John (Marsden) Ehle (Jr.) Roderick Nordell - Essay

Roderick Nordell

(Contemporary Literary Criticism)

As long as writers have ideas like Mr. Ehle's, the often predicted demise of the novel will have to be postponed. No other narrative form has the flexibility to permit such plausible trickery as the feat he brings off so well [in "The Changing of the Guard"]: merging the offscreen lives of movie actors with their on-screen roles to a point of bizarre fusion.

Taken literally, these stereotyped Hollywood lives of adultery, alcohol, and power ploys do not have much to recommend the reading of them. But Mr. Ehle weaves them into a timely image of what has been happening to moviemaking at a time of change from romantic glamour to gross realism. There are implications for a broader range of cultural values in such questions as whether candor has to mean the end of grace or the beginning of sensationalism.

Here the situation on a film set in Paris echoes the French Revolution which is the subject of the film….

A concern for revolutionary nuance is not unexpected from the nonfiction observer of civil-rights activists in "The Free Men" of some years ago. The result is like a screenplay of 18th-century France imbedded in a 20th-century world where the test of revolution is whether it's good box office.

Roderick Nordell, "New Novel Merges Actors and Their Roles," in The Christian Science Monitor (reprinted by permission from The Christian Science Monitor; © 1975 The Christian Science Publishing Society; all rights reserved), January 10, 1975, p. 10.