Two Sigs: A tale of two identities


The other day, a friend phoned to congratulate me on a Variety review I had written. I thanked him in as modest a voice as I could muster:

“Much obliged. But which review are you referring to?”

“John Ford’s The Searchers, of course.”

A great film, I assured my friend. But I didn’t write that review. Because when Ford’s The Searchers was released in March of 1955, I was 23 years old and still warming a seat at a Chicago university.

My curiosty whetted, I logged into “Celebrating 100 Years of Variety” and found, to my dismay, that yours truly was being confused with Hy Hollinger, a veteran reporter of the classic Variety school.

I noticed the error right away. Because I had never used “Ronald” Holloway to head any of my Variety reports – rather “Ron” Holloway. (“Ronald” Holloway was saved for theater reviews penned for The Financial Times in London.)

So why was I being credited for something I didn’t write? Quite simple…

Back in the 1950s, Hy Hollinger used Holl. to sign his reviews. Whip-snap good reviews, I might add, of top-drawer Hollywood productions.

When I joined the Variety staff in the 1970s as a staffer from Berlin, Hy had already moved on to other media pastures, and I never had the pleasure to make his acquaintance until years later.

So, without knowing I was treading on someone else’s hallowed mugg name, I began signing my own reviews with Holl. without giving it a moment’s thought. And apparently no one else at the Variety office in New York gave it much thought either.

Some years later, when Hy Hollinger returned to Variety to begin another chapter in his journalist sojourn on the paper, he was offered HyHo. as his new moniker. At least, that’s what Bob Hawkins told me.

HyHo. seemed to me to have a better ring than Holl. anyway. Although I don’t think that I would have settled for an equivalent RoHo. either.

Ask cineastes who delve into film reviews, and you often hear offhanded praise. A Variety pen name was like a banner waving in the wind over a World Series winner. People knew who you were without even being introduced.

Some of my Brit colleagues were even a bit jealous that Variety muggs could walk around with double identities. Once, Nick Roddick – of Screen, Moving Pictures, Sight & Sound – confessed to me that he would have enjoyed writing reviews for Variety – under a Niro. pen name.

How today’s Variety staff could confuse Holl. with HyHo. is another matter. And is their business. But if an apology on my part is owed to Hy Hollinger for having unconsciously borrowed his pen name, then let it be known that I plead not guilty.

Not just for John Ford’s The Searchers in 1956.

But also for Delbert Mann’s Marty in 1955.

And for William Wyler’s Ben Hur in 1959.

All great reviews by a great mugg! Wish I had written them.

Editor’s note: Hy Hollinger has for many years been working as the International Editor of The Hollywood Reporter in Los Angeles and continues his long writing career there.