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Old 03-10-2011, 12:30 AM
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Fiction *starring* fiction


There are a few works of fiction that actually star another work, often eponymously titled the same as that inner work. I don't mean something like Lovecraft's stories, in which the Necronomicon appears more as a prop or sidebar to the main story, nor The Maltese Falcon, in which the Black Bird (a work of art, of course) is pretty much a MacGuffin, but those where the entire plot is based on the existence and properties of the inner work.

I've only got three:

- The King In Yellow (1895) by Robert W. Chambers is a collection of stories about a play that will drive you mad or otherwise curse you if you read it to the end.

- The Singing Detective (1986) by Dennis Potter is a BBC miniseries about ... Well, the protagonist wrote a pulp novel of the same title and has been working on a screenplay, and we get parts of the story through scenes from those, as well as his childhood memories, dreams and hallucinations. (Great stuff! Get this now!)

- The Princess Bride by William Goldman is a "good parts version" of "S. Morgenstern's Classic Tale of True Love and High Adventure," according to the Amazon review. Goldman frames that in a story of his father reading it to him and abridging it on the fly. (I've seen the movie long ago, but not read the book, which Zyada says is much darker in tone.

Can anyone suggest other works like these?
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Old 03-10-2011, 12:48 AM
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Dunno if this is quite what you're looking for, but in Wolves of the Calla, the fifth Dark Tower novel by Stephen King, Pere Callahan relates his story of how he came to Calla Bryn Sturgis. He was the priest in King's novel Salem's Lot, and, at one point in Calla,
SPOILER:
Finds a copy of Salem's Lot, and realizes that he's a character in a work of fiction.


In fact, during the sixth book, Song of Susannah,
SPOILER:
Eddie and Roland visit King, who's become a character in his own book. The sixth novel ends with King being killed after being struck by a vehicle while walking - a fictional turn of a true incident
and Roland and Jake (and Oy) have to prevent that outcome on the last novel, The Dark Tower.
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Old 03-10-2011, 01:13 AM
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I love all the fake movies they used in Seinfeld.
  • Rochelle, Rochelle - A young girl's strange, erotic journey from Milan to Minsk
  • Agent Zero
  • Chunnel
  • Death Blow - "When someone tries to blow you up, not because of who you are but, for different reasons all together ... Death Blow!"
  • Sack Lunch - Elaine really had bad taste, until the Gene picks episode anyhow.
  • Cry, Cry Again - "Yeah, so you cry... and when you see the dancer, you cry again."
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Old 03-10-2011, 01:20 AM
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Well it sort of happens everytime a book or movie ends with the protagonist saying that's the story of how they came to write the book or make the movie. I think you mean more where the multi-level concept is carried through the work from start to finish, and Galaxy Quest would fit in that category. You could also say that the Monty Python Funniest Joke in the World skit qualifies as well. The Notebook is also in that category (a rare case where I would say a movie is not worth watching even to get laid). There are probably many books about an author writing a book. There are any number of movies that are based on the making of a fictional movie, including some porn. Finding Bliss is in this category (not worth watching for the porn though).

There's also the twist on the concept of fiction within the story. Does a story about a fictional work of non-fiction count as well? That would open up numerous movies about newpaper publishing and reporting, and movies like Broadcast News and Network.

There's also every picture someone took of themself in a mirror.
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Old 03-10-2011, 01:31 AM
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I'm not sure I quite follow the OP, but are you asking about something like Pale Fire? It's an example of metafiction.
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Old 03-10-2011, 02:28 AM
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The Neverending Story would certainly qualify, and The Book of Three might. Although neither of those works is precisely "fiction", within their respective contexts.

Another possibility is Man of La Mancha, a play about Cervantes putting on a play of Don Quixote.
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Old 03-10-2011, 02:39 AM
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The Producers.
Silent Movie.
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Old 03-10-2011, 02:42 AM
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Originally Posted by drastic_quench View Post
I love all the fake movies they used in Seinfeld.
  • Rochelle, Rochelle - A young girl's strange, erotic journey from Milan to Minsk
  • Agent Zero
  • Chunnel
  • Death Blow - "When someone tries to blow you up, not because of who you are but, for different reasons all together ... Death Blow!"
  • Sack Lunch - Elaine really had bad taste, until the Gene picks episode anyhow.
  • Cry, Cry Again - "Yeah, so you cry... and when you see the dancer, you cry again."
I can't believe you forgot "Prognosis Negative!"
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Old 03-10-2011, 03:52 AM
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In Deathtrap starring Michael Caine, Christopher Reeve and Dyan Cannon, Caine's character plots to murder Reeve's character to appropriate a brilliant script that he has written.

