Not So Quiet on the Set

– My Life in Movies During Hollywood’s Macho Era
by Robert E. Relyea, with Craig Relyea
344 pages
Publisher: iUniverse, Inc. (May 12, 2008)

A well-constructed sequence of memories from a distinguished veteran of the film business, this collaboration between father and son is compelling reading from cover to cover. Entertaining, horrific, death-defying, back-stabbing, and tragic events – all from behind the scenes of famous movies – are incorporated into Relyea’s account of his climb up the ladder from assistant director to producer and executive.

The book’s structure charts the evolution of the business during Relyea’s career. The phrase “Hollywood’s Macho Era” fits both the movies and the crews that produced them. From the The Great Escape, to West Side Story, to Bullit, Relyea was routinely charged with accomplishing the impossible under insane conditions, non-stop.

The stories in this book are all as entertaining and gripping as those Relyea recounts about filming The Great Escape sequence in which two prisoners of war steal a German warplane and head toward the Alps. Relyea himself ended up as the stuntman because no other pilots were available. At one point he was arrested and jailed by a German aviation official when the vintage plane’s engine stalled and he managed to glide down onto an open field. His last flying stunt for the film was a crash landing of the plane, in which he nearly broke his back.

Brief introductions to each section of the book offer the childhood memories and recent reflections of son Craig Relyea on his father’s career and the demands of the filmmaking business. The form and content here reinforce the message: his father’s career demanded everything and left little for personal and family life. After each brief introduction, the reader is quickly immersed in Robert Relyea’s professional world, facing the next impossible situation on the set or behind the scenes.

Craig Relyea is a Glendale resident who has charted his own career in entertainment marketing with executive posts at Universal, DreamWorks, and Disney.