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A Magnificent Failure: Dialectical Cinema and Stardom in Norman Mailer’s Wild 90

Recently, the Library of America published a two-volume collection of Norman Mailer’s writings from the 1960s. An autobiography was never written and therefore absent from the collection. Whereas the infamous author’s work as a filmmaker was and continues to be largely excluded from discussions of his collective work.1 Mailer’s first of three films, Wild 90 (1967), serves as a substitute for a then “in progress” or partial autobiographical adaptation of the author’s life. The film was meant to typify Mailer’s conception of “Dialectical Cinema,” a production process that challenges the traditional relationship between the actors and crew. Simply put, the trajectory of the film’s plot was meant to involve the individuals behind the camera as much as those in front. The enlistment of D.A. Pennebaker as the cinematographer is notable, because the documentarian’s role in the production is barely acknowledged. Some would say for good reason. Wild 90 exists as a series of failures that revolve around the blending of a fictive and improvisational narrative with a documentary aesthetic.

In a previous issue of this publication, Kyle Meikle suggests scholars of adaptation should shift their focus towards audiences by asking, “when do adaptations feel like adaptations, and when do they not?” (“A Theory of Adaptation Audiences”). To address these questions, texts that investigate autobiographical films in both fictional and documentary forms are analyzed in comparison to Wild 90. Mailer’s film expands the discourse of autobiographical filmmaking to include a self-portrait of a celebrity’s troubles with stardom. The result is a confounding portrait of the author turned director/actor that audiences and critics resoundingly rejected.

Prologue: A Cinematic Delusion

Mailer’s relationship to moving-images is inextricably linked to his celebrity. An interest in photography coincided with Mailer drafting his first novel The Naked and the Dead (1948). He studied aerial photographs during WWII before requesting reassignment to an infantry regiment. Mailer then enlisted himself to provide an authoritative account of the war, which resulted in his most successful novel. The book’s release propelled him to prominence in the pantheon of American letters at the age of twenty-five (Mills 86). Fast-forward to a minor stint as a screenwriter in Hollywood, Mailer was burdened with pressure to write his sophomore follow-up, and his growing popularity only exacerbated the problem. He — along with friend, consigliere, professor, and former assistant film director Jean Malaquais —  accepted a contract from Samuel Goldwyn to co-write a screenplay (Mills 118). In some accounts of the partnership, the mogul requested a revision of the final script; in others, he axed the entire project after reading a single preliminary copy. Frustrated by his public disappointments and presumed declining rank in literature, Mailer devised a persona overtly hyperbolic and partially rooted in his personality (Mills 163). Leo Braudy’s tome on the history of celebrity culture asserts that in the last two-hundred years, one’s rising status as a public figure encourages a performance of the self that is at once “unprecedented without being unrecognizable” (393). Overwhelming public attention necessitates the creation of an identity one could feel comfortable portraying (Braudy 28). Mailer’s creation was a defense mechanism, trading vulnerability for bluster. His unease manifested in the number of routine accents he conjured throughout his life. Always in his arsenal was the southern drawl of his friend Calder Willingham, a heavy Texas accent from his experience with soldiers in the military, and the Irish brogue of a character he created in one of his novels. Each removed him one step further from his Jewish upbringing in Brooklyn, NY and one step further from himself, a fretful man constantly worried about his success (Mills 136, 144). Writing to Malaquais before production of Wild 90, Mailer was uncharacteristically frank in describing his depression as a “failure of the will…My ambitions seem far beyond my talents” (Selected Letters of Norman Mailer 231).

