An unsparing profile of James Forrestal (1892-1949), Secretary of the Navy under Truman, by Hoopes (The Devil and John...


DRIVEN PATRIOT: The Life and Times of lames Forrestal

An unsparing profile of James Forrestal (1892-1949), Secretary of the Navy under Truman, by Hoopes (The Devil and John Foster Dulles, 1973, etc.) and Brinkley (History/Hofstra Univ.). This is a bold, strongly psychological investigation of a man who cut the ties that bind, made a spectacular success and a dangerous marriage (to Vogue writer Josephine Ogden), and took his own life after a dramatic breakdown. Born into a small-town lower-middle-class Irish Catholic family, Forrestal put his background quickly behind him upon entering Princeton--where he was voted ""Most Likely to Succeed"" before dropping out for obscure reasons shortly before graduation. Rather than return home, he took demeaning work for over a year before walking into the office of a Princeton Wall Street acquaintance. His classic Roaring Twenties career made him a millionaire: The authors' comparisons with Gatsby are not far-fetched. Controlled, polite, and mysterious, Forrestal was also respected and liked, an eligible and promiscuous bachelor member of the Wall Street elite, working with the legendary Clarence Dillon on epic deals that made financial history, accepted by old money as well as by celebrities like Dorothy Parker, Robert Benchley, and Gary Cooper. Meanwhile, his wife, ""Jo,"" turned out to be as stubborn and original as himself, and their open marriage (his womanizing never stopped) was stormy yet successful. Forrestal was a logical inductee to the coming WW II war effort; but while his Washington career eclipsed his Wall Street success, his workaholic life was coming apart. By the time he became Secretary of the Navy, the authors say, his denial of his wife's alcoholism and schizophrenia presaged an abrupt and irreversible collapse, triggered by his dismissal by Truman. A powerful biography--critical but sympathetic--of a driven man whose dark side permeates the narrative.

Pub Date: April 16, 1992


Page Count: 608

Publisher: Knopf

Review Posted Online: N/A

Kirkus Reviews Issue: March 15, 1992