Guest Post – Behind the Screen Door

Author of Post: Patricia C.
Book review: Behind the Screen Door: Tales from the Hollywood Hills
By: Richard Gregson

For more than twenty years, Englishman Richard Gregson was one of the most powerful film personalities in Hollywood and London. As the agent for Robert Redford, John Schlesinger, Alan Bates, Frederic Raphael and producer Jo Janni, he met ‘anyone who was anyone’ in Hollywood including Frank Sinatra and members of the Mafia.

He represented the director and producer of Oscar-winning movie Midnight Cowboy and the writer of The Boys in the Ban (first on Broadway and then on the film); he also produced films (Downhill Racer) and a musical on Broadway (Cyrano, starring Christopher Plummer) as well as co-scripting the Academy Award-nominated The Angry Silence. During this time he was married to the legendarily beautiful film star, Natalie Wood.

Behind the Screen Door: Tales from the Hollywood Hills is Gregson’s account of his ascent from an assistant in a religious bookshop in London, measuring cardinals for robes and helping old ladies find missals, to a big shot agent and producer in the glamorous world of 1960s Hollywood. It is packed full of entertaining anecdotes and fascinating descriptions of Hollywood players, from Redford to Sinatra.

Life, of course, is never simple, and Gregson’s marriage to Wood, during which they had a much-loved daughter, Natasha, came to an end. The book ends with the tragic death of Wood in 1981; Gregson gives a moving account of his dilemma over whether to bring his daughter back to the UK, where he was then living, and their joint decision to view Wood’s body.

At a time when so much media attention is focused on what happened on the night of Wood’s death, it is especially poignant to be reminded of the human face of this iconic actress and the family she left behind, and the end of the book is an emotional counterpoint to the cut and thrust of the sharp end of the movie business that Gregson has so vividly portrayed.

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