The brief tenure with Goldwyn did not preclude Mailer from filmmaking altogether, by experimenting with conventional tropes and retaining commercial plots, he zealously schemed to revive his deflating reputation. Through his relationship with Jonas Mekas, Mailer became a devotee of New York City’s underground film events, which featured both imperfect and mentally stimulating films — in contrast to Hollywood’s “beautiful” ones (Gelmis 163-164, 166). He was exposed to the avant-garde, particularly the films of Andy Warhol. Much has been written of Mailer’s captivation with Warhol’s use of “slowness” and the shared absence of scripts in each director’s productions, but Mailer absolutely resisted the scope of Warhol’s prospective audience (Mills 308). Mekas recalled, “[h]e [Mailer] wanted to make a conventional film, not an avant-garde film. He likes narratives with people, with protagonists. And, of course, he became the center of the films himself” (Manso 442). A newfound enthusiasm for cinema was synonymous with Mailer’s desperation for the spotlight. He spoke of his characters (in subsequent books) as failing to “emerge” and this, coupled with unpopular critical reviews and depreciating commercial success, compelled him to focus on “manipulating them [real people] into his own imaginative situations” (Mills 182). His decision to work without a screenplay, rehearsals, and alternative takes is indicative of Mailer’s devotion to remaining in the “moment.” He believed traditional film actors perpetrated false emotions through written dialogue and rehearsed actions. Instead, Mailer decided acting should evoke a series of spontaneous thoughts transformed into spoken words (Existential Errands 131; Lennon xiv).2 Wild 90 sought to mimic the lived experience of daily life. More to the point, however, the experiential production methods that became Dialectical Cinema were more closely aligned with Mailer’s life.

The dialectic Mailer conceived of is neatly distilled in an interview with the author’s official biographer J. Michael Lennon: “[Mailer] thought the truth comes out of opposition and that when you got into a good debate with someone, the idea wasn’t to win but to encourage each other to ask better questions. And so at dinner parties, cocktail parties, riding in the car with him, there was always a debate” (Brady). Confrontations and counterarguments were at the forefront of Mailer’s authorship. In writing, he reasoned that dialogue should fulfill thematic objectives, but in acting, conversations should adhere to the present, a hyper-awareness that required re-acting to someone’s movements and words (Marcus 92). While this may seem customary to traditions associated with dramaturgy — and to some degree documentary films of the 1960s (Arthur, “No Longer Absolute” 114) — Mailer spurned those as well. He propositioned his actors and importantly, the camera-operator, to negate the fulfillment or foregrounding of any one protagonist’s goals. Furthermore, secondary characters were no longer motivated to aid or dissuade the hero or heroine. The actors and crew would perform in the context of their own narratives just as people do in their own lives (Mailer, Existential Errands 116). What Mailer did not or could not envision was the layperson and the critic alike were not interested in his brand of cinema. Yet, the filmmaking form he conceived of did lend itself to autobiographical adaptation.

A Failure of Form: Dialectical Cinema

Discussions of cinematic authorship tend to shift quickly to questions of auteurism. One of the theory’s main arbiters, François Truffaut, conceived of the “auteur” in response to what he considered the rapid decline of French Cinema. In a 1957 essay, Truffaut outlined his vision of the future of filmmaking: a future that involved almost confessional-like stories that were derived from the author’s life. “The film of tomorrow” would resemble the person who made it, going beyond the autobiographical novel in their visual expression of the personal (Brody). Truffaut exalted the trend toward filmmaking outside of industry studios, encouraging the conscription of a small group of friends to contribute their labor and the borrowing of cameras to record their actions. In effect, the polemic suggested that the traditions of the old were no longer the rules of the game. Formalist experimentation and collaboration could yield a new model of cinematic expression. While I do not argue that Mailer heeded this direct call-to-arms, what I do suggest is that the original notion of auteurism is predicated upon the personal and such predication is also at the heart of autobiographical films.

