"A TALENT FOR TROUBLE: The Life of Hollywood's Most Acclaimed Director, William Wyler" by Jan Herman

"A TALENT FOR TROUBLE: The Life of Hollywood's Most Acclaimed Director, William Wyler"

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KIRKUS REVIEW

This first book by Los Angeles Times correspondent Herman is an exhaustively complete biography of Wyler, director of such acclaimed films as Ben-Hur, The Best Years of Our Lives, Wuthering Heights, Jezebel, and The Letter. William Wyler was the Hollywood director's director, a man whose work includes some of the most honored films of all time. A list of the stars he worked with is a veritable who's who of the film industry, led by Bette Davis, Audrey Hepburn, Gary Cooper, and Barbra Streisand. Ironically, as Herman recounts, Wyler was the black sheep of his family of well-to-do Alsatian Jews. He was a mischievous kid who managed to get himself thrown out of a fancy private school and who showed little inclination to apply himself to finding a career. Eventually, his doting mother would draw on a family connection to Carl Laemmle, founder and owner of Universal Pictures, shipping her son off to America with ""Uncle"" Carl. After a few false starts as a shipping clerk, publicity assistant, and gofer, the young Wyler began to work his way up the ladder, directing two-reel westerns before graduating to features. With the coming of sound, Wyler would quickly establish himself as a great director of actors and a maker of fluid, graceful films. Herman tells his story intelligently, offering portraits along the way of Wyler friends and nemeses like Sam Goldwyn and Darryl F. Zanuck. Herman is candid about such episodes as his protagonist's affair with Bette Davis and even manages to occasionally say some useful things about the films (he is particularly good on The Letter), although he's barking up the wrong tree when he suggests that the many Oscars won by Wyler films and their participants somehow certify Wyler's genius. A model Hollywood biography: cogent, to the point, candid, briskly written, and never dull.

Pub Date: Jan. 3rd, 1996
Page count: 528pp
Publisher: Putnam