Grand Hotel’

In response to:

Tell, Don't Show from the November 22, 1990 issue

To the Editors:

Diane Johnson writes [NYR, November 22, 1990] of an unproduced screenplay in her drawer that she had written “of Grand Hotel, done with Mike Nichols, envisaging Dolly Parton in the Garbo role.” I had not previously known of Ms. Johnson and Mr. Nichols’s screenplay, but they are not alone in having worked on that project. In the late 1970s, my wife Joan Didion and I were guests at a dinner party in Beverly Hills. Around the table there were three directors (Sydney Pollack, Alan Pakula, and Norman Jewison), two lyricists (Alan and Marilyn Bergman), one producer (David Picker), and my wife and myself, all of whom, it turned out, had worked at one time or another on separate and distinct versions of Grand Hotel screenplays. I don’t know about the others, but our Grand Hotel was meant to be the MGM Grand in Las Vegas, as I suspect, by the casting of Dolly Parton, was the Johnson-Nichols version. Perhaps their project foundered, as did ours, by our desire to place a sequence in the breast reconstruction clinic (open 24 hours) in the basement arcade of the Vegas Grand. The clinic, it should be said, took all major credit cards.

John Gregory Dunne
New York City

Diane Johnson replies:

At the time I was writing my piece in France I very much wish I had known where John Dunne was. I would have liked to ask him what he had in his drawer. As he guessed, our Grand Hotel was also to be set in Las Vegas, and the Mehring character was a sort of Lee Iacocca. We assume that our project was sabotaged by Detroit.