Mailer partnered with Pennebaker to record a deliberately undeveloped, fictional plot that relied on improvised and ongoing interactions between the cast and production crew. The collaboration foresaw the camera-operator generating dialectical breakthroughs in that the camera’s mobile freedom, without explicit direction, forces actors to respond, counter, or alter their behavior. Thus, there exists a fusion of the actants’ performances:

For now, the cinematic point became the fact that the photographer could never know precisely what was coming ­— he was obliged to anticipate and he could be wrong: a story began to be told of the uncertain investigation of the eye onto each scene before us. It expanded one’s notion of cinematic possibilities, and it intensified one’s awareness of the moment. (Mailer, Existential Errands 149)

As a Drew Associate, Pennebaker developed a preoccupation with recording the lives of celebrities, musicians, and policymakers in what became the so-called “portrait documentaries” of the 1960s.3 His burgeoning reputation rested upon the camera invading the private spheres of public figures performing, ostensibly creating opportunities to capture their actions with less artifice than in fictional films. This basic premise was the foundation of Wild 90. Pennebaker’s employment was part of Mailer’s appropriation of then contemporary documentary techniques (“mobile filmmaking”) that he deemed suitable in arresting an authentic representation of life within a fictional narrative (Existential Errands 168). Pennebaker’s portable camera could record Mailer’s off-screen friends adopting character roles that derived from the after-parties of a stage production.

The Deer Park (1955) — Mailer’s third novel — was adapted into a theater play during the summer of 1966, and under Mailer’s guidance, the director and actors improvised prolifically (Mills 304, 307). After the show’s nightly finale, Mailer rallied with Mickey Knox, a blacklisted writer and actor, as well as Bernard “Buzz” Farbar, a former boxer then magazine editor. Over many drinks they imitated quasi-Mafiosi characters with Mailer serving as the presumptive leader (“Prince”) of his two subordinates “20 Years” (Knox) and “Cameo” (Farbar). The decision to record the skit demanded an apposite partner capable of summoning the raucousness outside of the barroom. Pointing to the fact that Mailer attended Harvard University with Richard Leacock — friend and fellow Drew Associate — Pennebaker claimed he was persuaded to witness the trio’s banter on numerous occasions (Manso 440; Mills 309). Mailer suggested that he hired Pennebaker because of his technical wizardry (synchronized sound) and free-flowing camerawork (Existential Errands 146). Nevertheless, for four nights in March 1967, Pennebaker’s loft housed the drunken reprisal of the “Mafia Boys,” a production with almost no plot beyond the impelling and performative relationship between the actors and crew.

Wild 90 operates under a familiar aesthetic and premise. Three criminals are trapped and await their inevitable death at a dingy loft decorated with bottles strewn across floors and guns within reach. Black and white imagery serves to anachronistically emulate Warner Bro’s gangster films of the 1930s. The men’s routines ape behavior Mailer deemed authentic to the characters’ experience: playing cards, anxiety-ridden pacing, engaging in obscenity-driven conversation, and relaying personal histories. A series of nocturnal vignettes linked by intertitles distinguish days that visitors arrive, including wives, friends, and policemen. These vignettes serve to structure the film, but also to foreground the adaptation of Mailer’s internal struggles and intimate relationships.

The viability of autobiographical filmmaking is a topic of contention. Elizabeth Bruss argues that the division of roles is a fundamental flaw in the process of adaptation. Filmmaking fails to comply with the autobiographical mode based on the necessary collaboration between the performers and production crew. The subject of the autobiographical film cannot also be the filmmaker, simply because the camera is not the “author’s pen” writing the words of the speaking subject (297, 301). In comparison to literature, Bruss outlines several additional flaws (values) with filmmaking that prevent the fictional portrayal of the self from remaining autobiographical (298). Cinema fails to clarify the “truth-value” to its audience by disrupting the viewer’s ability to determine the “sincerity” of the events or discussions on screen (299-300, 303). Bruss assumes that such adjudication is not just frequent but inevitable. A far more common occurrence, however, would be the willing suspension of disbelief or a genuine lack of care when it comes to assessing the truth-value of autobiographical texts. Despite this, Bruss assumes further disruption occurs when the “act-value” or the delegation of roles muddles the fictional portrayal of an individual’s life, especially when a separate actor portrays the autobiographical self. The act-value thwarts the viewer’s confidence in the belief that the images stem from the lived self rather than the portrayal of that life by another. Each flaw compounds and contributes to the “autobiographical paradox” relative to the speaking subject that Bruss refers to as the “identity-value.” The question of the “I” remains unresolved relative to the uncertainty over whether the source of the film’s direction are those working behind the camera or acting in front (304-305). In Wild 90, this division is resolved by Mailer directing and playing himself, thereby performing his chosen character: a convergence of personhood and personage. 

