Behind the scene of the 1968 Film, Ice Station Zebra
I was drawn to this book because, Bill the author worked on Ice Station Zebra, (one of the first films I ever saw). I have vivid memories of the Russian jets closing in on the pick up point for the satellite film, the thin ice, thin ice, scene where the submarine is gliding under the polar ice shelf. The underwater photographer was Bill's pal. Then the sub descending to it's crush limit, after an act of sabotage.
Howard Hughes was obsessed with the film, one report claims he watched it over 150 times, playing it on a loop over and over, in his reclusive Las Vegas Hotel room, ice station zebra was the ultimate cold war thriller.
The author of this book Bill Hillman takes us through the hit and miss process of getting a job in Hollywood, in 1968. The Carpenter's song do you know the way to San Jose was playing in my head, as I was reading the book. "put a hundred down and buy a car in a week may be two they will make you a star". In Bill's case the car was the Mustang.. And so on.
Picture this it's 1968, Bill had a blue Mustang convertible, (a classic car) he had a casting appointment at MGM, his wife was pregnant, his agent got him the contact. They were shooting a big film.
Remember when your are reading this book Bill, is an accomplished movie script writer, ten pages into the book, I detected that I was under the power of his hypnotic mind control.
Bill forces you to empathise with him as a struggling actor, (in a good way) this is classic stuff, Bill gets you on his side, (Read and learn), Bill gets you to immediately think, you are him, (all would be script writers take note and read this book) this is the secret to all good script writing make the reader inhabit the character's being written about.
You end up hoping he (Bill) gets the job, you end up hoping he (Bill) keeps the job. You end up humming somewhere over the rainbow as you go off to make a cup of tea half way through reading this book.
Back in 1968, Bill was a kid, a student of film making and this book explains how those 19 weeks working on ice station zebra, propelled Bill deeper into the movie business, producing writing and film making. Now Bill is a kind of teacher author he is on twitter, I some times send a few tweets (and credit to him he replies), Bill is not at all remote or aloof like some Hollywood actors and producers that I know .
Bill illustrates in the book how a one off chance break is all you need to be a success in Hollywood. Talent helps too of course, But without a leg up from our old friend TIME & CHANCE all the beauty, all the talent and skill in the world amounts to nothing, zilch, zero.
So don't hide your light under a goat's bushel or whatever the quote is. Bill describes how he had to get up off is Mustang (car seat) and go get work without upsetting anyone, (that's not as easy as it looks) and to keep on getting a steady stream of work is even harder. Getting one big job is quite common in Hollywood but getting the next is almost impossibly hard for many.
With Bill's style of writing , you the reader identify with Bill like a character in one of his movies, totally immersed, it's a kind of literary Stockholm syndrome style of story telling. This is not a criticism it's an observation.
Bill is self deprecating, but there is a skill to it. So don't try this at home without professional supervision, if it's over done people may end up agreeing with you. The book documents Bill's account of his relationship with John Sturges and Editor Feriss Webster.
The danger when writing a book like this is the author may come across as boasting. Bill doesn't fall into that trap. If the book had been all, "I did this" and " I did that" and "I know X,Y,Z" it would flop. Bill has to name drop to write a book like this, but Bill has side stepped all that bragging risk beautifully. Bill is old school, he does not do back stabbing and scandal or gossip, he leaves out Rock Hudson's personal life for example, (which I approve of) I don't like to read gossip and bad stuff about people.
The film was good and this account of how Bill got the job that changed his life, This was interesting to me because of my interest in that film.
I enjoyed the book, the book is highly recommended.
This review was of the kindle edition
Paul Kendall (Leeds UK)