Books: Touring Cloud-Cuckoo-Land

ADVENTURES IN THE SCREEN TRADE by William Goldman; Warner Books 418 pages; $17.50

In the mid-1920s, Ben Hecht received a telegram from Herman Mankiewicz, a friend and fellow writer who had made a pioneering trek from New York to Hollywood. Hecht was firmly advised to do likewise: "Millions are to be grabbed out here and your only competition is idiots. Don't let this get around."

It got around. Before long, writers of every stripe, from Dorothy Parker to Clifford Odets, had discovered this fantastic new way to waste their gifts and souls. That, at...

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