Concerns regarding the divided “I” would also appear reconciled in autobiographical documentaries in which the self appears in front of the camera while remaining its sole operator. According to Tony Dowmunt, filmmakers Ross McElwee and Agnes Varda have attended to this overt reflexivity in the cinematic ponderings of their social worlds (266-267, 273). The viewer cannot help but watch and listen to the personal confessions of the speaking subject. Wild 90 represents a precedent to such films that feature directors filtering their subjective realities through the camera’s lens (269). The pivotal difference would be the inclusion of a separate camera-operator in the former. However, Pennebaker recognized that Wild 90 privileges Mailer’s dialogue and actions: “He [Mailer] dominates the camera, not letting it go anywhere else. He needs to control the audience. He has the idea that he can look at a camera and take it away from the person who’s running it, as if he’s got the control and is photographing himself” (qtd. in Manso 441). Mailer sutures the division between actor and operator by figuratively seizing control of the camera as he is being filmed. Audiences are then confronted with the anxieties of both the film’s director and main protagonist.

In one of Wild 90’s vignettes, the camera reveals 20 Years/Knox narrating a story that implies the trust between the trio is deteriorating. Mailer/Prince and Cameo/Farbar turn their heads, mimicking a trade of glances without the shot/reverse-shot to magnify the exchange. 20 Years/Knox ends the fable on a metaphorical note, suggesting that it may not be your enemy that leaves you in the lurch. Mailer/Prince then pushes a contorted coat hanger in front of Cameo/Farbar’s face, underlining the juxtaposition of friend and foe (see Figure 1). The motif is revisited later in the film when Mailer/Prince interrogates both men regarding their loyalty. The question originates from a visit to the loft by a police officer who attempts to entice Mailer/Prince with the prospect of freedom by informing on his confidants. Mailer/Prince responds, “I think [you’re] a lucky fellow if you know a good friend…to decide whose good and who is not such a good friend,” a poignant comment based on a genuine and looming schism within the group. Farbar would be investigated by the Drug Enforcement Agency and would serve prison time for drug-related offenses. At one point before his incarceration, he was tasked with recording conversations with Mailer to implicate the author in illegal activities. Mailer was never charged and Farbar would consistently defend his friend from any supposed criminal misgivings (Ephron et al.). The tension surrounding Mailer’s personal relationships includes his marriage on- and off-screen as well.

A Magnificent Failure: Dialectical Cinema and Stardom in Norman Mailer’s Wild 90,

Glen Wood 
, Literature Film Quarterly
Figure 1: Mailer/Prince provoking Cameo/Farbar as the trio’s friendship is in question.

