Thursday, November 20, 2008

Book Review: The Making of The Lords of Flatbush by Stephen Verona

In the mid-1970s, a little movie was released called The Lords of Flatbush. Unbeknownst to any of those involved at the time, it would singlehandedly launch the modern era of looking back, inspiring other such nostalgia hits as Happy Days (which would make a star out of Flatbush actor Henry Winkler) and Laverne & Shirley.

But few people know very much about the story behind the movie that started it all. The film's co-director, co-writer, and producer — Stephen Verona, Academy Award winner for The Rehearsal — has rectified that with his memoir, The Making of The Lords of Flatbush.

But this book is not just for fans of The Lords of Flatbush. Anyone interested in the kind of talent combined with guts — even when you're a pioneering music-video director who's worked with The Beatles — that it took to get a film made during this period should also pick it up. Verona tells it all, from his own time in a motorcycle gang (the inspiration) through the writing process, fund-raising, and casting (the perspiration) to the shooting, editing, distribution, and afterward. The reader is along every step of the way.

Verona reminisces about stars Sylvester Stallone, Henry Winkler, Paul Mace, and Perry King — who replaced Richard Gere at the last minute — and the musicians he worked with (Joe Brooks and Paul Jabara) who would later go on to win their own Academy Awards (for "You Light Up My Life" and "Last Dance", respectively). Also mentioned in The Making of The Lords of Flatbush are such not-yet celebrities as Bette Midler, Ray Sharkey, Armand Assante, and Susan Blakely.

Verona writes this gripping memoir with a conversational style that, although very easy to read, lapses a little too often into digression, occasionally leaving doubt as to the true order of events. Follow his advice or learn from his mistakes; either way, know more about filmmaking than before from The Making of The Lords of Flatbush.

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