Business history of the moviemaker from Minsk who helped found MGM, became feared and powerful, treated his stable of stars like a tearful father, and was a renowned vulgarian whose mangled bons mots were the lifeblood of movie colony gossip. Film historian Altman is the daughter of the late Al Altman, MGM's New York talent scout from the time MGM was founded in 1924 until the early 60's. The energetic and devoted Mayer started early in the amusement business. In 1907, at age 22, in Haverhill, Massachusetts, a small city north of Boston, he borrowed $600 and opened the town's second movie theater, formerly known as the ``Garlic Box'' and renamed by him as the ``Gem.'' ``Louey said he regretted quitting school when he was twelve. He should have quit when he was ten. That way, everyone would not have had a head start on him,'' Altman tells us. Business gave Mayer stature. Then he had an even grander idea and cofounded a distributorship that delivered films to theaters, by rail in fireproof tins from New York, and got rental contracts from exhibitors for specific dates, then advertised the films to theater owners and the public. Mayer began making films in Brooklyn and, in 1923, made boy genius Irving Thalberg his production head. While the public still thought of Hollywood as the center of power for filmmaking, all money decisions were made in the studios' New York home offices. Joining his Mayer Company to the already established Metro and Goldwyn companies, Mayer became an employee of MGM, answerable to board chairman Nicholas Schenck, who in 1954 fired him. As MGM builds, then loses, its empire, Altman tells amusing stories about Metro stars, her father's screen tests of Joan Crawford and Greta Garbo, and of Mayer's great crying act when arguing with angry studio folk. Business and personalities well mixed—a much lighter read than Neal Gabler's An Empire of Their Own (1988). (Photographs—not seen.)

Pub Date: Oct. 1, 1992

ISBN: 1-55972-140-5

Page Count: 288

Publisher: Birch Lane Press

Review Posted Online: May 19, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 15, 1992



This is not the Nutcracker sweet, as passed on by Tchaikovsky and Marius Petipa. No, this is the original Hoffmann tale of 1816, in which the froth of Christmas revelry occasionally parts to let the dark underside of childhood fantasies and fears peek through. The boundaries between dream and reality fade, just as Godfather Drosselmeier, the Nutcracker's creator, is seen as alternately sinister and jolly. And Italian artist Roberto Innocenti gives an errily realistic air to Marie's dreams, in richly detailed illustrations touched by a mysterious light. A beautiful version of this classic tale, which will captivate adults and children alike. (Nutcracker; $35.00; Oct. 28, 1996; 136 pp.; 0-15-100227-4)

Pub Date: Oct. 28, 1996

ISBN: 0-15-100227-4

Page Count: 136

Publisher: Harcourt

Review Posted Online: May 19, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Aug. 15, 1996




An extravaganza in Bemelmans' inimitable vein, but written almost dead pan, with sly, amusing, sometimes biting undertones, breaking through. For Bemelmans was "the man who came to cocktails". And his hostess was Lady Mendl (Elsie de Wolfe), arbiter of American decorating taste over a generation. Lady Mendl was an incredible person,- self-made in proper American tradition on the one hand, for she had been haunted by the poverty of her childhood, and the years of struggle up from its ugliness,- until she became synonymous with the exotic, exquisite, worshipper at beauty's whrine. Bemelmans draws a portrait in extremes, through apt descriptions, through hilarious anecdote, through surprisingly sympathetic and understanding bits of appreciation. The scene shifts from Hollywood to the home she loved the best in Versailles. One meets in passing a vast roster of famous figures of the international and artistic set. And always one feels Bemelmans, slightly offstage, observing, recording, commenting, illustrated.

Pub Date: Feb. 23, 1955

ISBN: 0670717797

Page Count: -

Publisher: Viking

Review Posted Online: Oct. 25, 2011

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Feb. 1, 1955

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