Entertainment & Arts

Oliver Stone responds to ‘Midnight’ review, plus more readers’ letters

Oliver Stone’s ‘Midnight’ conversations

Kenneth Turan’s review of “Midnight Return” [“Telling the Rest of Billy Hayes’ Story,” July 21] blames the filmmakers for supposed mendacity. As the original writer [of “Midnight Express”], I made it quite clear to Sally Sussman, the director-producer of the documentary, that I based the film on Billy Hayes’ co-written autobiography and interviews with him at the time. Hayes never revealed any prior drug runs from Turkey, and to the contrary, professed his naiveté in these matters. If he had been truthful from the beginning, I would never have taken on the screenplay in the manner that I did. In fact, given the mores of that time, I doubt the film would’ve even been made by Columbia.

Though I would’ve changed some things here and there, I’ve come to terms with my experience, and I’m very proud of the movie we made based on what we knew then. I’ve seen the film screened for different audiences and different generations, and contrary to Mr. Turan’s dismissal of it as a source of mockery, I find it to be as harrowing an experience as it was intended to be.

Oliver Stone


Los Angeles


Kenneth Turan now writes in his review that “Though ‘Midnight Express’ is nominally a serious film, it was directed in such an over-the-top way … (critic Pauline Kael, not a fan, called it ‘mean-spirited fake-visceral’) that it’s remembered more in the comedy area.” I had to laugh, though in great disappointment, while reading this reaction, which appears to be Turan’s estimation as much as Kael’s, to what is actually a fairly classic movie with a fictionalized but very intriguing story arc full of pathos.

Todd Smilovitz


Los Angeles

Black actresses who paved way

I was excited to read Tre’vell Anderson’s article [“Black, Funny, and Poised to Shake Up Hollywood,” July 23] but was left with the feeling you must have been on a tight deadline to explain why you completely skipped over an impressive generation of African American comedians who became household names after Moms Mabley and before Issa Rae. So on behalf of Jasmine Guy, Debra Wilson, Kim Coles, Kim Wayans, Anna Maria Horsford, Holly Robinson Peete, Dawnn Lewis, T’Keyah Crystal Keymáh, Tisha Campbell, Erika Alexander, Kim Fields, Shirley Hemphill and Vanessa Bell Calloway, I just wanted to remind you there are others (and my list could be longer) who still are considered “way beyond sassy” and who were barrier breakers in sketch comedy, feature films and sitcoms.

Anne-Marie Johnson

Los Angeles


It’s about time black women in Hollywood moved to the forefront in comedy. From Moms Mabley to Whoopi Goldberg to Queen Latifah to Issa Rae — you go, girl!

Tanya K. Hart


Los Feliz

Spicy replies to ‘letter’ to Spicer

Lorraine Ali’s “letter” to former Press Secretary Sean Spicer [“No Lie, Spicer Made Great TV,” July 22] is one more example of her gift for writing satire. I too will miss Melissa McCarthy’s priceless impersonation of him on “SNL.”

Bunny Landis



What Lorraine Ali doesn’t realize and what the L.A. Times editorial staff doesn’t realize is that her point of view (your point of view) doesn’t necessarily agree with your readers. To write a hit piece about Sean Spicer (whom I’m not a fan of) in the Calendar section with such gratuitous, gleeful venom is not journalism, just infantile acting out.

Stan Evans



Whither grows Santa Monica

Re: “‘A Grand Bargain’ and a Model? Santa Monica Finally Attempts to Bridge the Divide Between Affordable Housing and Slow Growth” [Christopher Hawthorne, July 23]: I understand that there is no stopping progress, but to a native Angeleno and former longtime resident of these areas, Santa Monica and Venice have become nothing more than destinations for eating and shopping ... period. And you don’t need sand and water for that experience.

Lynn Leatart

Sherman Oaks


Santa Monica is not just another small city in L.A. County. It’s not Ventura or Azusa, Pasadena or L.A. It’s a major tourist attraction — an aspect of life here that the article ignores — and the city of Santa Monica has gone out of its way to make it appealing to visitors. During the summer, it’s a resident’s nightmare as those tourists (and their cars) descend on the beach and the Promenade.

Peter Altschuler

Santa Monica

Can’t expect an Ella replication

Re: “They Just Can’t Get That Swing Down” [Mikael Wood, July 21]: Ella Fitzgerald was a very unique musical talent and personality and performer, which we cannot realistically expect to be duplicated, even by such talented and dedicated artists performing at this beautifully done tribute concert. Of course no one could replicate what Ella did!

Harvey Barkan

Studio City

Let’s hear it for sound designer

Mr. Turan, your review of “Dunkirk” [“In Harm’s Way: ‘Dunkirk’ puts audiences in the middle of fierce WWII action’, July 21] is exceptional, as always. I am curious why you single out for recognition the DP, editor and composer and do not include the sound designer? While every film achieves greatness to one extent or another in some but not all of the “crafts” and, perhaps, some do not merit special recognition, a film like “Dunkirk” simply does not survive without extraordinary sound achievement.

Mark Mangini

Sherman Oaks

Enough Wagner for the value

Did I read that right? Dudamel offered a one-hour Wagner program at the Bowl? [“Loosening up Wagner: In Gustavo Dudamel’s Defiant Hands, Fussy Composer’s Work is at Home in the Bowl,” Mark Swed, July 22.] This is a rip-off. It’s expensive to go to the Bowl and patrons spend hours getting there and then get a one-hour performance. I have come to be leery of programs that are excerpts. You don’t get much, in my opinion.

Margarete O’Brien

Manhattan Beach