Towards the end of the film, the three men are visited by their on-screen wives and girlfriends. Mailer/Prince’s wife, “Margie” (Beverly Benton), exclaims that her husband enjoys being absent from her and cooped up with his friends. Positioned behind her, Pennebaker pans to reveal Mailer kicking bottles and shattering glass in a relatively silent room. Margie/Beverly screams back, “Break it. Break some bottles,” taunting his childlike aggression. Her husband circles to face her, asking, “You know what I’m going to do?” Margie/Beverly stops and coolly delivers, “Break out!? ‘Cause you can’t. You are in here for life.” Mailer/Prince lunges to embrace her as Pennebaker tracks closer. Margie/Beverly repeats, “You try, you try, you can’t break out of nothing, over and over, you are in here for life.” Mailer/Prince pushes his head into hers, playfully knocking her jaw. She punches his. Margie/Beverly then sarcastically and wistfully moans, “Aww, you’re so jealous. That’s why I love you. Jealous….jealous….jealous.” The scene echoes another in which Mailer/Prince confesses to the camera that his marriage is strained, only to inquire about his wife’s infidelity (see Figure 2). Such a question is as important and relevant to the diegesis as it is to their off-screen relationship; the couple would separate nearly a year later over accusations of adultery from both parties. The film, like the loft itself, represents both a refuge from Mailer’s anxieties and the site of their manifestation.

A Magnificent Failure: Dialectical Cinema and Stardom in Norman Mailer’s Wild 90,

Glen Wood 
, Literature Film Quarterly
Figure 2: The troubled marriage is depicted through physical altercations and verbal jousts.

Wild 90 presents the fragmented self (Mailer as celebrity, his personhood, and Prince) as one figure. This is true for Mailer as well as his fellow characters. The actors refer to their partners by their real names in six separate instances. Such errors are never resolved or discussed in the film. The interchanges exist as moments of disruption threatening to nullify the film’s plot. One particular moment of lucidity involves a visitor named “Kid Cha Cha”— played sheepishly by professional boxer José Torres. Kid Cha Cha/Torres enters the loft, accompanied by his manager, “Boots,” with the camera cutting to Mailer/Prince introducing 20 Years as Mickey (the actor’s given name). Almost immediately, Boots mentions that Kid Cha Cha/Torres just lost a fight to Dick Tiger of Nigeria — a match that had concluded outside of the narrative a mere three to four months prior. After a brief discussion, the camera cuts to a long-shot of the loft. All the men are sitting, save one. In the mirror, sizing himself up, Mailer/Prince turns to interrogate the boxer, asking if Kid Cha Cha/Torres has heard of him (see Figure 3). Mailer/Prince then shouts, “You’ve heard about me, you don’t know me.” The scene returns the viewer to the question of the identity-value as expressed by Bruss: “[T]he spectator in film is always out of frame, creating an impassible barrier between the person seeing and the person seen” (307). Mailer’s pronouncement addresses himself, his fellow actors, and the audience, merging the separate worlds through the overt reflexivity that Dowmunt mentions is a staple of autobiographical documentaries.

A Magnificent Failure: Dialectical Cinema and Stardom in Norman Mailer’s Wild 90,

Glen Wood 
, Literature Film Quarterly
Figure 3: Mailer/Prince turns away from the group to face himself.

The blurring of the autobiographical fictional film and the autobiographical documentary is encapsulated in the final scene. Mailer’s power to retain control over the film’s direction is made explicit in his direct address to the camera. Mailer/Prince instructs Pennebaker to train the camera’s focus on him as he explains the Central Intelligence Agency is to be thanked for the film’s production. Continuing, he comments on America’s ills and then speaks to his character’s visiting wife and friends: “Have they ever heard of the poet Norman Mailer?” It is a spectacle of self-referentiality that suspends the separation of roles. Mailer as Prince is a performance of his fugue state, the loss of distinction between Mailer the self, the celebrity, and the character. Thus, Wild 90 was not an egalitarian production of Dialectical Cinema, but rather a puzzling self-portrait of Norman Mailer, the person and public figure. 

