Economics/Class Relations

How the Elite Are Trained to Be the Ruling Class in Secret & Are Never Named: Gore Vidal (2000)

Eugene Luther Gore Vidal (/vɪˈdɑːl/; born Eugene Louis Vidal, October 3, 1925 – July 31, 2012) was an American writer and public intellectual known for his epigrammatic wit, erudition, and patrician manner. Vidal was bisexual, and in his novels and essays interrogated the social and cultural sexual norms he perceived as driving American life.[1] Beyond literature, Vidal was heavily involved in politics. He twice sought office—unsuccessfully—as a Democratic Party candidate, first in 1960 to the U.S. House of Representatives (for New York), and later in 1982 to the U.S. Senate (for California).

A grandson of a U.S. Senator, Vidal was born into an upper-class political family. As a political commentator and essayist, Vidal’s primary focus was the history and society of the United States, especially how a militaristic foreign policy reduced the country to a decadent empire.[2] His political and cultural essays were published in The Nation, the New Statesman, the New York Review of Books, and Esquire magazines. As a public intellectual, Gore Vidal’s topical debates on sex, politics, and religion with other intellectuals and writers occasionally turned into quarrels with the likes of William F. Buckley Jr. and Norman Mailer.

As a novelist, Vidal explored the nature of corruption in public and private life. His style of narration evoked the time and place of his stories, and delineated the psychology of his characters.[3] His third novel, The City and the Pillar (1948), offended the literary, political, and moral sensibilities of conservative book reviewers, the plot being about a dispassionately presented male homosexual relationship.[4] In the historical novel genre, Vidal recreated the imperial world of Julian the Apostate (r. AD 361–63) in Julian (1964). Julian was the Roman emperor who attempted to re-establish Roman polytheism to counter Christianity.[5] In social satire, Myra Breckinridge (1968) explores the mutability of gender roles and sexual orientation as being social constructs established by social mores.[6]: 94–100  In Burr (1973) and Lincoln (1984), each protagonist is presented as “A Man of the People” and as “A Man” in a narrative exploration of how the public and private facets of personality affect the national politics of the United States.[7]: 439 [6]: 75–85 

In 1956, Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer hired Gore Vidal as a screenplay writer with a four-year employment contract. In 1958, the director William Wyler required a script doctor to rewrite the screenplay for Ben-Hur (1959), originally written by Karl Tunberg. As one of several script doctors assigned to the project, Vidal rewrote significant portions of the script to resolve ambiguities of character motivation, specifically to clarify the enmity between the Jewish protagonist, Judah Ben-Hur, and the Roman antagonist, Messala, who had been close boyhood friends. In exchange for rewriting the Ben-Hur screenplay, on location in Italy, Vidal negotiated the early termination (at the two-year mark) of his four-year contract with MGM.[7][47]

Thirty-six years later, in the documentary film The Celluloid Closet (1995), Vidal explained that Messala’s failed attempt at resuming their homosexual, boyhood relationship motivated the ostensibly political enmity between Ben-Hur (Charlton Heston) and Messala (Stephen Boyd). Vidal said that Boyd was aware of the homosexual subtext to the scene and that the director, the producer and the screenwriter agreed to keep Heston ignorant of the subtext, lest he refuse to play the scene.[7][48] In turn, on learning of that script-doctor explanation, Charlton Heston said that Vidal had contributed little to the script of Ben-Hur.[49] Despite Vidal’s script-doctor resolution of the character’s motivations, the Screen Writers Guild assigned formal screenwriter-credit to Karl Tunberg, in accordance with the WGA screenwriting credit system, which favored the “original author” of a screenplay, rather than the writer of the filmed screenplay.[50]

Two plays, The Best Man: A Play about Politics (1960, made into a film in 1964) and Visit to a Small Planet (1955), were theater and movie successes. Vidal occasionally returned to the movie business, and wrote historically accurate teleplays and screenplays about subjects important to him. Billy the Kid (1989) is one, about William H. Bonney, a gunman in the New Mexico territory Lincoln County War (1878), and later an outlaw in the U.S. Western frontier. Another is 1979’s Caligula (based upon the life of the Roman Emperor Caligula),[51] from which Vidal had his screenwriter credit removed because the producer, Bob Guccione, the director, Tinto Brass, and the leading actor, Malcolm McDowell, rewrote the script to add extra sex and violence to increase its commercial success.

In the 1960s, Vidal migrated to Italy, where he befriended the film director Federico Fellini, for whom he appeared in a cameo role in the film Roma (1972) https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Gore_Vidal

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