Showman: the life of David O. Selznick

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Knopf Doubleday Publishing Group, 1992 - Performing Arts - 792 pages
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David O. Selznick, the legendary producer and maker of Gone With the Wind, is brilliantly portrayed in this full-scale biography by the first writer to be given complete access to Selznick's voluminous and revealing papers - everything from script notes, production reports, and contract memos, to letters rich in intrigue, gambling accounts, and financial records. No other Hollywood giant ever had so much to say; no other was brave and reckless enough to leave so much on the record. Selznick was the most charming, best-read, most insanely workaholic (and most easily diverted), most talented, arrogant, hopeful, amorous, insecure, and self-destructive of all the geniuses of American moviemaking. His story is the history of the picture business, from immigrant nerve to cafe society. It is, as well, the story of the chronic romantic who married first the princess of the kingdom (Irene, daughter of Louis B. Mayer) and then a young beauty - Jennifer Jones - whom he made a princess. Around him was a cast of vivid supporting players: his father, Lewis J., who made and lost fortunes in silent films; his two brothers - Myron, a pioneering (and boozing) agent, and Howard, whose mental condition overshadowed the rest of the family; Irene, David's scourge and his last comfort, as well as the person who taught him about power in Hollywood; Jock Whitney, fabulously rich, a great friend to David, and crazy about the movies; George Cukor; Alfred Hitchcock; Orson Welles; Vivien Leigh; Alexander Korda; William Paley; Ben Hecht; and John Huston. We see Selznick making such films as What Price Hollywood?, King Kong, David Copperfield, A Star is Born, Rebecca, Since You Went Away, Spellbound, Duel in the Sun, Portrait of Jennie, The Third Man, and A Farewell to Arms. And we are given the fullest possible account of the chaos, good fortune, folly, and glory of the making of Gone With the Wind. This superb biography uncovers the private lives and business maneuverings of Hollywood as no other book has done. It chronicles the Golden Age as seen from deep inside the gold mine and from behind locked doors where the spoils were divided, filched, or gambled away. In its rich sense of the wonders, ironies, and delusions inherent in "showmanship," this is a book about America in this century, turning from reality toward the glamour, the legend - the fantasy - of the movies.

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Review: Showman the Life of David O Selznick

User Review  - Christina - Goodreads

Very dense, but well researched bio on the legendary producer. Read full review

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About the author (1992)

John Heilpern is the author of the classic book about theater "Conference of the Birds: The Story of Peter Brook in Africa "and of "How Good is David Mamet, Anyway?," a collection of his theater essays and reviews. Born in England and educated at Oxford, his interviews for "The Observer "(London) received a British Press Award. In 1980 he moved to New York, where he became a weekly columnist for "The Times "of London. An adjunct professor of drama at Columbia University, he is drama critic for the "New York Observer.

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