David Selznick (1902-1965) was 20 when his father, a high-rolling silent film producer/distributor, went bankrupt. Bent on fame, wealth and publicity, the precocious son who had served his domineering father as a sorcerer's apprentice would actually surpass his father. In his entertaining, prodigiously researched biography, Thomson characterizes Selznick as an arrogant manipulator, a megalomaniac hooked on Benzedrine, a brash charmer who believed he was pursuing perfection as a noble aim neglected by Hollywood. A walking contradiction, the highly sexed mogul made a pass at nearly every woman he employed but shied away from the erotic on screen. The self-educated high-school dropout produced Anna Karenina, David Copperfield, Dinner at Eight, Gone with the Wind and King Kong. Thomson, a novelist and author of A Biographical Dictionary of Film, has written a scintillating bio that includes glimpses of Garbo, Hepburn, Gable, Olivier, Dietrich, Graham Greene, Alfred Hitchcock and dozens of others. The book follows Selznick's trajectory from expansive creator to suspicious negotiator preoccupied with a fear of failure. Photos. BOMC alternate. (Nov.)
Selznick, producer of such notable films as Gone with the Wind (1939) and A Star Is Born (1937) , was a protean and complex man. Much about this self-destructive yet brilliant egotist can be discovered in his (in)famous memos, from which author Thomson quotes generously. Thomson also had access to many of the people who knew Selznick intimately. It is perhaps this personal contact which engendered the seeming dislike of his subject that permeates this work, including the open editorializing about Selznick's numerous shortcomings. Thomson presents many facts (in sometimes rambling fashion) but does not quite succeed in the admittedly formidable task of capturing the man. Still, this is a useful adjunct to such works as Memo from David O. Selznick (Viking, 1973) and Hitchcock & Selznick (Weidenfeld and Nicolson, 1987).-- Roy Liebman, California State Univ. Lib., Los Angeles
Movie mogul David O. Selznick was correct when he feared his obituaries would be headlined "producer of "Gone with the Wind"," thus slighting the dozens of other films he had a hand in, including such classics as "David Copperfield", "Rebecca", and "The Third Man". The son of immigrant parents, Selznick began work in the film industry while still in his teens and headed production at various studios before forming his own company in 1936 (and marrying the daughter of MGM head, Louis B. Mayer, along the way). In the years following "GWTW"'s triumph, his career underwent a long, slow decline during which most of his projects were flops or aborted. But by then, his primary interest lay in shaping the career of his second wife, Jennifer Jones. Thomson, a prolific author of film-derived fiction and nonfiction, had the cooperation of Selznick's family and access to his voluminous papers, including thousands of his famous memos, reveal the preoccupation with every aspect of filmmaking that was key to his success. Those privileges enabled him to afford the definitive look at one of the major figures of Hollywood's Golden Age, who managed to tower over his contemporaries as both businessman and "showman."
REVWR Gordon Flagg
H1 Adult Books
AUTH Wilson, Cheryl Landon
AUTH2 Scovell, Jane
TITLE I Promised My Dad
TITLR An Intimate Portrait of Michael Landon
PUBD Nov. 1992
PUBL Simon & Schuster
CAT 791.45'028 [B] Landon, Michael || Wilson, Cheryl Landon || Television actors and actresses--U.S.--Biography [OCLC] 92-30840
REVIEW Here's a twist on the Daddy Dearest genre. Wilson, actor Michael Landon's oldest stepdaughter, heaps only praise on her father, but he somehow still comes out looking pretty bad. Perhaps the oddest thing about the book is the way Wilson kids herself. It's clear she adored the man who became her stepfather when she was seven, depended upon him emotionally and financially, and found him an inspiration when she was involved in a near-fatal car crash. But then Landon did what to Wilson was the unthinkable--he left her mother and married someone else. From this point in the story, Wilson's ruminations carry an undertone of anger; no matter how ideally she portrays Landon, we sense her resentment. On the surface, though, the new wife gets the blame. While Wilson is not overtly nasty to Cindy Landon, it's clear she holds the woman responsible for breaking up her parents' marriage. But really it was history repeating itself: Landon ditched a previous wife and children to marry Cheryl's mother. Limited access to Landon in his dying days and a last-minute change in the will also get charged to Cindy, thus sparing Michael any culpability. Landon's legion of fans will find the details of the actor's sad early life and his dying days quite moving, but Wilson's personal and seemingly misdirected hurt makes this an unpleasant read.
Brilliant, immense life of the producer of Gone With the Wind, smartly done by film-historian/novelist Thomson (Silver Light, 1990, etc.). Thomson has done stunning research for this labor, and interviewed everyone of importance regarding David O. Selznick (1902-65), aside from Jennifer Jones, Selznick's second and last wife, who clammed up. Jones could have added much but, going by her portrait here, it's understandable that she's still the publicity- shy, shivering creature she was when Selznick first met herand there's the weight of having parted him from first wife, Irene Mayer Selznick (who told her side in 1981's A Private View). The arc of Selznick's lifefrom teenage go-getter following his father and older brother into the movie biz to huge success in his middle 30s and then to a long, unstoppable declinegives a great boost to the opening half of this bio, though the fizzle of Selznick's later career drains the book's energy later on simply because Selznick became a dully compulsive memo-writer, talker, gambler, and egomaniac, out of touch with the times and rambling from one deep pit of debt to another. Selznick spent much of his time addicted to Benzedrine, drank enough and lost enough money gambling to stay embattled with both wivessometimes bruising Jenniferand made great use of his producer's couch with actresses, starlets, secretaries, and even messenger girls: not a likable guy, except to well-heeled friends like Jock Whitney and Bill Paley. Selznick also publicized himself as Hollywood's greatest translator of great books to film, although he seldom read anything but synopses and scripts. Thomson sees him not just warts and all but as apuppet to the women in his life, whose neurotic needs kept him chained up like a dancing bear. Pretty much a spellbinder, with a pathetic third act, despite Thomson's keen analyses of Selznick's glossy films and long fade- out. (Photographs108not seen.)