|Director, playwright and screenwriter Arthur Laurents--author of Gypsy, West Side Story, Anastasia, The Turning Point, and other plays and films--takes us into his life, and into the dazzling world in which he worked, among the artists, directors, actors and personalities who came of age in the theatre and in Hollywood after the Second World War.
He takes us into his boyhood in Flatbush and his days at Cornell, where he learned to write plays, learned he was homosexual, learned what his politics would be as he organized support for the Spanish Civil War and protests against campus witch hunts (these undergraduate years became the basis for The Way We Were). He takes us into his days in the Army as a sergeant (in Astoria, Queens), writing training films with Irwin Shaw, William Saroyan, John Cheever, sunbathing with Bill Holden and competing to see which of them could outdrink the other.
Laurents describes a wartime New York City that was vibrant, eager and sexually alive, where he wrote for radio (The Man Behind the Gun; Lux Radio Theater). He confesses his methods for devising plots: make a list of twists and turns from successful movies, number them from one to fifteen, choose at random and link them up. He describes the writing of his first successful play, Home of the Brave, about anti-Semitism (later made into a movie about racism by Stanley Kramer), and writes about getting on with pals--among them Jerome Robbins (an imp who loved to play parlour games, the sillier the better; later he testified before the House Committee of Un-American Activities and named names), Leonard Bernstein and Nora Kaye, later Laurent's lover and beloved friend, then a new star in Antony Tudor's Ballet Theatre.
In and out of bed with men as well as women, in and out of success with his work, Laurents describes his Freudian analysis with Theodore Reik, who insisted he could "cure" Laurents of his homosexuality, and cure him of what Reik diagnosed as Laurents's "selfishness" by being paid "ten percent of vot you make." Laurents gave; Reik took.