This a hilarious memoir of Clancy Sigal‘s escapades as a young Hollywood agent on the Sunset Strip, peddling writers and actors in a blacklist-crazed “golden age” movie industry of the 1950s. Atom bomb tests light up the night sky, and everyone is either naming names or getting named in the McCarthy witch hunt. By day a fast-talking salesman, at night he’s the point person of a small circle of anarchistic oddballs. He’s dogged by two FBI agents who want to be set up with starlets and have a screen test. They trail him as he goes from studio to studio hustling clients like Humphrey Bogart, Donna Reed, Jack Palance, Peter Lorre and Stanwyck. Barred from a studio he brazenly uses a bolt cutter to break through the chainlink fence to make a deal.Black Sunset‘s riproaring ribald style belongs to a hardboiled school that includes Elmore Leonard and Raymond Chandler. He is one of the few remaining witnesses and reporters of this absurd and terrifying time.
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.
Black Sunset is, I can attest this time around, an autobiography: a funny, cynical, score-settling romp through blacklist-era Hollywood.