The Movies, Mr. Griffith and HBO

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The big film news of the day doesn’t have much to do with film at all. It’s that David Chase, whose The Sopranos became a kind of Mahābhārata of the Mob, is headed back to HBO and making a miniseries about the days when Hollywood wasn’t much more than an orange grove.

Ribbon of Dreams will unspool around the friendship between a cowboy and a mechanical engineer who both go to work for D.W. Griffith. They graduate to becoming producers of their own, and are soon negotiating the nascent business of the movies–as well as real life characters like John Ford, John Wayne, Raoul Walsh, Bette Davis and Billy Wilder. An unconfirmed and possibly imaginary report implied one episode would see the two guys barely surviving a drinking bout with John Barrymore, Errol Flynn and W.C. Fields.

Nevertheless, as the title comes from an Orson Welles quotation, don’t be surprised if the Kinosha Kid himself doesn’t appear somewhere around the final episode to utter a few choice words before Journey’s “Don’t Start Believing” kicks in. He’ll probably be old, drunk and doing Transformers voice-overs by that point, as the multi-part series is expected to take in two generations of filmmakers, wheelers and dealers. No word on how many episodes of Ribbon there will be, but Chase is writing all of them and directing the initial installments.

In interviews given around the time of The Sopranos final episode, Chase made no bones about his frustrations with TV and his dreams of being a filmmaker. Scholars have also noted the similarity between gangsters and Hollywood types, who both deal in things like ten-percenteries and horse heads in the bed.

The announcement was followed by much puffery from the people involved which we’ll spare you here. TCM threw their hat onto the ground and stepped on it in anger, as their own announcement that a 10-part documentary Moguls and Movie Stars: A History of Hollywood would kick off in 2010 was met with cries, “Hey, do you mind? I’m flattering David Chase!”

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