What Happens Next: A History of American Screenwriting

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—Los Angeles Times

A brilliant, wildly entertaining history of Hollywood from the screenwriters’ perspective

In this truly fresh take on the movies, veteran Oscar-winning screenwriter Marc Norman gives us the first comprehensive history of the men and women who penned some of the greatest movies of all time. Impeccably researched, erudite, and filled with unforgettable stories of the stars and scribes, amateurs and auteurs, directors, producers, and legendary moguls, What Happens Next is a unique and engrossing narrative of the quintessential art form of our time.

Product Details

  • Paperback: 576 pages
  • Publisher: Three Rivers Press; Reprint edition (September 30, 2008)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0307393887
  • ISBN-13: 978-0307393883
  • Product Dimensions: 5.2 x 1.2 x 8 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 14.4 ounces

Customer Reviews

The Story of Storytellers

4 people found this helpful.
 on June 1, 2009
By Amazon Customer
OK, two quibbles, both factual:


One person found this helpful.
 on March 3, 2013
By Chronic-Complainer
Brilliant, brilliant, brilliant. Thorough and engrossing. There can be no better praise for this book than it drove me to then buy biographies of Sturges, Wilder and Trumbo. And a half-dozen of their scripts.

What happens next is a great read

 on September 23, 2011
By Warren J. Graffeo
Marc Norman brings his considerable knowledge to the topic of screenwriting history. His views and anecdotes on film making, particularly in the early days, is not only informative, but entertaining as well. I have read several books that claim to be a complete history, but none come close to this one. It is fascinating to see how screenwriting went from an ad-hoc off the cuff verbal technique to the sophisticated rituals we practice today. I found the stories of writers who became directors interesting, but more importantly one of the messages early on in the book describes the advantages of a writer actually having experience in acting or directing. I totally agree with that concept and have followed it myself. I am recommending this book for out next screenwriting class in the university where I teach.

How does this book only have six reviews?

2 people found this helpful.
 on July 6, 2009
By C. Hogan
I have not yet finished this book, a comprehensive survey of 20th Century screenwriting, because I don’t want it to end. Because there is no other book like it. So I am parcelling it out, like a child trying to make his Halloween candy last until Christmas. Wonderfully written, entertaining, and epic. Outstanding on all counts. This book earns a spot on that small shelf of must-read books about filmmaking and filmmakers. A great and worthy achievement.

Thorough and Interesting

3 people found this helpful.
 on December 30, 2007
By Fred Woodbridge
This exhaustively researched book starts at the very beginning then steps through each of the decades since D. W. Griffith’s famous movie, all in a very entertaining manner.

Read This Now

12 people found this helpful.
 on November 14, 2007
By Mattermind
This book is phenomenal. Not only is it well-written and comprehensive, but it fills a horrendous gap in the legacy of screenwriting and its impact on movies.

Lights, Camera, History, Gossip!

3 people found this helpful.
 on February 11, 2008
By Stephen E. Adams
Academy award winner Marc Norman’s “What Happens Next: A History of American Screenwriting” is as entertaining as a good movie. It can be studied as serious movie history–his description of the forces that moved the early movie industry from the East coast to the West is as good as any I’ve ever read–or perused as titillating, yet intelligent gossip. The men and women who wrote the words and stories so frequently disparaged and often disregarded by directors, producers, and heads of studios come alive in “What Happens Next” through anecdote, letters, and reminiscences.

Great Book About Old-School Screenwriting

One person found this helpful.
 on June 11, 2008
By chmwood
Norman’s book is great for offering an historical account of the screenwriting trade, something that is usually overlooked in the Syd Field age. The only problem I had personally with the book is that the author seemed to become a little enamored with the auteurs of the 70s toward the end and didn’t really talk about the dedicated screenwriters as much. While I think the stories about guys like Coppola and Lucas are interesting and eye-opening, it would have been nice to hear more about the trials and tribulations of the people whose names weren’t above the title during those years.

Amazing Read

 on August 13, 2013
By Zachary A
I had no idea the role of the screenwriting was so important in the history of movie making. It reminded me that screenwriters are writers worthy of accolades on par with the greats… Hemingway, Twain, Hawthorne, Steinbeck.

Head and heart

7 people found this helpful.
 on October 25, 2007
By Readsalot
As a “recovering screenwriter,” I can bear witness to the sometimes painful, sometimes hilarious authenticity of “What Happens Next.”

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