Ziarko looks at nearly every film produced by Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer while it was under Isadore “Dore” Schary’s control, arguing that it was the studio’s finest era.
One day in the late 1960s, when the author was working as an apprentice at MGM, he discovered an official ledger of financial and production details for nearly every film the studio made during Schary’s tenure from 1948 to 1956—the tail end of the Golden Age of Hollywood. Ziarko took the book home, meticulously copied it by hand and returned it. Now, decades later, after having corroborated the information with sources from the Library of the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences, he presents it here in book form. The author assumes that readers have at least a working knowledge of the era’s Hollywood history and major players, and, as such, this book isn’t recommended for neophytes. It also has significant structural issues: After some relatively brief introductory chapters, it presents charts, followed by a short discussion of each film; however, these discussions seem to have no clearly defined purpose. Some provide the author’s personal responses to a film, while others discuss a film’s backstage drama, historical context or how well it fared at the box office. Overall, the book feels unpolished—more like disconnected trivia rather than a well-formed narrative. That said, Ziarko has an encyclopedic knowledge of his subject, and a great passion for movies that is genuinely infectious; he writes with unbridled joy. As a result, film buffs will likely be fascinated by many of his stories and expert opinions, and truly charmed by his conversational, enthusiastic tone.
A loving, if roughly executed, guide to a classic Hollywood studio at its height.