MAX by Howard Fast
Kirkus Star


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Zippier and more likable than the Immigrants tetralogy, this is another Fast-forward through golden-oldie predictables: the gravel-tongued hero will marry a super-refined wife; he'll collect loyal associates of thoughtfully selected ethnic/religious persuasions; he'll cohabit with a hard-luck lady whose heart is pure platinum; and he'll rise from poverty to fame and riches--in this case via the early movie biz. Max Britsky is born in 1879 in a Manhattan tenement. At twelve he finds himself sole support of a family of five siblings and miserably unloving mother Sarah. So scrapper Max plunges on through the raw street life, snatching at opportunities--from selling bagels in factories (carefully paying the security man his cut) to joining friend Bert Bellamy in comedy routines at the local burlesque house. At 18 he falls in love with teacher Sally Levine--the first lady he'd known with real class--and they'll marry, though Sally knows Max is ""crude."" So it's Sally, then, who propels Max to a lecture on a new 1898 Edison/Eastman development in film--and Britsky film history is in the making. Soon Max is owner (after virtuoso finagling) of a string of storefront moving-picture emporiums, which show a series of tiny, no-story flicks. Sally suggests accompanying piano music, later plumping for real dramas (using caption cards). And eventually, after fluttering out payola to police and Tammany, Max balks at being brought to heel by National Distributors and produces his own film, thanks to Sally and a loyal crew: The Waif, a veritable trough of sentiment, is a huge success. But, though movie palaces follow, ever-loyal Max is about to be battered by family and friends: Sally divorces him; their two kids are snots and strangers; beautiful Della, the one he really loves, dies; his two brothers have been milking the till; and finally Sally (with Max's best friend Bert) whisks the empire away--for good. In all: a homey, easy-listening mini-saga--with an endearing tycoon-hero, attractive museum-displays of familiar (though ever-lively) cinema history, but without the ornate implausibilities of the recent Fast epics.

Pub Date: Sept. 21st, 1982
Publisher: Houghton Mifflin