Monday, August 22, 2022

Jerome Charyn's "Big Red"

“One of the most important writers in American literature” (Michael Chabon), Jerome Charyn is the award-winning author of more than fifty works, including The Secret Life of Emily Dickinson. A renowned scholar of twentieth-century Hollywood, he lives in Manhattan.

Here Charyn dreamcasts an adaptation of his latest novel, Big Red: A Novel Starring Rita Hayworth and Orson Welles:
I originally was going to write a novel about Orson Welles. After reading 125 biographies of him I discovered that everything he said was either a total lie, a partial lie or totally irrelevant to the subject; therefore I couldn’t really conceive of writing a novel in his voice. The vanity would have been overwhelming! There wouldn’t have been any space for me.

But the more I read about Rita, the more involved I became with her. She had been violated by her own father, and this would haunt her entire life.

But she was utterly inarticulate, except for her panther-like movements, and so I had to find a narrator who would tell their story. I chose a young lesbian, Rusty Redburn, who worked in Columbia Pictures publicity department. And through the machinations of Columbia president Harry Cohn, she was hired as Rita’s secretary (and Cohn’s spy.) But she loved Rita and admired Orson and never once betrayed them.

We would need to find a young actress to play Rusty, perhaps someone who’s never been in films before. If we want to leap into the past, I would choose a young Jean Arthur; I think she would have been perfect. Of course in my movie, Orson would play himself and we’d have to launch a nationwide search to find the new Rita: a warm, vibrant tigress.
Learn more about the book and author at Jerome Charyn's website.

--Marshal Zeringue