Richard Condon | Critical Essay by Roderick Mann

This literature criticism consists of approximately 3 pages of analysis & critique of Richard Condon.
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Critical Essay by Roderick Mann

SOURCE: "Condon Still Waiting with 'Prizzi' Prequel," in Los Angeles Times, August 16, 1987, p. C37.

In the following essay, Mann relates the difficulties of transforming Condon's novels into screenplays

Because his novel Prizzi's Honor was such a success, both as a book and a movie, Richard Condon finished his follow-up book Prizzi's Family confident that the phone soon would ring with Hollywood offers.

They didn't come.

And now, almost a year since hardcover publication and with the paperback on sale, the book still has not been picked up.

Condon is mystified.

"There've been no overtures at all," he said the other afternoon on a visit to Los Angeles from his Dallas home. "Very surprising."

Prizzi's Family is a prequel to Prizzi's Honor in which Condon fills in the background to the people involved in this organized-crime story. In it Charley Partanna, the hit man played so splendidly by Jack Nicholson in the movie, is just 30.

"And that seems to be the problem," said Condon. "Nicholson is so firmly entrenched in people's consciousness as Charley that they can't see anyone else playing it. And they don't see him passing for 30."

But Condon, whose 21st novel this is, is far from downhearted.

"Remember," he said, "the first book took 14 months to sell. Though that was because the copy I sent [director] John Huston never reached him in Mexico. Finally, I had the book hand-delivered to him and he called me and said yes within two days."

It was Huston who had to convince Condon that Nicholson (who starred in the movie with Kathleen Turner) was right for the role.

"I don't mind admitting I opposed Jack's casting," said Condon. "I felt he looked too German-American to play a Sicilian. I was proved wrong, of course. He did a smashing job.

"Not only did he dazzle me in the movie, but he changed the contours of Charley Partanna when I came to write the second book. I had a different Charley in mind when I wrote Prizzi's Honor. When I wrote Prizzi's Family, the image of Jack kept crowding into my mind."

Prizzi's Honor was the sixth Condon novel to be made into a movie (some of the others: The Manchurian Candidate, A Talent for Loving, Winter Kills). But it was the only one for which he wrote the screenplay.

"I lived out of the country for so many years that always before I was just glad to take the money and forget about the projects," he said. "But when this came up, I'd moved back to Dallas so I was available.

"Then when I was writing the screenplay, I was hit with an aneurysm of the aorta, which put me out of business for nearly six months. It's a fairly big number, that operation. The survival rate is only 3%, they tell me. For months, all I could do was sit in a chair, I felt so weak. Now I have a Dacron aorta."

Condon decided to live abroad after spending years in movie advertising and publicity, a calling that eventually earned him several ulcers. He has lived in Mexico, Spain and France, though the majority of his years overseas were spent in Switzerland (9 years) and Ireland (almost 10).

Condon liked Switzerland and this month, in Travel and Leisure magazine, writes a paean of praise to its railways.

"I don't understand why people always say it's boring," he said. "The Swiss have a good sense of humor, though they are serious about their work. I think people's attitude stems from that sneer of Orson Welles' in The Third Man in which he dismissed them as a race that had produced nothing more interesting than the cuckoo clock."

Ireland, too, he enjoyed. He lived there in a Georgian house, Rossanarra, which was designed by the architect responsible for the White House, James Hoban.

And he says his return to the United States in 1980 was prompted not so much by homesickness as a desire to spend time with his two grandchildren in Dallas.

"I miss Europe," he said. "Next month, Evelyn [his wife of 48 years] and I are going over to look for a flat in London."

Did he find writing easier when he lived abroad?

"Only because I don't speak any foreign languages, which means I don't have to go to any dinners or cocktail parties and can devote more time to writing. To me, two women sitting behind me on the bus chattering away sound interesting because I've no idea what they are saying. The fact that they are probably grumbling about the quality of the meat some butcher has given them doesn't concern me."

In Ireland, of course, he could understand….

"Yes. But there I lived in such an isolated place it didn't make any difference. I never saw anyone."

At his home in a Dallas suburb—"It's all white houses with picket fences, rather like the back lot at Metro must have been when they were making those Andy Hardy movies"—he is at work on his 23rd novel.

The 22nd—Prizzi's Glory, the sequel to Prizzi's Honor and the final book in the trilogy—is already set for publication next year.

"My only contact with the world is looking out of the window at the occasional automobile passing by," the 72-year-old author said. "I know of no indulgence like being an author. When a chap writes a novel he runs the show."

And there's another thing: Since becoming a novelist, Condon has not had one ulcer.

(read more)

This section contains 894 words
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Buy the Critical Essay by Roderick Mann
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