A Failure of Celebrity

By most critical accounts and commercial standards, Wild 90 was a disaster. It appeared in less than a handful of New York theaters for barely two weeks. Publicity for the event was stymied by Mailer allocating only five thousand dollars of his own money to market the film with a single poster showcasing the best, worst reviews (Selected Letters of Norman Mailer 382). One review not included in the promotional campaign was Pauline Kael’s in The New Yorker: “‘Wild 90’” is the worst movie that I’ve stayed to see all the way through” (90). Her summary gifted five pages of utter disbelief that the film was ever made. The worst of Kael’s ire is found when she claims Mailer turned Pennebaker into a caricature of his former self, a “hack” that relied on his instrumental style to buttress a filmmaking experiment with little to no substance — ironically, she states if Wild 90 was more like Warhol’s films, the experiment would have been more effective at capturing life unmediated (92). Although Kael distrusted Wild 90’s intentions, she believed Mailer’s “celebrity-party-game movie” had a chance to be a commercial success, if only it was advertised as such and the public interpreted it as a cinematic musing on stardom (94-95). Renata Adler’s review in the New York Times is softer in tone but nonetheless just as disparaging in her relative boredom with the film’s formal style. She maintains that it is simply another iteration of Mailer pushing himself to the fore of his work, assuming “impulse, spontaneity, a willingness to risk personal embarrassment, above all, a constant unrestricted play of energy will sooner or later yield a breakthrough into something fresh” (“The Screen: Norman Mailer’s Mailer”). Curiously, Mailer leaned into the negative coverage citing it as another example of his pioneering form, a delusion beleaguered by self-grandeur. Wild 90 proved difficult to comprehend even for those who participated in its production.

According to Mailer’s classification, his film rests somewhere on the spectrum between a commercial film and a documentary, where the monotony of daily life meets the fantasy of cinema (Whiting). In two separate interviews, Pennebaker’s assessment of the film’s taxonomy ranged from one that blurred documentary and fiction to recognizing it strictly as a work of the latter (Levin 241; Stubbs 146). Moreover, audiences’ reactions to Wild 90 were clouded on all fronts; this was not Norman Mailer exposed by Pennebaker’s camera, it was a film that obstructed understanding of the celebrity’s personal life and the character’s portrayal.  

The “star vehicle” is a filmmaking mode that seeks to strengthen the relationship between celebrities and audiences. While Mailer might not have been considered a Hollywood star, he certainly was a celebrity. Accordingly, Richard Dyer’s analysis of celebrity culture helps to explain Mailer’s performative negotiation between the self and his persona. A typical vehicle film is tailored to an actor’s previous roles, a particular setting, or a reiteration of (constructed) personality tropes. Put simply, the actor is the film. The narrative is meant to further develop a star’s image and serve as a predictor of a film’s box office earnings, often based on an adherence to previously established conventions (similar to genres). When these conventions are defied, Dyer contends, it not only points to a film’s potential failure but also reinforces the presumption of the star vehicle as a marker of potential revenue (Stars 70-71). Wild 90 ultimately defied filmmaking conventions through the practice of Dialectical Cinema and resisted audiences’ expectations to cohere or add to Mailer’s existing celebrity.

Mailer would argue that Wild 90 is wholly distinct in its disavowal of “lead” actors or stars (Existential Errands 104, 116). Yet, it was clear to audiences, critics, and Pennebaker that such an intention was specious at best. Kael’s review specifically targets the act of watching Mailer on-screen as the film’s overwhelming curiosity (90). One can posit Wild 90’s audiences yearned for a greater understanding of the once celebrated author that was Norman Mailer. More so, when a celebrity chooses a genre such as documentary film and a leading practitioner of it in Pennebaker, the expectation is an unmitigated presentation of a star. Any potential interest in Wild 90 centered on Mailer genuflecting to the audience through a cinematic form associated with providing behind-the-scenes views of a celebrity that yields more understanding of the individual, not less.4 In short, Mailer’s involvement was the integral component of the film’s production, its provisional selling point, and the principal source of its abysmal reception.

