My Movie Business
This week I am reading My Movie Business, John Irving's memoir about the development of the screenplay for The Cider House Rules. He begins by discussing his grandfather, Dr. Frank Irving, a well known Obstetrician whose austere personality influenced the character of Dr. Larch in the The Cider House Rules. In this book, he explains changes in the storyline, why he added some new characters and why he left some characters out. Irving describes the artistic process of developing a screenplay from the novel and discusses the method he used to decide what in the novel he could alter to make a good movie, but still keep the essence of his story intact.
What I find most surprising about this book is the historical account of abortion. I was unaware that in America abortion did not become illegal until the mid 1800’s, or that laws against abortion were originally sought by physicians wanting to make abortions legal only if performed by doctors. Irving explains that doctors felt midwives were making too much money by performing abortions, so they pushed for a change to the law. He contends that doctors underestimated the number of abortions being performed, so they were overwhelmed and perhaps somewhat repulsed by the volume of abortion business that came there way after the change in the law. Some of the same doctors who lobbied for right to be abortionists decided they did not want any part of it, so they worked on getting a law passed that made abortions illegal. Since there was no sex education and quality birth control methods were not yet available, women were left to either bear unwanted children (consequently having to raise them or put them up for adoption), or they had to resort to the back alley abortionist and risk prosecution or possible death from the procedure.
I have been reading John Irving's books and watching his movies since the 1980's, which makes this memoir more enjoyable for me. I like the opportunity to peek into the mind of one of my favorite authors to see how his life affects the way he crafts his stories. My Movie Business offers exactly that type of insight.