SAM SPIEGEL by Natasha Fraser-Cavassoni
Kirkus Star


The Incredible Life and Times of Hollywood’s Most Iconoclastic Producer
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Superb bio of the high living, larger-than-life film producer, spellbindingly detailed by Harper’s Bazaar European editor Fraser-Cavassoni.

The author, who in 1982 worked as an assistant on Sam Spiegel’s production of Betrayal (written by her stepfather, Harold Pinter), was so intrigued by his flamboyant personality and reticence about his past that she made it her business to track down his origins. Born in western Galicia (now southeastern Poland) in 1901, Spiegel preferred to gloss over his humble Jewish roots; when asked his birthplace, he’d usually name Vienna. (In fact, he had attended the University of Vienna.) He emigrated to Palestine, married, and seven years later abandoned wife and daughter to sail for San Francisco. He returned to Berlin and Vienna to cut his producing teeth on several films and in 1939 came back to the US, hitting his stride a few years later as producer of Tales of Manhattan in 1942 and Orson Welles’s The Stranger in 1946. At one point, Spiegel had so many creditors that he changed his name to S.P. Eagle. Still, though, often penniless, he gave fantastic parties—his New Year’s Eve bashes were legendary—attended by all the big stars and directors. He produced many of the classic films of the 1950s and ’60s: The African Queen, On the Waterfront, The Bridge on the River Kwai, Lawrence of Arabia, etc. He also infuriated three wives with his penchant for young girls, top fashion models, young actresses, and high-class prostitutes; he was known to interrupt business meetings to arrange his sex life. Meanwhile, his relentless methods and empty promises as a producer prompted Hollywood to invent the words “Spiegelese” and “to Spiegel.” A sublime cast of characters—John Huston, David Lean, Marlon Brando, Peter O’Toole, Faye Dunaway, Bogey and Bacall, Warren Beatty, Mike Nichols, Elia Kazan—adds to the fun. It even seems right that Spiegel died on New Year’s Eve in 1985.

Sheer heaven for movie buffs.

Pub Date: April 1st, 2003
ISBN: 0-684-83619-X
Page count: 448pp
Publisher: Simon & Schuster
Review Posted Online:
Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 1st, 2003