MERCHANT OF DREAMS

LOUIS B. MAYER, M.G.M., AND THE SECRET HOLLYWOOD

Big bio of Louis B. Mayer, the most thorough ever, from the tireless Higham (The Duchess of Windsor, 1988, and lives of Cary Grant, Orson Welles, Errol Flynn, and others). Higham researches Mayer (1885-1957) as richly as he did Wallis Simpson, but the mogul doesn't register here with the same hormonal impact as the duchess—although one reads a life of Mayer not only for gossip but also for Hollywood history. The book does outweigh Diana Altman's Hollywood East (p. 889), a business-oriented bio of Mayer, but it falls into the same need to detail the studio background, thereby draining momentum from Mayer's life. Few readers will find much that's new here, despite Higham's copious interviews, including many in which he disagrees with his interviewees about legendary incidents—for example, disputing MGM story chief Samuel Marx's suggestion that studio exec Paul Bern (Jean Harlow's husband) was murdered and that Mayer tampered with the evidence to make the death look like suicide: Higham contends that, on the fateful morning, only Irving Thalberg, not Mayer, arrived at the Harlow/Bern manse. Higham tells of Mayer's affair with Paramount chief B.P. Schulberg's wife and of his lust for Jeanette MacDonald; of Mayer having an underling take a year in jail for Clark Gable after the star killed a woman with his car; of the studio chief's spending perhaps $400,000 to cover up John Huston's similar trouble; of Mayer's fears that the bisexuality or homosexuality of many of his actors, including Garbo, would be exposed. But mainly Higham tells of the son of an immigrant junk dealer who built the greatest studio on earth and then was fired by top money-man Nicholas Schenck. The MGM story still again, though L.B. stands at center stage. (Photographs.)

Pub Date: Feb. 25, 1993

ISBN: 1-55611-345-5

Page Count: 480

Publisher: Donald Fine

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Dec. 15, 1992

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An engrossing memoir as well as a lively treatise on what extraordinary grace under extraordinary pressure looks like.

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BECOMING

The former first lady opens up about her early life, her journey to the White House, and the eight history-making years that followed.

It’s not surprising that Obama grew up a rambunctious kid with a stubborn streak and an “I’ll show you” attitude. After all, it takes a special kind of moxie to survive being the first African-American FLOTUS—and not only survive, but thrive. For eight years, we witnessed the adversity the first family had to face, and now we get to read what it was really like growing up in a working-class family on Chicago’s South Side and ending up at the world’s most famous address. As the author amply shows, her can-do attitude was daunted at times by racism, leaving her wondering if she was good enough. Nevertheless, she persisted, graduating from Chicago’s first magnet high school, Princeton, and Harvard Law School, and pursuing careers in law and the nonprofit world. With her characteristic candor and dry wit, she recounts the story of her fateful meeting with her future husband. Once they were officially a couple, her feelings for him turned into a “toppling blast of lust, gratitude, fulfillment, wonder.” But for someone with a “natural resistance to chaos,” being the wife of an ambitious politician was no small feat, and becoming a mother along the way added another layer of complexity. Throw a presidential campaign into the mix, and even the most assured woman could begin to crack under the pressure. Later, adjusting to life in the White House was a formidable challenge for the self-described “control freak”—not to mention the difficulty of sparing their daughters the ugly side of politics and preserving their privacy as much as possible. Through it all, Obama remained determined to serve with grace and help others through initiatives like the White House garden and her campaign to fight childhood obesity. And even though she deems herself “not a political person,” she shares frank thoughts about the 2016 election.

An engrossing memoir as well as a lively treatise on what extraordinary grace under extraordinary pressure looks like.

Pub Date: Nov. 13, 2018

ISBN: 978-1-5247-6313-8

Page Count: 448

Publisher: Crown

Review Posted Online: Nov. 30, 2018

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The author's youthfulness helps to assure the inevitable comparison with the Anne Frank diary although over and above the...

NIGHT

Elie Wiesel spent his early years in a small Transylvanian town as one of four children. 

He was the only one of the family to survive what Francois Maurois, in his introduction, calls the "human holocaust" of the persecution of the Jews, which began with the restrictions, the singularization of the yellow star, the enclosure within the ghetto, and went on to the mass deportations to the ovens of Auschwitz and Buchenwald. There are unforgettable and horrifying scenes here in this spare and sombre memoir of this experience of the hanging of a child, of his first farewell with his father who leaves him an inheritance of a knife and a spoon, and of his last goodbye at Buchenwald his father's corpse is already cold let alone the long months of survival under unconscionable conditions. 

The author's youthfulness helps to assure the inevitable comparison with the Anne Frank diary although over and above the sphere of suffering shared, and in this case extended to the death march itself, there is no spiritual or emotional legacy here to offset any reader reluctance.

Pub Date: Jan. 16, 2006

ISBN: 0374500010

Page Count: 120

Publisher: Hill & Wang

Review Posted Online: Oct. 7, 2011

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 15, 2006

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