Generational Hollywood business saga and first outing by Cort, a producer whose 52 film credits include Runaway Bride and Mr. Holland’s Opus.
Cort gives his real-life Hollywood figures a strong rounding-out with famous quirks and punchy dialogue. Focusing on the Jastrow family, he opens with attorney Harry Jastrow’s 1948 effort in the Supreme Court to overturn a lower court’s ruling against the distribution monopoly of Paramount, RKO, Twentieth Century-Fox, Warner Bros., and M-G-M, who own the theater chains that show their films. Harry loses, and, once divested of their chains, the studios face the rising threat of TV. The studios bury their heads in the sand about selling product to this medium, but Harry, seeing ahead, suggests making fresh programming for TV. A first-generation Ukrainian Jewish immigrant, Harry is married to former film star Maggie Nolin (Margaret Rose Kimmel), niece of Hollywood founding father Adolph Zukor. Too decent for an indecent business, Harry finds himself being bounced from Paramount for his far-reaching ideas and has a heart attack at his son AJ’s bar mitzvah. Ten years later, in a Bing Crosby celebrity golf tournament, AJ partners showman Mike Todd, who is taken with him and offers him a job on Don Quixote, his follow-up to Around the World in Eighty Days. Then AJ falls in with Steve McQueen and represents him at William Morris for McQueen’s first big TV western series, and after that through a series of five films, McQueen being no easy client. Like McQueen, AJ turns rebel, quitting the Morris agency when his mild antiwar activity upsets his bosses. When Charlie Bludhorn takes over Paramount and names Bob Evans president, AJ’s star rises as a producer. When his own company, J2 (J-squared) goes into the red, only a massive first-week opening of The Coney Island Maniac can save it. Then his son Ricky wants into the business and already has a great script to shuck—about AJ’s infidelity.
Much fun. Four Stars and an Irving Thalberg Award.