CONELRAD READ ALERT: Selected Books and Miscellaneous Tracts



How to Break into the Movies is Albert Zugsmith’s chatty treatise on making it in the film industry as distilled through his own diverse and self-admittedly fabulous career. The flamboyant movie maker holds a special place in the hearts of the CONELRAD co-founders because without Mr. Zugsmith there would likely be no INVASION, U.S.A, no THE GIRL IN THE KREMLIN, no HIGH SCHOOL CONFIDENTIAL, no THE BEAT GENERATION, no WRITTEN ON THE WIND and no TOUCH OF EVIL. And without Zugsmith, the motion picture career of CONELRAD favorite Phillipa Fallon may never have happened (Ms. Fallon’s screen credits are limited to three Zugsmith productions, most notably HIGH SCHOOL CONFIDENTIAL).

The over-the-top, positively Hecuba-esque ego of Zugsmith is on fine display in this book which makes it worth recommending for laughs if nothing else. What other producer would brag—as Zugsmith does—about convincing Orson Welles’ to cut his favorite sequence out of the 1958 noir masterpiece TOUCH OF EVIL? Zugsmith explains on page 72 that he talked Welles into trimming the sequence out of the script by telling the director of CITIZEN KANE (!) that if allowed to remain, this would be the part of the movie “when the kids would go out for popcorn.”

Zugsmith also dishes shamelessly on manufacturing starlet appeal:

But it may be that your teeth need attention, your shoulders slouch corrected or your diet drastically trimmed. Remember, no matter how you tip the scales, the camera often makes you look twelve or fifteen pounds heavier. A lot of time, attention and determination must be invested, not only by the studio and a host of skilled technicians, but by you, before you can pass as a true screen beauty… Many big Hollywood stars are not quite so flawless as they seem. Some have breasts that are really much less prominent than they appear on the screen. A beautiful rubber bosom can be made for about $250 or less, and the public seldom knows the difference… It won’t hurt you, naturally, to have a face and figure as winning Jayne Mansfield’s or Mamie Van Doren’s. However, in my opinion, they have a lot more than that. Both have grown enormously as actresses since the start of their careers. Both learned that patience and perseverance are needed, as well as dazzling looks. Both keep on developing their abilities through diligent studies.

Zugsmith’s book is also significant because on page 11 it features a paragraph on the phantom actress Phillipa Fallon who so memorably performs Mel Welles’ beat poem in HIGH SCHOOL CONFIDENTIAL. Years of CONELRAD research on Ms. Fallon find that this is the most extensive contemporaneous reference to her to be found in the popular public domain. Unfortunately, Zugsmith’s qualified language in addressing her potential future screen success proved to be well chosen:

Russell Birdwell, the eminent publicist, introduced me to a young actress named Phillipa Fallon. Because of her different appearance, I gave her a small part in Girl in the Kremlin. Phillipa kept herself going by singing in night clubs and writing music until she got her second picture assignment, this time at MGM in High School Confidential, which was followed by a role in the Private Lives of Adam and Eve. She has broken through a stout barrier and may be on her way ahead. To forge onward, she will have to work at her profession and, by that, I mean strenuous, unflinching work…

Albert Zugsmith was born on April 24, 1910 in Atlantic City, New Jersey and died in Agoura Hills, California on October 26, 1993. Before entering the film world, Zugsmith held various jobs like lifeguard, newspaper publisher and radio and television station manager. Incredibly, CONELRAD could not find a single obituary for this giant of B-movies, but Zugsmith’s legacy will live forever on film. This review is in honor of a true original.

For more on Mr. Zugsmith, CONELRAD recommends his interview in The Kings of the Bs edited by Todd McCarthy and Charles Flynn (E.P. Dutton, 1975).

And don’t forget to check out CONELRAD’s review of Zugsmith’s pulp novel adapted from his 1959 film of the same name: The Beat Generation.

By Albert Zugsmith
McFadden Books, New York, 1963
173 pages

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CATEGORY: Film Studies


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