My Face for the World to See (1958)

Yes, this is a novel, not a film. But those who are fans of noir as well as of superb writing, then they would revel in this unique book.

Alfred Hayes was born in England but spent his life in Los Angeles following a stint in the U.S. Army during WWII. He remained in Rome after the war where he wrote two novels, and co-wrote the Oscar nominated films Paisan (Rosellini) and Teresa (Zimmerman), along with Bicycle Thieves (DeSica).

After returning to Hollywood Hayes co-wrote many screenplays, including The Lusty Men, Clash by Night, Island in the Sun, Hatful of Rain, The Barbarian and the Geisha, and a number of others. He wrote 7 novels, the most famous is The Girl on the Via Flaminia (1949).

My Face for the World to See was written in Hollywood, and perfectly captures in noir style a film industry back story of a screenwriter and an aspiring actress who meet and develop an idiosyncratic relationship.

The novel is only 130 pages, but it is packed with writing of the highest quality and inventiveness. Hayes' technique as a wordsmith sets him apart from some of the big novels of the 1950s. His long penchant for long paragraphs and unique descriptive sentences are remarkable and impressive.

One line sticks in my mind in it's simplicity and perfection. If you've ever marveled at the nighttime expanse of the spread of Los Angeles seen from the Hollywood Hills glimmering in the darkness, Hayes describes it this way: "(T)he car parked in the hills, and two cigarettes, and the town below looking as hell might with a good electrician."

This is a novel that one reads with a vague feeling of dread in the back of one's mind. Yet it rolls to an ending that is both logical and satisfactory. Told in the first person, Hayes lays it out for us as if it were being reported. It is one of those brief but memorable slices of life within the Hollywood film industry.

Doc's rating: 9/10