This riveting, poignant and hilarious memoir recounts Clancy Sigal’s escapades as a young agent, handling screenwriters and actors at the Sam Jaffe Agency in the blacklist-addled Hollywood of the 1950s. He’s hired by the take-no-prisoners agent Mary Baker after being fired from Columbia Pictures for using the mimeo machine to copy radical leaflets. Atom bomb tests in the desert light up the night sky, and everyone is either naming names or getting named. As the point person of a small circle of anarchistic oddballs, Clancy is constantly dogged by the FBI. But he spends his days going from studio to studio, trying to promote his clients Jack Palance, Peter Lorre, Humphrey Bogart, Barbara Stanwyck, and many others.
Clancy’s style is rip-roaring — headlong, ribald, wiseass. Black Sunset belongs to a hardboiled school that also includes Raymond Chandler and Elmore Leonard. This is a once-in-a-lifetime tale of Hollywood drama and excess, from a legendary entertainment industry insider.
There have been numerous accounts of how the House Un-American Activities Committee (HUAC) impacted the movie industry, but few are as personal, honest, and reflective as Sigal’s.
The beauty of Black Sunset, for most readers, will be found in the details, lovingly or painfully described, page after page . . . Clancy Sigal brings the innocent and guilty back, once more, at close range, and proves himself the liveliest of literary nonagenarians in the process.
What do Hermann Goering, Humphrey Bogart, Barbara Stanwyk, Rod Steiger and a wise-cracking unwed mother in a diner have in common? They—and many more—are all involved in memorable encounters with Clancy Sigal. This is a wild book about a precocious hustler in Hollywood, written with gusto and good cheer, full of familiar names and dark political forces and promises of lots of money. The unwed mother is Clancy’s, and her motto informs this amazing book: ’Do what you have to do to make it happen.’
Black Sunset moves with the express swagger of a Hawks or Wellman picture, although it feels like an Ozu once it’s all over and the characters linger in silhouette as if they were a fixture of the freeway system at night.