MOGULS: Inside the Business of Show Business by Michael Pye

MOGULS: Inside the Business of Show Business

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Six uneven profiles of big names in the entertainment racket--long on deal-making detail, short on personality or artistic insights, and lacking in overall effect despite Pye's insistent chanting of that word ""mogul."" He begins the book with familiar generalizations about the ""machine"" of show-biz and how it affects (mostly negatively) popular culture. But that doesn't really apply to Trevor Nunn, director of the multi-stage Royal Shakespeare Co., even though Pye stresses how economics have changed the RSC's structure; nor is Nunn truly a mogul, having inherited his empire from Peter Hall, and Pye's focus on Nunn's comflicted role as administrator/artist (nothing new in theater) seems lopsided. Similarly, the piece on Broadway's David Merrick--at most a mini-mogul--exasserates his huckstering by minimizing his shows' actual assets. (Pye fails to mention that Fanny had two big stars or that Gypsy's profits might be connected to a score full of hits.) And Peter Guber, a fast-climbing whiz-kid who somehow survived near-daily shakeups at Columbia Pictures and went on to mastermind The Deep and Midnight Express, seems an awfully minor candidate for Pye's breathy mogul-treatment. But if these three profiles indulge in slightly distorted build-ups, very much on the other hand is William S. Paley, Mr. CBS--who's too major a mogul to get adequate coverage in a brief sketch; Pye is content to summarize the 50 years of raiding, expanding, and amassing, with emphasis on the growing ""machine"" and the ""ideology of blandness that permeated the networks."" Only two of Pye's subjects, in fact, are both superficial and mogul-eqsue enough to respond to the narrow approach here: Jules Stein, who built a band-booking office into the MCA empire; and Robert Stigwood, who parlays rock music into stage/film bonanzas. Erratic reportage, then, drably written except for interview quotes and pretentious patches--with an arguable thesis (moguls ""have changed from the architects to the servants"" of corporations) that never quite takes coherent shape.

Pub Date: June 11th, 1980
Publisher: Holt, Rinehart & Winston