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Irving Thalberg: Boy Wonder to Producer Prince Hardcover – November 5, 2009

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Editorial Reviews

Review

“Vieira has accomplished something quite extraordinary. . . . This is the definitive volume about a towering figure in the history of Hollywood.”
(Leonard Maltin Leonard Maltin’s Movie Crazy 2009-12-02)

“Vieira has written the definitive biography of Thalberg.” STARRED REVIEW
(Teri Shiel Library Journal 2009-10-15)

“The third biography of Thalberg, and far and away the most thoroughly researched, comprehensive, and penetrating . . . as close to definitive as any biography of Irving Thalberg is likely to get.”
(Joseph Epstein The Weekly Standard 2010-01-18)

“Vieira writes with great verve and enthusiasm, and he has a flair for narrative movement that suits these exponents of the new storytelling . . . well written and extensively researched.”
(David Thomson New Republic 2010-03-25)

“If you want to know about Hollywood’s Golden Age, then you must know about Thalberg. And if you want to know about Thalberg, then you must read this book.”
(Anthony McKenna Screening The Past 2011-06-16)

“Among the many virtues of Mark Vieira’s biography is the use he makes of the story conferences preserved in the MGM archives.”
(The Economist 2009-11-12)

“Vieira’s work is both exhaustively researched and beautifully presented, rich in detail yet compulsively readable. If you want to know about Hollywood’s Golden Age, then you must know about Thalberg. And if you want to know about Thalberg, then you must read this book.”
(Anthony McKenna Screening The Past 2011-06-01)

“This is a worthy, well-documented account of [Thalberg’s] life.”
(R. D. Sears Choice 2010-07-01)

“A well-researched and readable biography.”
(David Yezzi Wall Street Journal 2009-11-10)

“This is a sympathetic, diligent, and intelligent account of a wondrous era in Hollywood.”
(Jewish Book World 2010-09-01)

“Vieira has put the enigmatic producer back in the spotlight with his biography . . . a thorough and readable book.”
(Matthew Rovner Forward 2010-02-26)

“Vieira’s excellent biography reveals a master player...[and] sheds much needed light upon significant, influential life.”
(Magill's Literary Annual / Salem Press 2011-02-04)

“The jury has been out for 70 years on the MGM studio chief, even though F Scott Fitzgerald immortalised him as the “last tycoon”. Was Thalberg art’s gift to Hollywood, with his well-bred epics (Romeo and Juliet, Marie Antoinette)? Or was he a mogul playing to the middlebrow? Read this impressively researched study and decide.”
(Nigel Andrews Financial Times 2010-06-26)

“An engaging new biography . . . an unusually animated and revealing tour of Hollywood in the 1920s and '30s.”
(Noah Isenberg Bookforum 2009-12-01)

“An important book on a pivotal figure in Hollywood history. . . . Vieira’s biography is an invaluable resource.”
(Camille McCutcheon, University of South Carolina Upstate Jrnl Of American Culture 2012-12-01)

“Vieira takes students of movie history deep into the bowels of MGM.”
(Robert Fulford The National Post 2010-01-11)

“A fast-paced and well-researched new biography of Thalberg.”
(Kent Jones Film Comment 2010-04-01)

From the Inside Flap

"I thought I knew the story of Irving Thalberg, Hollywood's fabled boy wonder, but I learned a lot from this well-written, diligently researched book. Mark Vieira immerses us in Thalberg's life and career and sheds new light on the workings of Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer at the peak of its powers. This is an altogether remarkable piece of work. "—Leonard Maltin, film critic and historian

"Mark A. Vieira's book is exceptionally well researched and makes a tremendous contribution to our understanding of an extraordinary era."—Kevin Brownlow, film historian and filmmaker

"Being the son of David O. Selznick and the grandson of Louis B. Mayer, I have read many books about Irving Thalberg, but none has brought this elusive figure to life as does Mark A. Vieira's. Because he had access to Norma Shearer's memoir notes and because he painstakingly reconstructed each year of Thalberg's brief life, a new figure emerges. Where before we saw a gentle and sensitive man who devoted great care to his films, we now see fierce concentration, arrogance, impatience with stupidity, and a compulsion to oversee every detail of every MGM film. Whatever it cost—and it cost him his health—it resulted in a body of work unprecedented in the history of the medium. I found Irving Thalberg compelling reading and masterly in its ability to keep me reading chapter after astonishing chapter."—Daniel Mayer Selznick, film historian and filmmaker
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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 528 pages
  • Publisher: University of California Press; 1St Edition edition (November 5, 2009)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0520260481
  • ISBN-13: 978-0520260481
  • Product Dimensions: 6 x 1.4 x 9 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 2 pounds (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.6 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (27 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #743,405 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

More About the Author

Mark A. Vieira was born in Oakland, California on October 28, 1950. He is a filmmaker, photographer, and writer specializing in Hollywood history. He makes glamour portraits with George Hurrell's camera in the historic Granada Buildings, where Hurrell had his original studio.

In October 2009 Mark celebrated his fortieth anniversary as a professional photographer. In October 2010 the University of Southern California's ONE Archives Gallery and Museum presented a retrospective of his work entitled "The Glamorous Gaze."

Mark has lectured at USC, UCLA, at Lincoln Center for the Performing Arts, Universal Studios, the Hollywood Heritage Museum, the Palm Springs Film Festival, and the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences.

