An entertaining history of the movie industry’s tumultuous past.



A cleareyed portrait of an irascible Hollywood power broker.

Drawing on scores of candid interviews, journalist and movie historian Wilkerson (One Person, One Vote, 2008, etc.) vividly recounts the life and career of his father, a powerful and controversial figure in Hollywood from the 1930s through the 1950s. Publisher of the Hollywood Reporter, William Wilkerson (1890-1962) could make or break reputations with one of his pointed editorials. With ties to organized crime, a lifelong addiction to gambling, and a mercurial temper, he was a man to be feared. He treated his six wives poorly, mercilessly mocked gay men, and repeatedly fired (and often impulsively rehired) his staff. Throughout his life, he “came to have three deep-seated hatreds: drunks, Communists, and people who stole from him.” Added to that list were studio moguls: “The studios could guarantee that their films would be screened, but before long Wilkerson had the power to dissuade audiences from seeing them.” Not content with being merely a publisher and editor, Billy was a restless entrepreneur, energized by challenges. “All his life Billy was in love with the impossible,” a friend of his noted. His projects included several restaurants—beginning with the Vendome, which became the place to go for a power lunch—and the Flamingo Hotel in Las Vegas, which got him entangled with Bugsy Siegel. When Siegel was on trial for murder, he had Billy’s elegant club, Ciro’s, deliver gourmet meals to his jail cell; but their relationship soured. Billy also became known as one of LA’s prominent “purveyors of vice,” owning a stake in supper clubs that hosted gambling casinos and kept prostitutes “on standby” for guests. In the late 1940s, Billy embarked on a zealous campaign to rout out communist influence in Hollywood. His “scathing editorials,” writes the author, inspired the House Un-American Activities Committee “to take dramatic action,” issuing subpoenas to scores of prominent Hollywood figures. A 300-car cortege assembled for Billy’s funeral in 1962; his many enemies pointedly stayed away.

An entertaining history of the movie industry’s tumultuous past.

Pub Date: Sept. 4, 2018

ISBN: 978-1-61373-660-9

Page Count: 384

Publisher: Chicago Review Press

Review Posted Online: June 12, 2018

Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 1, 2018

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If the authors are serious, this is a silly, distasteful book. If they are not, it’s a brilliant satire.


The authors have created a sort of anti-Book of Virtues in this encyclopedic compendium of the ways and means of power.

Everyone wants power and everyone is in a constant duplicitous game to gain more power at the expense of others, according to Greene, a screenwriter and former editor at Esquire (Elffers, a book packager, designed the volume, with its attractive marginalia). We live today as courtiers once did in royal courts: we must appear civil while attempting to crush all those around us. This power game can be played well or poorly, and in these 48 laws culled from the history and wisdom of the world’s greatest power players are the rules that must be followed to win. These laws boil down to being as ruthless, selfish, manipulative, and deceitful as possible. Each law, however, gets its own chapter: “Conceal Your Intentions,” “Always Say Less Than Necessary,” “Pose as a Friend, Work as a Spy,” and so on. Each chapter is conveniently broken down into sections on what happened to those who transgressed or observed the particular law, the key elements in this law, and ways to defensively reverse this law when it’s used against you. Quotations in the margins amplify the lesson being taught. While compelling in the way an auto accident might be, the book is simply nonsense. Rules often contradict each other. We are told, for instance, to “be conspicuous at all cost,” then told to “behave like others.” More seriously, Greene never really defines “power,” and he merely asserts, rather than offers evidence for, the Hobbesian world of all against all in which he insists we live. The world may be like this at times, but often it isn’t. To ask why this is so would be a far more useful project.

If the authors are serious, this is a silly, distasteful book. If they are not, it’s a brilliant satire.

Pub Date: Sept. 1, 1998

ISBN: 0-670-88146-5

Page Count: 430

Publisher: Viking

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 15, 1998

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The author's youthfulness helps to assure the inevitable comparison with the Anne Frank diary although over and above the...


Elie Wiesel spent his early years in a small Transylvanian town as one of four children. 

He was the only one of the family to survive what Francois Maurois, in his introduction, calls the "human holocaust" of the persecution of the Jews, which began with the restrictions, the singularization of the yellow star, the enclosure within the ghetto, and went on to the mass deportations to the ovens of Auschwitz and Buchenwald. There are unforgettable and horrifying scenes here in this spare and sombre memoir of this experience of the hanging of a child, of his first farewell with his father who leaves him an inheritance of a knife and a spoon, and of his last goodbye at Buchenwald his father's corpse is already cold let alone the long months of survival under unconscionable conditions. 

The author's youthfulness helps to assure the inevitable comparison with the Anne Frank diary although over and above the sphere of suffering shared, and in this case extended to the death march itself, there is no spiritual or emotional legacy here to offset any reader reluctance.

Pub Date: Jan. 16, 2006

ISBN: 0374500010

Page Count: 120

Publisher: Hill & Wang

Review Posted Online: Oct. 7, 2011

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 15, 2006

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