A Failure of Solipsism

Wild 90’s commercial failure can be linked to both celebrity and form. Critics claimed the author’s dual roles as director and actor interfered with the project’s execution. Years later, Mailer would blame a number of technical flaws on the production’s miniscule budget.5 Each of these inadequacies, while justified, neglects the importance of the film’s legacy. Audiences were confounded by the genre-bending portrait of Norman Mailer that embodied his personal anxieties and professional struggles. These concerns emerged after the author’s early literary success. Mailer described his relationship to the public as a performance: “Nobody treats me as if I’m real… Everyone wanted me for my celebrity” (qtd. in Mills 106). Wild 90 magnified the volatile imbalance between the real and the contrived that is at the core of Mailer’s troubles with stardom. When asked about Mailer’s filmmaking career, Jonas Mekas remarked, “Part of the problem was that since he was already a well-known, successful writer, people were expecting something on a comparable level, but the style Norman chose for his films — which was the only approach he could have chosen — was too private” (Manso 443). Wild 90 was a failure due to solipsism, and as such, establishes the cinematic work as a unique interpretation of autobiographical adaptation. The film’s blending of fiction and documentary captured Mailer’s own inability to discern his filmmaking from his private life. After deliberating the director’s felony indictment for drunkenly stabbing his second wife, Magistrate Reuben Levy read the verdict: “Your recent history indicates that you cannot distinguish fiction from reality” (Mills 225). Indeed, Mailer could not, and Pennebaker was there to record.


1  The notable exceptions: The Cinema of Norman Mailer: Film is Like Death, edited by Justin Bozung and Robert Singer’s “Performing Norman/Norman Performing: Wild 90 as Disruptive Narrative.”

2  Such thinking is in contrast to his writing style. Before beginning his novels, Mailer constructed complete character histories chronicled on index cards, thereby enabling him to work through an entire book before it was actually written (Mills 82).

3  Paul Arthur describes portrait documentaries of the 1960s as a then nascent (minor) genre that pierced the veneer of celebrity by presenting a “microdrama of personal identity” (“No Longer Absolute” 97). He claims filmmakers and audiences embraced the form as a way to commercialize and facilitate a reflexive connection between not only the subject and the camera, but the public as well (“No Longer Absolute” 106).

4  The expression of the division between the self and the celebrity is examined in recent scholarly work as being both valuable and detrimental to a film’s form and reception. Cinema Journal’s collection on David Bowie’s cinematic oeuvre included one author’s argument that Bowie’s consistent “reinvention and renegotiation” of his public image in cameo roles did not always serve to progress a fictional narrative as much as stifle it (Redmond 152). Alternatively, Katherine Fusco observes two instances where a celebrity’s status, in relation to their engagement with other art forms, bolsters their current production by providing the director and the film with “transmedia authenticity” (“The Actress Experience” 12). 

5  Admittedly, Mailer surmised that the film’s poor audio recording probably resulted from the intoxicated microphone operator. This was made worse by the transfer from a magnetic to optical soundtrack. Mailer’s artful description of the final result was that it sounded “as if everybody was talking through a jock strap” (Lennon x).

Works Cited

Adler, Renata. “The Screen: Norman Mailer’s Mailer: ‘Wild 90,’ Another Ad for Writer, Bows.” New York Times, 8 Jan. 1968, https://www.nytimes.com/1968/01/08/archives/the-screen-norman-mailers-mailer-wild-90-another-ad-for-writer-bows.html. Accessed 8 Aug. 2016.

Arthur, Paul. “No Longer Absolute: Portraiture in American Avant-Garde and Documentary Films of the Sixties.” Rites of Realism, edited by Ivone Margulies, Duke UP, 2003, pp. 93-118.

Brady, Amy. “Why Norman Mailer Still Matters in 2018.” Village Voice, 22 Mar. 2018, https://www.villagevoice.com/2018/03/22/why-norman-mailer-still-matters-in-2018/. Accessed 23 Mar. 2018.  

Braudy, Leo. The Frenzy of Renown: Fame and Its History. Vintage Books, 1997.

