an underrated gem


Sometime in the mid 1980s, my partner Mike and I wrote a well-crafted comedy for Columbia about a juror who falls in love with a defendant. But Hollywood doesn’t want well-crafted comedies from arrogant twenty-four year-olds. And Mike got into a relationship with the development executive, then broke up with her just before we turned in the script. It landed back in our laps.

Through a sequence of events I’m hoping Mike will fill us in on (which is the only reason I’m not bashing him more for the madness with the development executive, I’m just saying I don’t think it helped us), the script captured the interest of Peter Bogdanovich, who gave it to Rob Lowe. It was hurriedly translated into Italian for Dino DeLaurentiis, and he agreed to finance the film.

It was a highpoint of my career. And it began a series of increasingly macabre meetings at Bogdanovich’s imposing home in Bel Air, featuring his children’s songs, his indistinguishable impressions of John Ford and James Stewart and Alfred Hitchcock, and the butchering of our script. When Mike and I would complain to friends that he was crazy, the dream had gone bad, they would nod knowingly–the typical writer’s lament–but this was not a crazy director, it was a crazed man. Still in a cloud of grief and debt and God knows what after the death of Dorothy Stratten, he badgered us to write in a part for her fifteen year old sister Louise, while she got cosmetic surgery to look more like Dorothy. We were happily fired.

The script was completely rewritten, and Bogdanovich set out to capture the glory of What’s Up, Doc?, a movie I thought was terrible when it first came out. He put a pair of glasses on Rob Lowe and coached him to say his lines like Ryan O’Neal, who sounded suspiciously like John Ford. An aging Colleen Camp was cast as the object of Rob Lowe’s desire. It was a grave error. And why you only see her legs in the ad.

Mike and I received sole credit, but immediately put pseudonyms on the project. The movie was a new kind of bad. As if they’d forgotten that the draft in Italian was for fundraising purposes, translated it back into English and shot it word for word.

It received scathing reviews, bombed at the box office and disappeared onto the home video shelf. And then the home video shelf disappeared. Which should be the end of the story.

Except someone is gaming the system. Either as a joke or an actual attempt to change perceptions, everywhere you look, Illegally Yours is referred to as a forgotten gem, an underrated classic, an unjustly neglected jewel. Watch the movie. See how terrible it is. Then go to Amazon, go to Wikipedia, read the glowing comments sprinkled all over the internet. And tell me there’s no such thing as conspiracies.

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