I'm sure I have seen several books with similar plots - the wrong person credited as author.
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Old 03-10-2011, 04:00 AM
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Hamlet.
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Old 03-10-2011, 08:05 AM
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The Seven Minutes by Irving Wallace. It's about an obscenity trial for a fictitious book called The Seven Minutes.

The Sot-Weed Factor by John Barth is about the creation of the poem, The Sot-Weed Factor. The poem does exist, but a major plot point (and central McGuffin) of the book is the (mostly*) fictitious secret diary of Captain John Smith (of Virginia).

Similarly, Barth's story "Lost in the Funhouse" is about a boy lost in a funhouse who imagines he's in a story called "Lost in the Funhouse." Thus the story is itself.

The Book of Kells by R. A. McEvoy is about the creation of the legendary Book of Kells.

Jumanji is about the fictitious game Jumanji.

*While the diary is fictitious, the essential element -- the Secret of the Sacred Eggplant -- actually did exist.
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Old 03-10-2011, 08:31 AM
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The Hours, revolves around the writing and reading of 'Mrs Dalloway'.
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Old 03-10-2011, 08:34 AM
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The Shadow of the Wind by Carlos Ruiz Zafón is about a boy who finds a mysterious book called (hold onto your hats) The Shadow of the Wind by Julián Carax. The boy then spends years trying to track Carax down and discovers that someone (who may be the Devil!) has been buying up all of Carax's books and burning them.
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Old 03-10-2011, 08:37 AM
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House of Leaves
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Old 03-10-2011, 08:38 AM
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House of Leaves is a book about a book about a movie. More or less.

Edit: Beaten by one stinkin' minute.

Last edited by Ian D. Bergkamp; 03-10-2011 at 08:39 AM.
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Old 03-10-2011, 08:42 AM
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Possession, by A. S. Byatt, revolves around a romance between two 19th century poets, which is revealed solely through their letters, poetry and other fictional works, and diaries kept by others who knew them. (There's a second plot involving the 20th century academics uncovering these diaries, etc.)
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Old 03-10-2011, 08:46 AM
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Edit: Beaten by one stinkin' minute.
Ha ha, you should have left out the description, and just stuck to the title.

But, as they say, great minds think alike.

If it's any consolation, from my timezone you made your post at:

11:38

META!
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Old 03-10-2011, 08:52 AM
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Adaptation, kinda sorta
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Old 03-10-2011, 09:08 AM
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Kickpuncher!
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Old 03-10-2011, 09:12 AM
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Kickpuncher!
Was a fictional movie in Community ,but it was pretty far from having its plot be the basis of the show, or even the episode that featured it.
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Old 03-10-2011, 09:13 AM
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John Irving's The World According to Garp revolves around Jenny Fields's autobiography "Sexual Suspect."
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Old 03-10-2011, 09:15 AM
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Sophie's World

SPOILER:
the characters discover they are characters in a book and try to escape
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Old 03-10-2011, 09:49 AM
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Nabokov's Pale Fire is a story told in the annotations to a poem.
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Old 03-10-2011, 09:58 AM
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State and Main follows the filming of a movie called The Old Mill.

Last edited by It's Not Rocket Surgery!; 03-10-2011 at 09:58 AM.
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Old 03-10-2011, 10:20 AM
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Lot of background: Under the pseudonym "Richard Stark," Donald Westlake wrote a series of books about a criminal named Parker who pulls various heists and cons. Under his own name, Westlake wrote a comic series of books about a down-and-out crook named Dortmunder, whose capers always get screwed up in very funny ways.

So... in Jimmy the Kid, a real book by Westlake, Dortmunder and his gang find a book called Child Heist by Richard Stark, about how Parker commits a successful kidnapping. Dortmunder's gang uses that book as the blue-print for their own plan. The book Child Heist exist outside Jimmy the Kid, but they read paragraphs from it. It's wonderfully funny.
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Old 03-10-2011, 10:27 AM
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In the first season of Heroes, one of the main characters publishes a comic book that tells the future of the rest of the characters.
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Old 03-10-2011, 10:43 AM
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27 posts to mention Vonnegut's Kilgore Trout?
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Old 03-10-2011, 10:46 AM
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Tristam Shandy is a movie about filming a (ficticious) film adaptation of the titular novel.
For Your Consideration is a mockumentary about the filming of a movie "Home for Purim".
Waiting for Guffman, similarly, is about a fictional play whose title I forget.