Brody, Richard. “The Truffaut Essays that Clear Up Misguided Notions of Auteurism.” New Yorker, June 7, 2019, https://www.newyorker.com/culture/the-front-row/the-truffaut-essays-that-clear-up-misguided-notions-of-auteurism. Accessed 15 July 2019.

Bruss, Elizabeth. “Eye for I: Making and Unmaking in Autobiography in Film.” Autobiography: Essays Theoretical and Critical, edited by James Olney. Princeton UP, 1980, pp. 296-320.

Dowmunt, Tony. “Autobiographical Documentary – the ‘Seer and the Seen’.” Studies in Documentary Film, vol. 7, no. 3, 2013, pp. 263-277.

Dyer, Richard. Stars. British Film Institute, 1982.

Ephron, Nora, et al. “The Farbar Case.” New York Review of Books, 16 Jul. 1987, http://www.nybooks.com/articles/1987/07/16/the-farbar-case/. Accessed 10 Aug. 2016.

Fusco, Katherine. “The Actress Experience: Cruel Knowing and the Death of the Picture Personality in Black Swan and The Girlfriend Experience.” Camera Obscura, vol. 28, no. 1, 2013, pp. 1-36.

Gelmis, Joseph. “Norman Mailer.” Conversations with Norman Mailer, edited by J. Michael Lennon, UP of Mississippi, 1988, pp. 155-75.

Kael, Pauline. “Celebrities Make Spectacles of Themselves.” New Yorker, 20 Jan. 1968, pp. 90-5, https://www.newyorker.com/magazine/1968/01/20/celebrities-make-spectacles-of-themselves. Accessed 10 Aug. 2016.

Lennon, J. Michael. “Introduction.” Conversations with Norman Mailer, edited by J. Michael Lennon, UP of Mississippi, 1988, pp. ix-xvi.

Levin, G. Roy. Documentary Explorations: 15 Interviews with Film-Makers. Anchor Press, 1971.

Mailer, Norman. Existential Errands. Little, Brown and Company, 1963.

———. Selected Letters of Norman Mailer, edited by J. Michael Lennon, Random House, 2014.

Manso, Peter. Mailer: His Life and Times. Simon and Schuster, 1985.

Marcus, Steven. “Norman Mailer: An Interview.” Conversations with Norman Mailer, edited by J. Michael Lennon, UP of Mississippi, 1988, pp. 77-99.

Meikle, Kyle. “A Theory of Adaptation Audiences.” Literature/Film Quarterly, vol. 45, no. 4, Fall 2017, https://lfq.salisbury.edu/_issues/45_4/a_theory_of_adaptation_audiences.html.

Mills, Hilary. Mailer: A Biography. Empire Books, 1982. 

Redmond, Sean. “David Bowie: In Cameo.” Cinema Journal, vol. 57, no. 3, 2018, pp. 150-57.

Singer, Robert. “Performing Norman /Norman Performing: Wild 90 as Disruptive Narrative”. The Mailer Review, vol. 10, no. 1, 2016, p. 156+. Gale Literature Resource Center, link.gale.com/apps/doc/A514657689/LitRC?u=yorku_main&sid=bookmark-LitRC&xid=d56e4e81. Accessed 15 June 2020.

Stubbs, Lizz. “D.A. Pennebaker and Chris Hegedus: Engineering Nonfiction Cinema.” D.A. Pennebaker Interviews, edited by Keith Beattie and Trent Griffiths, UP of Mississippi, 2015, pp. 125-48.

The Cinema of Norman Mailer: Film is Like Death, edited by Justin Bozung, Bloomsbury, Academic, 2019.

Whiting, John. “Interview with Norman Mailer.” Thank You One and All!, 17 Oct. 1970,             http://www.thankyouoneandall.co.uk/letters/mailer_interview_transcript.htm. Accessed 10 July 2016. 

Wild 90. Directed by Norman Mailer, performances by Norman Mailer, Buzz Farbar, and Mickey Knox, Supreme Mix Productions, 1967.