Book Report: I Ought To Be In Pictures by Neil Simon (1981)

Like The Mystery of Edwin Drood, I bought this book for $2.00 at the St. Charles Book Fair in that orgy of hardback buying that’s populated the top of my sole to-read shelves with overflow of unrelated tomes. Since I’m in the midst of a long nonfiction hardback to be reported later, I picked this book up for a quick bit of levity in between.

As some of you know (all of you who aren’t dammkidz), Neil Simon was a prolific playwright circa the later middle decades of the twentieth century. Many of his plays were even made into movies. Oddly enough, I have a sort of cultural touchstone with this particular piece from that era; my brother, as a boy, received upon him the schtick that he was a button collector, and he had a I Ought To Be In Pictures button, no doubt reminiscent of the time where this play travelled to the Melody Top or the Riverside Theatre in Milwaukee. But I bought the book because I wanted more drama in my life, not some envy of my brother’s button collection. I think I stole inherited it, anyway, when either he needed some money in high school or when he abdicated many of his worldly possessions when joining the Marines.

The play is a simple two act with three characters: a nineteen year old New York girl who arrives at the door of her father’s California bungalow sixteen years after he abandoned her; the almost-failure screenwriter father; and his movie business girlfriend with some substance. The action takes place in the bungalow and deals with the daughter who wants to be in pictures… or maybe just wants to reconcile with the father she never knew.

It’s a short play, and a simple conceit. I liked it enough, but perhaps if I spent too much time on it, I would think it too facile or not complex enough to speak truth to power. Perhaps Simon ain’t Shakespeare. But in 1602, Shakespeare wasn’t Shakespeare, either.

Books mentioned in this review: