WALT DISNEY by Marc Eliot

WALT DISNEY

Hollywood's Dark Prince
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KIRKUS REVIEW

 Muckraking, unauthorized biography of Disney that nonetheless paints such a rending picture of his childhood and young manhood that one forgives most of his later lapses. Eliot (Down Thunder Road, 1991, etc.) thinks that Disney was a great artist--which may account for what turns out to be a largely sympathetic biography of the filmmaker's dark side. Disney's fundamentalist father, Elias, was such a monster to his sons, whom he beat mercilessly, that Walt came to believe he wasn't his father's child--nor would Walt's mother protect him from Elias's savagery. These trials, and especially the anxiety about his parentage, became the template for Disney's later cartoon stories, Eliot says, and account in part for the mogul's endless troubles with his stable of animators, whom he underpaid and refused to give any power to. Nor would Disney grant Mickey Mouse's real creator, fellow animator Ub Iwerks, his proper credit, though Iwerks was Disney's oldest friend aside from the filmmaker's brother, Roy. On his marriage night, Disney found himself impotent, Eliot says, a state that later recurred during times of stress, which were exacerbated by a drinking problem and bouts of depression. Meanwhile, Disney's father had instilled in the boy a hatred of Jews, and Walt never curbed his tongue about Jews among his animators--and especially not when talking about fellow studio heads. He felt cut out of the real money in Hollywood since he could only produce movies with his own money while other studios monopolized distribution and exhibition. Following WW II, Disney helped organize resistance to the studio monopolies and in many ways brought about the downfall of the studio system. Earlier, he had become an informant for the FBI--according to Eliot, Disney wanted J. Edgar Hoover to investigate whether he really was the son of his alleged father--and, here, the author draws from some 500 pages of Disney's reports to the Bureau. Very readable, actually quite laudable, work. (Sixteen pages of photographs--not seen)

Pub Date: June 1st, 1993
ISBN: 1-55972-174-X
Page count: 288pp
Publisher: Birch Lane Press
Review Posted Online:
Kirkus Reviews Issue: April 1st, 1993




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