He has appeared on camera in Photoplay Productions' "Garbo," in Turner Classic Movies' "Moguls and Movie Stars," Playboy's "Sex at 24 Frames per Second," in Universal's "Forbidden Film," and on "CBS Sunday Morning." In the 2011 BBC documentary "Shooting the Stars," he photographed Leslie Mann and interviewed Jane Russell.

In 2009 Mark guest-curated the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences exhibition: "Irving Thalberg: Creating the Hollywood Studio System, 1920-1936." In 2011 he co-curated "Harlow at 100" for the Hollywood Museum in the Historic Max Factor Building.

Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

21 of 21 people found the following review helpful By J. Billings on October 6, 2009
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
I pre-ordered this book several months ago and was not disappointed. Author Mark A.Viera has presented a detailed and insightful profile of Irving Thalberg, creator of such classics as Grand Hotel, Mutiny on the Bounty, and The Good Earth. A major plus for this book is the use of the heretofore unpublished memoirs of Thalberg's wife, Norma Shearer. Although there have been two excellent biographies of Shearer, this book provides an added dimension: a woman of kindness and strength. By all accounts a devoted wife, and mother of two young children who set aside her own career when necessary to care for her physically infirm husband. Still, she managed to garner 6 Oscar nominations (1 win) and set the standard for MGM glamour in the 1930's. In addition to Shearer, Thalberg made stars of: Jean Harlow, Clark Gable, Joan Crawford and Greta Garbo. Mark Viera adeptly chronicles their rise and much more.This book is a fine account of a great visionary, Irving Grant Thalberg who in life never sought public acknowledgement, but created a lasting legacy that has delighted movie fans for generations since. Great thanks to Mark Viera for a fine book.
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17 of 17 people found the following review helpful By david brown on November 30, 2009
Format: Hardcover
Irving Thalberg (1899-1936) was the legendary head of production at Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer during the "golden age" of film making in the 1930s. He was associated with a wide range of classic films ranging from silents (The Big Parade 1925), ensemble films (Grand Hotel 1932), adventure films (Mutiny on the Bounty 1935) and even Marx Brothers comedy (A Night At The Opera 1935). He became a lasting symbol of high quality film making and even today the Academy Awards periodically give the Irving G. Thalberg Memorial Award to producers in recognition of their body of work. Irving Thalberg achieved all of this in a short life over shadowed by a chronic heart condition.

This book, by Mark A. Vieira, is an excellent biography. It covers his early life, his drive in the face of a shortened life expectancy, his work at Universal under Carl Laemmle, his association with Louis B. Mayer and the formation of MGM, the building of the team that created the MGM style, his involvement in individual films, his battles for studio control with Louis B. Mayer and the New York office. The book also covers his personal life, notably his marriage to actress to Norma Shearer (1902-1983), his involvement with her films and her career sacrifices in the face of his ill health.

Thalberg's lasting image has been as a producer of great artistic taste whose contributions to the cinema were tragically cut short by his early death. This biography generally confirms that notion but succeeds in painting a more complex image. Thalberg, a man of limited education but widely read, possibly a would be writer, could not explain his artistic gift. In each film he sought to achieve, by combination of writing, acting, editing etc.
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7 of 7 people found the following review helpful By C. M Mills on March 22, 2010
Format: Hardcover
Two moguls made the MGM Lion Roar in the days of the Hollywood studio system. Louis B. Mayer was a tough former junk dealer who was was the President of MGM during that studio's supremacy., His Vice-President and overall producer was Irving Grant Thalberg (1899-1936) the fascinating subject of Mark Viera's formidable biography.
Thalberg was a Brooklyn Jew born to a wimpy father William and Henrietta his demanding mother. Irving was isolated as a youth due to a weak heart. Doctors told his parents the lad would probably not live until his 30th birthday. Irving spent much of his youth in bed where he became a voracious reader of classic novels and modern philosophy. He graduated from high school but was thought to lack the stamina needed to go to college.
Irving got a job at Universal Studios run by Carl Laemmele. Thalberg soon left their New York offices for the Hollywood Universal studio. He was a brilliant producer of silent films. Feeling underappreciated at Universal he took a job with the fledgling MGM . Soon he was producing films. Many of them have become legendary such as "Grand Hotel"; "Camille"; "Mutiny on the Bounty"; "Dinner at Eight"; the Marx Brothers films; "The Good Earth" and "Romeo and Juliet." His productions were often based on literary masterpieces; were elegantly produced and starred the brightest stars in the Hollywood constellation.
Thalberg nourished and promoted the careers of such MGM stars as Clark Gable, Joan Crawford, his wife Norma Shearer, Greta Garbo, Jean Harlow, Mickey Rooney, Myrna Loy, Johnny Weissmuller, Maurice Chevalier, Jeannette McDonald and countless others.
Thalberg was a perfectionist. He demanded the best of his stars and directors. Thalberg was noted for his editing work in fine tuning a good movie into a great film.
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7 of 7 people found the following review helpful By T. Oldes on January 8, 2010
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
"Boy Wonder to Producer Prince" is certainly the best and most detailed piece I have yet read on early MGM history. The author's prose is compelling, he reveals tidbits of information/trivia one has not encountered before, as well as new spins on things we've heard in other places. His depiction of Thalberg's deathbed vigil is so well written you feel you are actually there and shock resonates when the final moment arrives, even though you already may know the story. This is the fourth book I have read by Mr. Vieira and he never fails to impress with his knowledge and writing style. I heartily recommend this piece on early Hollywood history.
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