One of the things I'm really enjoying about writing Celluloid Hero
, my Steve Rogers Goes to Golden Age Hollywood and Makes Some Movies, is the research and figuring out which real people to bring in and which to make up. I always love research, anyway, especially in the film world and WWII because I have a fuckton of books and articles and whatnot to flip through, but it's particularly fun with this story because I get to bring back all those memories from my teenage years, when I was a raging film buff and think about the different types of actors and films I responded to most.
It's fun getting to slip little nods to this or that into it--I'm not sure if anyone but me is watching Feud: Bette and Joan on FX right now, but it's been a riot seeing all these little elements I've turned up in my own research for my silly little story also turning up in the series at the same time. Like, when I was talking about which actress would punch Steve's v-card with dorinda
and she mentioned the rumor that Joan Crawford had done stag films, I was almost bouncing in my seat at the restaurant--I knew that was gonna have to go in, some way. And then this week that rumor became a major plot point in Feud and I was squealing with delight. In, I think it might have been the first or second ep they had Hedda Hopper referring to Louella Parsons as an incontinent cow, which delighted me no end because that's something that comes up in a future part of the story, something I found when trying to decide which gossip columnist would terrify Steve--I'd never known that about her despite having read what I'd thought at the time were some pretty detailed articles. If you ever wanted to know about the feud between Hopper and Parsons, there's a Vanity Fair article from quite a few years back in their archives that is magnificent.
Harder, though, has been writing like Louella Parsons wrote for the little tidbits in the story. Not only is there a distinctive style to reporting back in those days, but she had a…quirky voice, let's just say, to begin with, and her fame and power to ruin people's lives amped that up quite a few notches. Copying someone's style--especially one so idiosyncratic--is the hardest parts of these chapters, but it's also kinda fun.
And then there are the people whose histories have been so manipulated by their estates or by themselves that you don't have anything to really work with, so you have piece together enough of a picture to write a real person who seems believable yet true to their image. Cary Grant and Randolph Scott's long-term relationship is so whitewashed and edited, and their families and homophobic fans so adamant in their denial that they loved each other for decades, is heartbreaking and infuriating, but it also means you have to create things out of the ether because outside of first person memories that are few and far between and some photo shoots of the two of them together, there's next to nothing to work with. And Grant never gave interviews or did press; very little exists out in the world except a few small recordings of him talking on tape--it's almost all people who seem to have a vested interest in maintaining the fictions about him.
But I admit I kind of love this stuff, at the same time, figuring out all the different interpretations or making small nods to real-life people or bringing in places and people that can represent them. In one chapter I mentioned Gene Tierney being super good friends with Howard Stark--in real life, Howard Hughes (who Stark is modeled after) had tried to seduce her but she rejected him, though they stayed friends for the rest of their lives, so I figured why not have the same situation happen for her and Howard Stark? And it was really fun in this latest chapter to bring in Betty Carver from Agent Carter, the damsel in distress version of Peggy she hated so very much. I figured Betty had to come from somewhere, and why not the comics first before she was used in the radio show Peggy loathes.
I do tend to lose myself down a rabbit hole of reading, though, that right now I can't really afford: I need to work on my Cap Reverse Big Bang fic very badly, and I have less than two weeks to make my Club Vivid vid, which I haven't started on because I've had so much trouble conceptualizing it. Plus there's work, and a friend's birthday coming up I'd like to write a fic for that would be literally only us who know and like these characters together, which somehow makes it feel more important since that's a gift that only I could give to only them.
But it's just…kind of all I want to think about, the various ways poor fish out of water Steve would become so disillusioned with this insane place, and the people he would meet, while he makes those films we see in The First Avenger. I figured there had to be at least two, since the Red Skull says "I am a great fan of your films" plural. That would definitely require time there, or wherever he made them, and it offers such a great, sprawling cast of potential characters or people to use as a model for original characters. Plus you can add in all kinds of wartime hijinks and shenanigans or pathos or what have you--it's wide open.
And as much fun as I'm having, I'll be sad when the story ends. But I hope to write a couple of…I don't know, sequels or timestamps or whatever the kids are calling them these days, to show both Steve and Peggy once he sees her again and her reactions to everything, and Steve and Bucky once Bucky finds out about all the things Steve wrote to him about that he never got to see, and maybe even a modern-day story with Steve and Sam about his big Hollywood lifestyle Sam never knew anything about.