MAYER AND THALBERG: The Make-Believe Saints by Samuel Marx

MAYER AND THALBERG: The Make-Believe Saints

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A reliable portrait of that ""paradoxical pair"" who directed Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer in its hey-day, penned with conviction by their former story editor. Russian-born Louis B. Mayer was a ""sharp. . . pugnacious"" theater manager and distributor before deciding to produce his own films ""Naive. . . and retiring"" Irving Thalberg--afflicted with a rheumatic heart and an overprotective mother--broke into the industry as Carl Laemmele's secretary at Universal. Dubbed ""The Boy Wonder"" after his speedy rise to head of production, Thalberg joined forces with Mayer in 1923 upon refusing to marry Laemmele's daughter Rosabelle. As a team, Mayer's executive ability and desire for ""wholesome"" pictures blended well with his Wunderkind's 'literary appreciation and un. common good taste. Their ""regime"" turned out 550 feature films--among them Ben Hut, The Big Parade and Grand Hotel--between 1924 (M-G-M's creation) and 1936 (Thalberg's death) in addition to stocking their stable with stars like Crawford, Gilbert, Garbo, Gable, Harlow and Thalberg's future wife, Norma Shearer. Studio power struggles in later years strained their relationship and undermined Thalberg's authority by the early '30s (once again the ""widely hated"" Mayer appears to have been the heavy). Despite being on the ropes, Thalberg went on to produce Mutiny on the Bounty, Romeo and Juliet and A Night at the Opera. Able-bodied treatment of a dynamic duo that surely merits some lionizing.

Pub Date: June 10th, 1975
Publisher: Random House