CLOWN PRINCE OF HOLLYWOOD: The Antic Life and Times of Jack L. Warner by Bob Thomas

CLOWN PRINCE OF HOLLYWOOD: The Antic Life and Times of Jack L. Warner

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KIRKUS REVIEW

Thomas (King Cohn, Thalberg, Selznick, Joan Crawford, etc.) now reviews the life of producer Jack L. Warner. Despite tremendous familiarity with his subject and with Hollywood. Thomas fails to infuse the joke-spouting Warner, an ex-vaudevillian who eventually became top gun of the Warner Bros. studio, with much life. The flaw lies less with Warner, who arguably lends himself to spirited biography, than with Thomas, whose pages sell threadbare Hollywood lore and anecdotes whose nap has long disappeared. This is not to say that Thomas doesn't enjoy himself here, or that younger readers might not come to this material more freshly. But one dies waiting for something new to spring up. Aside from his power as a studio head, Warner was best known personally for his overwhelming flow of dumb jokes--during or after business hours made no difference. Any talk with Warner meant sitting through his routines. He comes across here as a socially inadequate, mistrustful tyrant who hid behind barrages of humor. His credo, says Thomas, was ""Give an actor a break and he'll fuck you later."" Perhaps his funniest, if unintentional, joke related to his turning down Paul Muni's dream of playing Beethoven: ""Nobody wants to see a picture about a blind composer."" We follow him from his beginnings in the family grocery, as one of 12 siblings, through the rise of the film industry, his fights with his brothers, his son, and his star contract players (Davis, Bogart, Cagney, de Havilland), the making of The Jazz Singer, Casablanca, The Maltese Falcon, A Star Is Born, Rebel Without a Cause, My Fair Lady, and Who's Afraid of Virginia Woolf?, to his last day as boss of the studio. Had he got a good price for it? ""Yeah,"" said Warner. ""But today I'm Jack L. Warner. Tomorrow I'll be just another rich Jew."" Fair to middling.

Pub Date: July 9th, 1990
Publisher: McGraw-Hill