatment was excellent; a story in print would pale in comparison.

Today, though, we have the opportunity to mix media, so perhaps a story that runs in real time with a musical track would work for this idea. Maybe I’ll try it. Thanks, Woody!

Still, I take back that bit about great minds thinking alike. Creepy.

2 thoughts on “Budding Writer, 1979: Great minds think alike?

  1. There is always a soundtrack on in my brain. My brain will even send me messages through lines of music that come into mind when I am feeling a certain way. For one and a half hours in the car ride home this evening, I regaled George with tunes from Americana, just because of the time of year. Woody was over-rated. Not great at all. We see how feeble he was. Happy to report I NEVER liked him.

    1. Thanks, Celeste!

      Woody Allen has always been a one-trick pony: comedy or drama about intellectual, neurotic, Jewish New Yorkers — people who are like him. When he did drama he wanted to be Ingmar Bergman. If you didn’t live in Woody’s world (or exist among his small circle of stable players) you didn’t “get it” and were turned into the punch line of the joke.

      As for soundtracks, mine is made up of Gershwin, Rodgers and Hammerstein, Porter — the so-called Great American Songbook — plus Leroy Anderson from mid-century and 1970s pop and soft rock.

      Oh, and maybe a bit of Sousa, because, as you said, it’s that time of year.

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