Much of the show Extras revolved around the shooting of a ficticious TV show "When the Whistle Blows".

Shadow of the Vampire is a fictional account of the filming of the real movie Nosferatu.
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Old 03-10-2011, 10:49 AM
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Noises Off is either a movie about the production of a play or a play about the production of a play, depending on which one you see.
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Old 03-10-2011, 10:56 AM
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The Purple Rose of Cairo - character steps out of 'The Purple Rose of Cairo' which is playing in a cinema, eventually meets with the actor who played said character. Much hilarity and Woody Allen-ness ensues.
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Old 03-10-2011, 11:03 AM
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(This post is much later than it should be and there are lots of replies since I read the thread and started composing this. I'll read them all when I get a minute, and post again.)

I think TriPolar is closest to what I'm looking for. In Galaxy Quest, the long-gone inner show sets up the whole situation and keeps on motivating the action. (The Singing Detective works much the same way - the author wrote his book long ago, and it comes back to haunt him.) The Funniest Joke skit is also entirely motivated by the inner work. Chronos' Man of La Mancha sounds good too, and elfkin477's Pale Fire is at least close, though I haven't read it.

Most of the others don't seem quite right to me. They're mostly too general: "I'll write a book/make a movie/be a reporter/whatever!" The character is in charge of the plot, and the particular inner work is secondary. What I'd like to see is works in which the inner work drives the plot, and the characters are driven by that.

Thanks for all the replies. Keep them coming!
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Old 03-10-2011, 11:28 AM
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The Adventures of Baron Munchausen shares the style of the The Princess Bride but it's the title character telling the tale to a theater full of people, not grandfather to grandson.
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Old 03-10-2011, 11:49 AM
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At Swim-Two-Birds is one of the earlier examples. The main character is a writer, whose characters come to life when he falls asleep at night and completely fuck up his world. Things get messy when one of the characters starts writing a story of his own, those characters start interacting, etc. It makes Primer seem like a Michael Bay movie.

Last edited by Munch; 03-10-2011 at 11:50 AM.
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Old 03-10-2011, 12:01 PM
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27 posts to mention Vonnegut's Kilgore Trout?
I wanted to mention this, but it was getting late. It gets complicated at several levels because Kilgore Trout is supposed to be the actual author Theodore Sturgeon, and Venus On the Half Shell was eventually actualized by Philip Jose Farmer.
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Old 03-10-2011, 12:24 PM
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I almost hate to do this, but would a comic strip count? If so, I vaguely remember a movie that I saw on TV an unspecified number of decades ago. There was a debonair single writer/artist of a newspaper comic strip who, together with his butler (?) (who might have been David Niven) acted out the scenes of a spy story before drawing up the strips.

He gets drunk one night and wakes up married to a blonde Italian woman who speaks no English. He adjusts. But since he can only draw things he's acted out, his character also marries and the plot starts focusing more on the spy adjusting to being a regular married guy than on the espionage. His ratings drop.

To save his ratings, he has to get his character out of its marriage. So he draws up several strips in which the character kills its wife and puts her in "the gloppita-gloppita machine", a huge cemet mixer working at a nearby construction site. The wife sees the drawings and thinks that he no longer wants to be married to her. She takes off in tears, telling no one.

Now the writer is suspected of killing his wife IRL. Or he's afraid that he will be. Hijinx ensure. Eventually, all is well. I was young enough when I saw it that I don't remember if the two lives (writer and character) diverge, or if the wife becomes another character and gets to play spy, too. All I remember is that when she comes back, she brings her mother, who is also a blonde Italian, and who has eyes for the David Niven character.

Last edited by Yllaria; 03-10-2011 at 12:26 PM.
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Old 03-10-2011, 12:33 PM
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I'm suprised no one has mentioned the movie Stranger than Fiction, which involves a writer and her fictional creation colliding (and what consequences that has). I think it's a great movie, one of my all-time favorites.
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Old 03-10-2011, 12:37 PM
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Originally Posted by Yllaria View Post
I almost hate to do this, but would a comic strip count? If so, I vaguely remember a movie that I saw on TV an unspecified number of decades ago. There was a debonair single writer/artist of a newspaper comic strip who, together with his butler (?) (who might have been David Niven) acted out the scenes of a spy story before drawing up the strips.

