Q&A with David Lewis on Red Cameras Roll
1 Why did you write the musical?
I have long admired the guts it must have taken Bette Davis to make this rather daring film, for at the time, Hollywood actors risked being blacklisted for even the most tenuous connections to the communist party and cause. And then, how Davis restrained herself in the role of the librarian – when her bent for histrionics could easily have tipped her into righteous indignation. She was widely praised for this quality by even the film’s most outspoken critics.
2 How does your musical in any way follow Storm Center’s plot?
The film turns on a local librarian in a small town refusing to remove from her shelves a book on communism. The tension is confined to her meetings with city council members over the issue. Red Cameras Roll dramatizes a mounting resistance by locals to the film --- once its real theme leaks out to the public. And it introduces a secondary character named Jenny, an avid fan of the star. The two grow closer as a protest starts to turn ugly.
3 What about the movie moved you the most?
The sympathetic character of Davis, who totally involves herself in the role.
4 What kind of reviews did Storm Center receive?
Virtually all negative. Perhaps the McCarthy-era in which it was made gave critics pause to endorse a film implicitly critical of the senator’s politics. On the other side of the pond, however, the movie won of praise from a fair number of London reviewers. And the French awarded it high honors for its courage in confronting a vital issue of the times – the Red Scare. In recent years, it has earned the respect of a growing number of movie buffs.
5. Are you a Bette Davis fan?
I am a great fan of her compelling showmanship -- the way she can both be in a part while at the same time intensifying her theatrical presence. Melodramatic? Sometimes, women really do get as angry as did David in in some of her gutsier roles. I can watch her over and over again in her smart, articulate interviews with Dick Caveat. She seems to have been the most riveting personality ever to make it in Hollywood.
6.Was Bette Davis ever in a musical?
She was, in a 1952 revue, Two’s Company, in which she whooped it up. The score by Vernon Duke and Ogden Nash was only serviceable. After slugging it out through 90 shows, Davis got sick and walked, and so did the box office.
7 How does your musical relate to today?
Its theme may be particularly relevant to the current culture wars over book burning, free speech and the second amendment.
8 How would you describe Max Dancer’s score
It’s highly melodic, steeped in basic Broadway.
9 Can you see the show making it to Broadway?
Can I see the moon in the sky? All of us who write musicals dream of making the ultimate stage. But no matter the size or place of a production, the raw living nature of theatre is what intrigues and excites me the most.
10. Anything else?
Buy the book and let the cameras roll for you!