St. John's Confidential File
Old Hollywood Is Dead
By Michael St. John
Oct 12, 2013 - 4:38:52 AM

HELLO AMERICA!—The Hollywood that many of us knew and was a part of is absolutely dead! There was a time when if one really needed to meet or connect with a director or producer, all one had to do is make a request and a time was set up. Now the only person connectable is an assistant to an assistant, and if you are lucky one might receive a civil or polite response to a request.

Otto Priminger

I recall when reading in the industry trades that producer-actor Otto Priminger was producing the musical film “Carmen Jones” which would star Dorothy Dandridge, Harry Belefonte and Pearl Bailey. I immediately called the director’s office at 20th Century Fox and requested an interview. Helen, Priminger’s secretary quickly scheduled it for the following day. The director was known for his gruffness but our first session together, I found him warm, funny and amazingly interested in what I had to say to convince him that I was the actor he should sign for his film. I was not intimidated by his German accent which sounded at times as if his next words might be “Seig Heil!.”  I was actually fascinated by this man who looked as if he were trying to see through each word you uttered. Therefore, I quickly realized that I was enjoying the game he had set up and I left the meeting feeling inspired. Today, if seeking any kind of information, one is saddled with a stupid machine or forced to deal with the assistant’s assistant and you’re left feeling baffled and void of information you needed to be considered to be cast in a production.  

Even when casting a cinematic film or a theatrical stage production, one almost has to connect with an agent that is located in another city or country. If you are lucky one might receive some valid information needed to connect with the requested actor. Years past, the industry unions were set up to offer the necessary information concerning agents and other information which might lead to an actor being considered for a job. It is sad when a dues-paying member of a union is not given the support needed to be considered for a film or television feature, but forced to deal with a stupid, poorly constructed message from someone who is inarticulate and barely speaks the language clearly.  The general membership of these unions should do something about this, after all their dues are keeping these unions alive.

I was speaking with publisher Regina Jones (Soul publications) recently and she reminded me that the business has completely changed. There is very little respect given to new people and many people hired to connect with the public often has an attitude making you feel less than a human being. “At least we cared about each other,” Regina reminded me. “We all realized in order for us to get ahead, it was necessary to give each other respect and support. And that’s how many of us went on to do bigger and better things.”

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