STUDIO AFFAIRS by Vincent Sherman

STUDIO AFFAIRS

My Life as a Film Director
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KIRKUS REVIEW

 Hollywood reminiscences, and more, from the quintessential studio system director. When Sherman began his directing career in the 1930s, directors were almost as low on the Hollywood totem pole as writers, just one more component of a vast hierarchy where real power and creative vision tended to belong to executive producers and studio moguls. At the heart of the system was its audacious application of the mass production techniques of the Industrial Revolution to movies. Good or bad, films had to be cranked out on a regular schedule to help cover the studios' huge overheads. Jack Warner's appeal to Sherman was typical: ``I know it's not a great story, but I've got six actors sitting around doing nothing but picking up their checks . . . do me a favor: Make the picture and do the best you can.'' Much of Sherman's career consisted of doing precisely this, reluctantly taking on films he didn't like and then trying to improve them as much as tight schedules and budgets allowed. Over the course of 30 features, he sometimes succeeded-- Mr. Skeffington, The Hard Way--and sometimes failed. Along the way he worked with some of the greatest of the greats: Clark Gable, Humphrey Bogart, Paul Newman. He also enjoyed a reputation as a ``woman's director,'' working with Joan Crawford, Rita Hayworth, and the notoriously difficult Bette Davis (he had extramarital affairs with all three). Despite his current semi-obscurity, his films are certainly worth a second look. Those seeking a portrait of Hollywood's seedy underbelly won't find it here. What Sherman has written is far more unusual: a frank, detailed, eminently clear record of the exhausting, exhilarating business of making films. The life, times, and techniques of a director from Hollywood's so-called ``Golden Age'' have rarely been so illuminatingly and insightfully detailed. (30 b&w illustrations, not seen)

Pub Date: Sept. 1st, 1996
ISBN: 0-8131-1975-8
Page count: 320pp
Publisher: Univ. Press of Kentucky
Review Posted Online:
Kirkus Reviews Issue: June 15th, 1996