Books by Thomas M. Coffey

Released: Aug. 18, 1997

A mediocre, mediocre, mediocre autobiography. Long before Oliver Stone started pontificating, there was Stanley Kramer. As producer and then director, this self-proclaimed and lifelong New Dealer was responsible for any number of big, self-important ``message'' pictures, such as Guess Who's Coming to Dinner, Death of a Salesman, and On the Beach. These made enough money to keep him in the business, but a substantial portion flopped dramatically at the box office. (Even the flops, however, were showered with Academy Award nominations.) Early in his career, under a contract with Columbia's legendary Harry Cohn, Kramer managed to produce ten money-losers in a row, then redeemed himself on the eleventh picture, The Caine Mutiny. It's a remarkable story, but Kramer fails to display the requisite introspection and anecdotal flair. Much of this strangely bloodless memoir reads more like a ledger book than a life, a balancing up of profits and losses, with little consideration of all that lies beyond the numbers. From childhood, Kramer knew he wanted to work in the movies, but quick success eluded him as he labored in a variety of minor jobs, such as moving props. After WW II, he returned to Hollywood determined to make it as an independent producer (a great rarity at the time). With a lot of chutzpah and drive and the usual dollop of luck, he was soon well established, but his desire for control then took him naturally into directing. But don't look for any analysis of his directing technique or for thoughts on working with actors. Kramer is in too much of a hurry to get every fact down to bother with such illumination. This book, so lightweight, so lacking in any ``message,'' would never make it as a Stanley Kramer picture. (b&w photos, not seen) Read full book review >
Released: Jan. 26, 1994

An agreeable and evocative trip down Memory Lane with an erstwhile prodigy who, in a variety of posts including the presidency of NBC, left an enduring mark on commercial broadcasting as well as on the enterprises that provide its financial support. Focusing on a 25-year span that began in 1932, when he went to work for the CBS radio station in L.A., Weaver recalls a varied, creative career that took him to many a high-profile post. Early on, as a top hand at Young & Rubicam, he was responsible for producing network programs starring the likes of Fred Allen (one of whose writers was Herman Wouk), Kate Smith, Phil Baker, and Goodman Ace. Moving from the advertising agency to American Tobacco, he helped revive the flagging market fortunes of Lucky Strike cigarettes, only to return to Y&R after WW II service as skipper of a US Navy sub-chaser. Subsequently recruited by NBC, Weaver helped shape TV during its formative years, putting on the air such landmark programming as Your Show of Shows and the ever-popular Today Show and Tonight Show. In the process, he helped wrest program ownership from the ad agencies; instituted multiple sponsorship of telecasts; pioneered public-service programming (including news coverage); and otherwise tried to ensure that the fledgling medium met its social/cultural obligations. Constant battles with David Sarnoff (the autocratic head of FCA—NBC's parent organization) took their toll, however, and, in 1956, the author left the network. While Weaver has little to say here about an evidently happy personal life (he's the father of Sigourney) or his post-NBC activities, he offers an amiable, anecdotal chronicle throughout. A low-key rerun, then, that's well worth catching. (Sixteen pages of photographs, many of which appear to be candid shots from family albums—not seen) Read full book review >