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A wild comedy in the spirit of the classic films of Danny Kaye (The Secret Life of Walter Mitty, Wonder Man) and Bob Hope (My Favorite Brunette, The Ghost Breakers), Paperback Writer is the story of a pulp fiction writer whose characters are just a little too real to him, particularly Nikki Sapphire, the Distaff Dick, a '40s-era hard boiled detective whose gender was changed by his publisher.

Paperback Writer


I love the Bob Hope and Danny Kaye movies of the ‘40s. I was fortunate to have been born in a generation that could watch those films on TV in the afternoons and late at night. In Los Angeles, my home town, there were The Late Show, The Early Show, The Million Dollar Movie, and the at the top of the heap, The Fabulous 52, so called because each Saturday night at 11:15 on KNXT2 a brand new old movie made its American television premier.

I didn’t know it, but I was receiving an education in America’s true great art form, the movies. I saw Wuthering Heights, Jane Eyre, She Wore a Yellow Ribbon, Citizen Kane, Rebecca, From Here to Eternity, Fort Apache, Member of the Wedding, Last of the Mohicans, The Sweet Smell of Success, The Major and the Minor, I Was a Male War Bride, Bringing Up Baby, Gunga Din, The Best Years of Our Lives, Sergeant York, Beau Geste, Drums Along the Mohawk, Young Mr. Lincoln, The Postman Always Rings Twice, Lifeboat, Back to Bataan, Thirty Seconds Over Tokyo, Written on the Wind, Judgment at Nuremberg, Wake Island, An American Guerilla in the Philippines, Zorro, High Noon, Casablanca, The Big Sleep, The Maltese Falcon, and ten times ten times more movies. I could go on.

I fell in love with America, American movies, and life watching those films, and remembering them now, decades later, brings warmth to my heart and a smile to my lips.

I love none more than Bob Hope’s solo pictures, and Danny Kaye’s, too. They played lovable Everymen, not the smartest heroes, it’s true, or the toughest, or the best looking, but possessing a character and center of goodness that allowed them to win the girl. The girls in these movies never cared for those other things — they cared about the inner man because, after all, if they only cared about the outer man, the movie was over.

Hope’s best in this genre are probably My Favorite Brunette, The Ghost Breakers, The Cat and the Canary, My Favorite Blonde, and of course his only Goldwyn picture, The Princess and the Pirate.

Danny Kaye’s Goldwyn pictures, which were better than his later Paramount efforts, included The Secret Life of Walter Mitty, The Kid from Brooklyn (look close and you’ll see my teenage mother-in-law-to-be in the crowd scenes), and Wonder Man.

I suppose it was inevitable that I would follow my heart into the movies, even when my head wanted to go elsewhere. My third spec screenplay was what became Paperback Writer. In it, hapless schmo Hack Wilson is slapped into even greater mental instability by a bomb, fights valiantly to keep his fictional character Nikki Sapphire, the Distaff Dick (made ‘distaff’ against his wishes by his publisher) from taking over, in the meantime solving the mystery and winning the girl. Bob Hope in his prime could have been Hack; Danny Kaye, yes, he as well; and the early Woody Allen, the last practitioner of the unlikely hero.

Paperback Writer has been on the shelf for decades. It was optioned several times but never grabbed the brass ring. Here, a digital ring provided by the new publishing paradigm of the internet. I hope you enjoy the adventures of Hack and Kate as much as I did preparing their script for publication.

Gosh, it was like watching The Fabulous 52 all over again.

— Richard Taylor

Cambria, California

July 2010


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