Exhuming Hollywood’s Best Unproduced Scripts Script


Are there any really great scripts that somehow get caught in the swamps of movie making and never escape?

Yes, Stephen Rebello says in American Film. Repeating an exercise he first performed in 1983, Rebello dredged the shallows of Hollywood searching for the 10 Best Unproduced Screenplays. His list is based on a canvassing of studio insiders and his own judgment after reading 46 scripts.

Screenwriter Steven Zaillian’s “Alive,” for example, is described by Rebello as a powerful, grim adaptation of Piers Paul Read’s book about a 1972 Andes plane crash. Unfortunately, in order to stay alive for 70 days at 17,000 feet, the survivors resorted to cannibalism, a grisly fact that hasn’t helped speed the project to completion.


Another gem is “Eight Men Out,” John Sayles’ adaptation of Eliot Asinof’s novel about the notorious Chicago White Sox team that threw the 1919 World Series. It has many great elements, Rebello says, but it has four strikes against it: It’s a period movie, an ensemble movie, a baseball movie and has a downbeat ending.

“The Tourist” by Clair Noto is one of the town’s most-read scripts, Rebello says. It is “a canny, sexy, one-of-a-kind sci-fi for grown-ups” that’s nothing at all like “E.T.” He says its unalloyed creepiness has always managed to disturb some important studio someone.

Checking up on his ’83 best list, Rebello finds that the only script that got made was “At Close Range,” which starred Sean Penn and did decently at the box office while winning some critical praise. The other nine are still mired in a pre-production land that somehow never seems to slow up movies like “Police Academy 4.”

Baseball Stats

Baseball has never been a simple game for Inside Sports. For years it’s been pushing an excellent new way to measure a hitter’s true overall offensive worth (Total Average: total bases divided by outs). Now it’s dreamed up some new formulas to rate pitchers.

Starters in each league are rated in 10 weighted categories--from total innings pitched and won-lost record to innings pitched per home runs allowed. Crunch all the statistical categories (and a set of others for relievers), and the whole world finds out what every grade-school playground baseball-card collector already knew: that Mike Scott of the Astros was the best starter in the National League in 1986 and Roger Clemens the best in the American.

Inside Sports--always a little screwbally, also rates or lists just about everything that has anything to do with baseball: ballparks, infields and hot dogs (the on-field human kind, as in Yankee Rickie Henderson). It assembles an All-Overpaid All-Star Team, gives five reasons why Mike Schmidt is the best third baseman ever and offers five mostly futile tips on how to pitch to Don Mattingly. And it supplies some sound reasons why former broadcaster Ronald Reagan should become the president of the Chicago Cubs when he leaves office, including No. 5: “The Cubs organization is used to passive leadership and ill-conceived trades.”


Bimbology 101

When people use the term bimbo, according to Marcelle Clements in New York Woman, they’re usually referring to “a presumably dumb and usually good-looking woman whose main focus in life is men.”

But modern bimbology is a many-nuanced subject, as Clements proves in her funny, sometimes testy, twisting and turning study. The Old Bimbo, as portrayed in movies by Marilyn Monroe and Judy Holliday, was nobody’s mystery: usually buxom, blonde and airy between the earrings, she generally openly traded her sexual favors for “proximity to power and small amounts of money,” Clements says.

But hip men today find the classic bimbo “too vulgar, too obvious.” Wheel in the new bimbo: She’s subtler, hipper and harder to spot, Clements says. Yet she’s everywhere: on magazine covers, game shows and behind anchors’ desks. Intellectuals have bimbos. There are jet-set bimbos. Sophisticated bimbos. Temporary bimbos. Accidental bimbos. Bimbos at every level of society. (The magazine’s captions list 20 bimbos through the ages, from Helen of Troy, Jean Harlow, Jayne Mansfield and Claudine Longet to Bo Derek.)

The issue is far too complicated to summarize. Suffice to say that Clements is critical of men for wanting bimbos and of women for becoming them. Yet she understands the confusion. At one point she wonders if “every woman has something of a bimbo in her?” Then she concludes that the label bimbo “means nothing very much about an individual, but speaks gloomy volumes about the relations between men and women, and an inexorable, profoundly unfair system.”

Bits and Pieces

In ever-stylish L.A. Style, comedian/actor Robert Townsend tells how he got tired of being offered minor black roles in movies and decided to produce, direct and star in his own low-budget “Hollywood Shuffle.” He had to use cash advances from his own credit cards to finish the critically praised, soon-to-be-released film. But the ambitious Townsend notes that this year he’ll probably be “the only black man that kisses a woman on screen.” . . . The current Air & Space/Smithsonian, the always interesting bimonthly you get when you join the Air and Space Museum in Washington, includes a handy fold-out poster of the “Satellite Sky.” It maps the celestial location of “every serviceable artificial satellite for which data have been published and for which a function is either known or has been surmised.”