Bobby Gould, the number two man in a Hollywood production office. At almost forty years of age, he is still immature, guided by the “street smarts” learned in his youth. Gould has earned his position by honoring the principle that a film is good only if it makes money. By following this standard, he has been rewarded with an office redolent of success. Gould is concerned primarily with his own self-image, his maleness, and the appearance of success. He dresses expensively and uses special, irreverent, and vulgar insiders’ language with ease and fluidity. For a brief period, because he is starving for love and affection, he tries to impress a good-looking girl, his temporary secretary, Karen. He allows himself to pretend that scruples were always important to him. He almost produces an “art for art’s sake” film, seemingly abandoning Hollywood’s “money rules” credo. His lack of faith in his ability to sustain a caring relationship proves justified when Karen is found to have been interested in him only for what he could do for her career. A misogynist from the start, Gould has no qualms or thoughts about what will happen to her when he dumps her.
Charlie Fox, who is about Gould’s age and is an old pal of his. Fox is a hanger-on in the film industry, continually flattering all those in a position to help him while waiting for his big break to come along, which occurs when a hot property (film star or director) agrees to sign on his team, thereby making him a producer. Using friendship as motivation, he presents his new deal to his old buddy, knowing that his friend will remain faithful to him. Fox uses language riddled with clichés. He has no pretensions to intelligence, charm, or wit, and he seems proud of his coarseness. He will stop at nothing and let nothing get in the way of his success, which is defined by Hollywood’s rules. He will even use the street behavior learned as a child, physically bullying others to get his way. Fox probably lacks a family, as indicated by his own sense of mistrust, impotence, and misogyny. Suspecting that everyone is, like himself, motivated by self-interest, Fox will use and abuse, all the time pretending long-term affection and trust for those who have been more monetarily successful than he.
Karen, a good-looking, seemingly sweet, temporary secretary in her twenties who has the makings of an opportunist. While working for Gould, Karen sees a chance to make a difference in the type of film produced while furthering her career. Using earnestness as a cover, she is unfortunately honest enough to admit that she had sex with her boss only to get ahead; she did not care for him as a person. Although she pretends a certain amount of naïveté, she nevertheless relies on the stereotype that a man will take care of her, ironically proving herself to be actually naïve as well as stupid, manipulative, plotting, power-hungry, and whorish.
Charlie Fox Fox is a movie producer who is about forty years of age. As his surname suggests, Fox is a sly, wily character who is above nothing if it means career advancement. He is a man looking for his big break; when he finds it in the form of a possible deal with film star Doug Brown, he fights viciously to keep it. Fox brings the deal to Bobby Gould, a long time friend and business associate. Charlie has a one-day option on the Brown picture and urges...
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Gould to act upon it. When the executive agrees to take the project to his boss, Fox is pleased and believes his fortune is made when Gould assures him a co-producer credit.
As a competitive aside, Fox bets Gould that he cannot get his temporary secretary, Karen, to sleep with him. Fox is chagrined the next day, when Gould tells him that he has decided to produce an adaptation of a book that Karen liked instead of the Brown picture. To ensure his project gets made, Fox literally beats up Gould and verbally assaults him, arguing that Karen was using him. Gould realizes the folly of trying to do something different or artistic in Hollywood. In the end the executive agrees to the safer course of action, and the aggressive Fox gets his movie deal.
Bobby Gould Bobby is a movie executive, around fortyyears- old, and the most central character of the play. Before the action begins, he has just been given a promotion to head of production at a major movie studio. Gould seems to value loyalty. When Charlie Fox drops in and tells him that a big movie star, Doug Brown, has come to him wanting to do a movie deal, Gould immediately arranges a meeting with his boss to get approval on the deal. Fox and Gould also make a bet over whether or not Gould can get his new assistant, Karen, to sleep with him. To that end, the executive gives a her a book for ‘‘courtesy read’’ (essentially a review copy of a book sent to movie studios by the publishers in the hopes of having an adaptation made) and invites her over to his home to report. She finds something of value in it, and convinces him to pursue a film adaptation of the meaningful book instead of the movie with Doug Brown.
The next morning, when Fox arrives for the meeting, Gould has won the bet and tries to get rid of Fox. After Fox berates Gould, physically beating the executive and proving that Karen slept with him only because he decided to go with the book, Gould realizes that the Doug Brown picture is the better, safer choice. By the end of the play, Gould takes Fox to the meeting instead of Karen, for he is unwilling to take chances.
Karen Karen is a young woman in her twenties. She is working as a temporary secretary in Gould’s office. Because she is a temp, she does not know where the coffeemaker is nor the right way to make a lunch reservation for Gould. Karen believes in values and principles. She is also naive about the movie business, at least in the other characters’ eyes, because she thinks films should be good. Still, when given an opportunity, she takes it. Gould lets her do a courtesy read on a book and give him a report at his home. Karen’s enthusiasm for the book touches something in Gould, and she convinces him to pursue it as his next project over the Brown picture. Afterwards, Karen admits she slept with Gould only because he greenlighted (approved production of) the book, and the men are convinced that Karen was only using Gould to further her own ambitions.
In contrast to the cutthroat business tactics of Gould and Fox, Karen is the voice of art and reason in the play. While she may have had ulterior motives for sleeping with Gould, it is clear that she believes in high quality and artistry in motion pictures. While it is obvious that Gould and Fox do what they do to serve their own careers and make as much money as possible, Karen’s motives are less clear. She may simply be a corporate climber, but there is also evidence to suggest that her motives are in the service of improving the films made by Hollywood.