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Paul Rudnick's Visit to Mousechwitz


If you haven't gotten around to it, read playwright (Jeffrey)/screenwriter (Addams Family Values) Paul Rudnick's screamer in the July 20 issue of the New Yorker. "Fun With Nuns" is a memoir about Rudnick's ill-fated attempt to get his original version of Sister Act

to the screen -- a script that began in the late 1980s as an idea for a

Bette Midler vehicle. The story is a classic fable about relatively

high-minded ideals rung through the cesspool of commerce. But it's also

an equally familiar tale about a New Yorker (resident, not magazine)

getting thrown into an amiable shark tank of Hollywood executives --

here, the Disney Corporation, which would eventually transform

Rudnick's material into a hit for Whoopi Goldberg. (This was the time, Rudnick notes, when Disney's rigid corporate culture "justified the studio's nickname, Mousechwitz.")

One typically

absurd moment is set in Disney's Burbank corporate complex, as Rudnick

and the Armanis discuss monastic Catholicism:

"Glancing around, I realized that I was analyzing papal dogma with a roomful of Jews."

There are, however, a few moments that might seem a little too good to

be true after we've read Rudnick claim he could see "the valley" from

his suite at the Chateau Marmont on Sunset

Boulevard, or that he apparently took meetings in Team Disney's Seven

Dwarves Building at a time when it wasn't yet completed.

In last Sunday's New York Times, Jennifer Schuessler

used the occasion of memoirist Frank McCourt's death to examine the

literary arena of contemporary autobiography, and how the

details of some childhoods have become, improbably, more vivid and

dramatic when retold decades later. Happily, it's part of the charm of

Rudnick's

recollection that he seems to be telling both an artistic truth and a

more or less accurate account of his Hollywood ordeal -- we believe

"Fun With Nuns"

because it sounds honest, not because we wish it were true.


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