He gets drunk one night and wakes up married to a blonde Italian woman who speaks no English. He adjusts. But since he can only draw things he's acted out, his character also marries and the plot starts focusing more on the spy adjusting to being a regular married guy than on the espionage. His ratings drop.

To save his ratings, he has to get his character out of its marriage. So he draws up several strips in which the character kills its wife and puts her in "the gloppita-gloppita machine", a huge cemet mixer working at a nearby construction site. The wife sees the drawings and thinks that he no longer wants to be married to her. She takes off in tears, telling no one.

Now the writer is suspected of killing his wife IRL. Or he's afraid that he will be. Hijinx ensure. Eventually, all is well. I was young enough when I saw it that I don't remember if the two lives (writer and character) diverge, or if the wife becomes another character and gets to play spy, too. All I remember is that when she comes back, she brings her mother, who is also a blonde Italian, and who has eyes for the David Niven character.
Jack Lemmon, Terry-Thomas, and Verna Lisi in How To Murder Your Wife
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Old 03-10-2011, 12:43 PM
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Lot of background: Under the pseudonym "Richard Stark," Donald Westlake wrote a series of books about a criminal named Parker who pulls various heists and cons. Under his own name, Westlake wrote a comic series of books about a down-and-out crook named Dortmunder, whose capers always get screwed up in very funny ways.

So... in Jimmy the Kid, a real book by Westlake, Dortmunder and his gang find a book called Child Heist by Richard Stark, about how Parker commits a successful kidnapping. Dortmunder's gang uses that book as the blue-print for their own plan. The book Child Heist exist outside Jimmy the Kid, but they read paragraphs from it. It's wonderfully funny.
Westlake once said that the first Dortmunder novel actually began as a Parker novel, but a Parker novel in which Parker's heist goes very badly awry. If you're a fan of the Parker novels, you know that Parker's heists almost always go awry, but usually in a deadly and serious way. In this particular novel, Westlake said, Parker's heist went so badly wrong that it became comical, and he knew it would be a bad idea to allow any levity at all into a Parker novel. So he changed Parker's name to Dortmunder in that novel, ratcheted up the comedy, published it as Westlake rather than Stark, and the Dortmunder series was born.

I'm a huge fan of the Stark (and stark) Parker novels, but not overly fond of Dortmunder. Still, I've never read Jimmy the Kid -- I'll have to give it a shot. My favourite non-Dortmunder Westlake novel is The Ax.

What a prolific writer -- sometimes six novels in a year.

Anyway, enough of this hijack.
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Old 03-10-2011, 12:48 PM
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Stranger than Fiction is about a book as it's being written.
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The Neverending Story would certainly qualify, and The Book of Three might. Although neither of those works is precisely "fiction", within their respective contexts.
The Book of Three? That surprised me, but since I can barely remember any of the Prydain Cycle, I totally can't say.
Quote:
Originally Posted by Yllaria View Post
I almost hate to do this, but would a comic strip count? If so, I vaguely remember a movie that I saw on TV an unspecified number of decades ago. There was a debonair single writer/artist of a newspaper comic strip who, together with his butler (?) (who might have been David Niven) acted out the scenes of a spy story before drawing up the strips.

He gets drunk one night and wakes up married to a blonde Italian woman who speaks no English. He adjusts. But since he can only draw things he's acted out, his character also marries and the plot starts focusing more on the spy adjusting to being a regular married guy than on the espionage. His ratings drop.

To save his ratings, he has to get his character out of its marriage. So he draws up several strips in which the character kills its wife and puts her in "the gloppita-gloppita machine", a huge cemet mixer working at a nearby construction site. The wife sees the drawings and thinks that he no longer wants to be married to her. She takes off in tears, telling no one.

Now the writer is suspected of killing his wife IRL. Or he's afraid that he will be. Hijinx ensure. Eventually, all is well. I was young enough when I saw it that I don't remember if the two lives (writer and character) diverge, or if the wife becomes another character and gets to play spy, too. All I remember is that when she comes back, she brings her mother, who is also a blonde Italian, and who has eyes for the David Niven character.
How to Murder Your Wife, which I loved as a child. It's pretty bizarre.

