The City of Quartz: A Metaphor for Los Angeles

Mike Davis, ‘City of Quartz’ author who chronicled the forces that shaped L.A., dies at 73

This is an archived article that was published on in 2008, and information in the article may be outdated. It is provided only for personal research purposes and may not be reprinted.

The City of Quartz, the epic bestseller that has sold more than 30 million copies worldwide, came to life in the form of a screenplay by Richard Wright, then-20-year-old Hollywood newcomer, and the author’s father, who wrote the screenplay for “Giant,” the movie about Wright’s first novel.

In L.A.’s changing world, the novel has become a metaphor of its turbulent past. The plot revolves around two characters — a young movie editor, Jack Langdon, and his girlfriend, a woman named Barbara, who was married to one of the founders of the entertainment firm that Langdon now runs.

“I had some idea what the movie was going to be about,” Wright said. “My father has a special talent for writing dialogue and bringing out the best in people. I had written the ‘idea’ of how Barbara and Jack’s relationship would come to play out.”

But as Wright worked on the screenplay, he began to see the film in a different light. “I saw the city grow and change, and also see that it could be the city of the future of the whole country,” said Wright, who won a Pulitzer Prize for his novel and has long been under suspicion for writing about L.A. “And I felt the city of L.A. is a metaphor for Los Angeles as far as I’m concerned.”

The film, which debuted at Sundance and was picked up by producer David Geffen for distribution in the United States, followed the original book exactly. It was loosely based on Wright’s experiences in Hollywood during the 1970s, when he worked in independent and low-budget filmmaking and was deeply immersed in the music industry.

A year before “City of Quartz” came out, Wright’s father, Joseph Wright, took a shot at explaining L.A. to his son with “Giant,”

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