In 1930s Hollywood, a recent Yale graduate (William Atherton) is hired to work as an art director at Paramount pictures. On his own time, he works on a large scale painting depicting the destruction of Los Angeles by fire. Based on the novel by Nathanael West and directed by John Schlesinger (MIDNIGHT COWBOY). Schlesinger's direction is often too heavy handed for the material, subtle he's not. The film's set piece is a stunning finale in which a mob goes insane at a movie premiere and a mini apocalypse transpires. West's novel was about how people flocked to L.A., the city of sunshine and oranges, during the great depression only to discover the American dream didn't exist. Indeed, West even suggests they weren't even worthy of it if it did exist. The film is severely compromised by the miscasting of Karen Black, who at 35 is way too mature for the novel's 17 year old sexpot. The roles cries out for a young Marilyn Monroe. Black's performance is inauthentic. Sure, she's playing an often pretentious artificial character but even in the scenes where she's supposed to be sincere, she still comes across as artificial. The film does have two terrific performances however: Donald Sutherland as a slow witted Midwesterner and Burgess Meredith as an ex-vaudeville performer on his last legs. Flawed but worth seeking out. With Geraldine Page, Billy Barty, Natalie Schafer, Bo Hopkins, Nita Talbot, Jackie Earle Haley and Lelia Goldoni.