Last edited by foolsguinea; 03-10-2011 at 12:49 PM. Reason: Yllaria's post was the last one when I opened the page. I see this has been covered.
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Old 03-10-2011, 01:04 PM
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Originally Posted by Yllaria View Post
I almost hate to do this, but would a comic strip count? If so, I vaguely remember a movie that I saw on TV an unspecified number of decades ago. There was a debonair single writer/artist of a newspaper comic strip who, together with his butler (?) (who might have been David Niven) acted out the scenes of a spy story before drawing up the strips.

He gets drunk one night and wakes up married to a blonde Italian woman who speaks no English. He adjusts. But since he can only draw things he's acted out, his character also marries and the plot starts focusing more on the spy adjusting to being a regular married guy than on the espionage. His ratings drop.

To save his ratings, he has to get his character out of its marriage. So he draws up several strips in which the character kills its wife and puts her in "the gloppita-gloppita machine", a huge cemet mixer working at a nearby construction site. The wife sees the drawings and thinks that he no longer wants to be married to her. She takes off in tears, telling no one.

Now the writer is suspected of killing his wife IRL. Or he's afraid that he will be. Hijinx ensure. Eventually, all is well. I was young enough when I saw it that I don't remember if the two lives (writer and character) diverge, or if the wife becomes another character and gets to play spy, too. All I remember is that when she comes back, she brings her mother, who is also a blonde Italian, and who has eyes for the David Niven character.
How to Murder Your Wife, starring Jack Lemmon, Verna Lisi, and Terry-Thomas (not David Niven). Great flick.

I'd contribute The Lord of the Rings, supposedly a scholarly translation of Bilbo's diaries, supplemented by Frodo and others.
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Old 03-10-2011, 01:08 PM
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I'd contribute The Lord of the Rings, supposedly a scholarly translation of Bilbo's diaries, supplemented by Frodo and others.
Bilbo's diaries weren't fictional (or rather, they weren't fictional in the LOTR stories). So that would be "fiction starring non-fiction"
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Old 03-10-2011, 01:32 PM
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What I'd like to see is works in which the inner work drives the plot, and the characters are driven by that.
Synecdoche, New York is about a man directing a play about a man directing a play about a man directing a play...
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Old 03-10-2011, 01:32 PM
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Misery by Stephen King. You all know it.

Living In Oblivion - Early 90s indie starring Steve Buscemi as a would-be auteur director trying to film a "deep" art movie, and watching it fall into shambles. ("Why is there always a little person in EVERY. DREAM. SEQUENCE??")

For Your Consideration - Christopher Guest movie about another indie film "Home For Purim" that gets unexpectedly nominated for a Best Picture Academy Award.

The Myth of Fingerprints - Ridiculously overblown "dysfunctional family drama" starring Julianne Moore. During the course of the film, Moore is reading a book called "the Scream of the Rabbits", and she's tormented, tormented! when the copy of the book she has doesn't have the last chapter in it. When "the MOF" came out, I was working at a bookstore. People actually came in requesting this book, thinking it was for real.
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Old 03-10-2011, 01:59 PM
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Jasper Fforde has made a career out of this.
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Old 03-10-2011, 02:20 PM
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Tristam Shandy is a movie about filming a (ficticious) film adaptation of the titular novel.
And that novel is a novel about itself, something that doesn't come through in the movie, which was a nice try but didn't quite make it.

Quote:
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Jasper Fforde has made a career out of this.
Even more fun, the Fairy Tale Mystery series clearly comes out of the compromise negotiated by Thursday at the end of The Well of Lost Plots.
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Old 03-10-2011, 03:17 PM
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Shakespeare in Love centers around the writing and staging of Romeo and Juliet.
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Old 03-10-2011, 03:35 PM
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The Thousand And One Nights. (A framing story that contains a whole series of stories, some of which contain stories-within stories)
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Old 03-10-2011, 04:49 PM
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Robert Silverberg's The Book Of Skulls is about 4 people who have found a book called The Book Of Skulls, which tells them how people can become immortal.
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Old 03-10-2011, 05:04 PM
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The movie "The Number 23" is about the main characters descent into madness after reading a book called "The Number 23".
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Old 03-11-2011, 11:50 AM
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Topsy-Turvy is about the creation of Gilbert and Sullivan's famous operetta The Mikado.

The Player is about a Hollywood bigshot who commits murder and ultimately greenlights a movie about a Hollywood bigshot who commits murder; the movie will be called... The Player.
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