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Merton of the Movies

by Harry Leon Wilson

“The best description of America that has ever been done.” —Gertrude Stein

“A blistering, rollicking, adventure in La La Land, before it got its Tinseltown fame.” —Liska Jacobs, author of Catalina


Merton of the Movies follows midwestern bumpkin Merton Gill’s unlikely journey from a Kansas stockroom to the star-studded set of a silent film. Unfortunately, the actors he’s idolized from afar lose their luster up close, which fuels his desire to become a dramatic leading man — not some slapstick fool. By a stroke of luck, Merton lands a gig as an extra. His natural oafishness catches the eye of stuntwoman Flips Montague, and before long he’s a comic star — the only problem is, it’s all a spoof, and he doesn’t know it.

First published in 1919 in the Saturday Evening Post, and adapted three times to film and once as a Broadway musical, Harry Leon Wilson’s cartoonish tale has earned its place as an essential California classic. This freewheeling romp gets to the heart of any Angeleno’s worst nightmare: what if I’m not in on the joke?

About the AUTHORS

Harry Leon Wilson (1867-1939) was an American novelist and dramatist best known for his novels Ruggles of Red Gap and Merton of the Movies. His novel Bunker Beanhelped popularize the term “flapper.”

Mitra Jouhari is a writer and performer based in Los Angeles. She has written for High Maintenance on HBO, Pod Save America on HBO, Miracle Workers on TBS, and The President Show on Comedy Central, for which she was nominated for a WGA Award. She worked on the inaugural season of Full Frontal with Samantha Bee and was a punch-up writer on S5 of Broad City. She is a member of the comedy trio Three Busy Debras, who, following a sold-out run of their play at the Annoyance Theater, performed at Carnegie Hall and recently filmed a pilot for Adult Swim. She was part of the cast of the acclaimed Holy Fuck Comedy Hour at the Annoyance in New York City. She has appeared on Broad City, Miracle Workers, Friends From College, The Big Sick, President Show, Full Frontal, Three Busy Debras, Search Party, Alternatino, and High Maintenance, as well as a bunch of short films. She appeared in the plays Groundhog Date and Slice of Life at the Annoyance Theater. 

Upcoming projects include a co-starring role in the film F1, directed by Shahrzad Davani. She co-hosts the monthly show “It’s A Guy Thing,” named one of the best alt-comedy shows in NYC by Paste Magazine and one of the best comedy shows hosted by women by Time Out New York. Her writing has appeared in McSweeneys, the Los Angeles Review of Books, Teen Vogue, Rookie, Splitsider, Flaunt, American Bystander, Reality Beach, Reductress, and other cool places. She performs all over as a live comedian and is from Ohio, which means she is nice.

Tom Lutz is the founder and editor of Los Angeles Review of Books. His books — Born Slippy: A Novel (forthcoming, January 14, 2020), Doing Nothing (American Book Award), Crying (New York Times Notable Book), Cosmopolitan Vistas (Choice Outstanding Academic Title), and American Nervousness, 1903 (New York Times Notable Book) — have been translated into 12 languages and have appeared on New York Times and Los Angeles Times bestseller lists. His fiction and nonfiction have appeared in New York Times, Los Angeles Times, New Republic, Chicago Tribune, Die Zeit, ZYZZYVA, Exquisite Corpse,, Black Clock, and other newspapers and literary venues, as well as in dozens of books and academic journals. He has taught at Stanford University, University of Iowa, CalArts, University of Copenhagen, and now at UC Riverside.


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