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Merchant of Dreams Mass Market Paperback


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Product Details

  • Mass Market Paperback
  • Publisher: Laurel; Reprint edition (November 1, 1994)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0440220661
  • ISBN-13: 978-0440220664
  • Product Dimensions: 1.5 x 4.2 x 7 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 9.6 ounces
  • Average Customer Review: 3.4 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (5 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #3,567,671 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Editorial Reviews

From Publishers Weekly

Movie mogul Louis B. Mayer (1885-1957) is often depicted as a lecherous ogre, but film biographer Higham ( Errol Flynn ) humanizes the M.G.M. titan in this revelatory, wonderfully vivid biography based on archival files and interviews with the Mayer family and surviving M.G.M. executives. The multifaceted Mayer is portrayed as a hypochondriac haunted by his mother's painful death, an absentee husband whose extramarital romances pushed his mentally disturbed wife to multiple suicide attempts, and a stern yet loving despot who protected his homosexual stars and covered up alleged acts of manslaughter by John Huston and by Clark Gable. Higham reveals how director Victor Saville, a British intelligence agent in WW II, swayed Mayer to make anti-Hitler movies. He offers new details about Mayer's close ties with Herbert Hoover, his betrayals of and by Irving Thalberg and his detestation of Greta Garbo, for whom he provided a cover when she worked as a British agent fighting Hitler. This star-studded, gossipy bio is packed with indelible anecdotes and on-set lore. Photos.
Copyright 1993 Reed Business Information, Inc. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

From Library Journal

Ukrainian-born Lazar Meir graduated from Canada's St. John High School as Louis Mayer in 1902 and by 1912 was a successful film exhibitor in the northeastern United States. In Hollywood he helped create and drive the classical studio system by supervising productions, while finding and nurturing talent. Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer became a great studio under Mayer's regime. By turns callous, empathetic, vulgar, and loving, Mayer hobnobbed with government figures at many levels, including the presidency. The wealth of information here is en grossing because Higham ( Elizabeth and Philip , Doubleday, 1991) balances the often shocking personal habits of stars and executives with nitty-gritty filmmaking details. Merchant of Dreams deserves a place beside Ethan Mordden's The Hollywood Studios ( LJ 5/15/88) and Neal Gabler's An Empire of Their Own (Crown, 1988).
- Kim Holston, American Inst. for Chartered Property Casualty Underwriters, Malvern, Pa.
Copyright 1993 Reed Business Information, Inc. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

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Customer Reviews

3.4 out of 5 stars
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Most Helpful Customer Reviews

15 of 15 people found the following review helpful By jenbird on May 11, 2004
Format: Hardcover
Being a huge fan of classic Hollywood, I snapped this book up and devoured it quickly, thoroughly enjoying all the juicy bits and behind the scene information. Once I got over the initial excitement of so much gossip all at once, I took a closer look, and found that in many, many instances, Higham gets the most basic information completely wrong. Information that is laughably easy to verify. For example:
1. Norma Shearer and Irving Thalberg's daughter is named Katherine, not Barbara. She was born in 1935, not 1936.
2. Ted Healy died from injuries suffered in a bar brawl, kidney failure, and alcoholism, not from a heart attack brought on by Mayer. He was 41, not 45, when he died.
3. Jean Harlow never had an affair with her stepfather, Marino Bello; in fact, she hated him. And she didn't encourage her friends and colleagues to invest in his "gold mines," either.
4. John Gilbert didn't die of a heart attack. He was given a sedative by his nurse, had an adverse reaction, and choked to death while unattended.
And so on...
In addition, Higham is very partial to some stars and absolutely hates others; these attitudes come across in Mayer's biography so strongly that they are often distracting from the story itself. Garbo is a monster of selfishness. Crawford is a bed-hopping tramp. Shearer is a terrible snob. Some of which may be true, but I'm sure these people had their good sides, too, but you won't find such balance here.
At first glance, there is quite a bit of fascinating, never-before-known "information" in this book. After realizing how little the author checks his facts, though, I have to wonder if any of these incredible tales are true, or even close to true.
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6 of 7 people found the following review helpful By Peter Shelley on November 21, 2000
Format: Mass Market Paperback
In his prologue, Higham tells us that much of the information he discloses has been drawn from hitherto sealed government files. Its more believable that he had long conversations with Howard Strickling, since Strickling was head of MGM's publicity department during the reign of Louis B Mayer, and the one responsible for the covering up of the secret lives of the stars. I guess the fun about gossip is in the discovery of the sordid details. Perhaps it's then only fair that I drop some of the names mentioned and let you discover the particulars. There's actually not a lot that was previously unknown to me. There's the death of Jean Harlow's husband Paul Bern, and then later the death of Harlow herself. The day of the lamentable shortage of knockworst in the commissary when no jockstraps could be worn under tights. The not too surprising inclination of Garbo's mentor Mauritz Stiller. Garbo's repeated no-shows for marriage to John Gilbert, and Mayer's dislike of Gilbert stemming from behaviour long before Garbo came into the scene. Why Garbo never bore a child. The fate of the footage of extras being drowned in Ben-Hur. The men killed by both Clark Gable and John Huston. Lee Tracy's forced retirement. How George Cukor nearly lost the job of directing Camille, as well. The supplier of drugs to Judy Garland. And Leni Riefenstahl's attempts to join MGM. The scandals seem to dissipate once we hit World War 2, or is that Higham's focus is more on Mayer's infidelities, and eventually his clashes with Nicholas Schenck and Dore Schary? Higham also presents a filmic history of the studio and it's output. I wish he'd only given us more dirt, because I get the impression that these scandals are just the tip of the iceberg.
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Format: Hardcover
There's a lot that's been written about Louis B. Mayer and his reign over MGM during Hollywood's studio system heyday because a lot happened, and because it's hard to know what really happened. This was a time when public persona was everything and much was swept under the carpet of public standing. While I had to wonder, from time to time, where the author got his information, I thought this was a pretty good read. By the end, I thought, "Well, that was one version." If you're keen to learn as much as you can about Hollywood's bygone era, I would say include this book, but don't make it your only one about Mayer, MGM, or the studio system.
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By Carolyn Kingsley on November 25, 2008
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
I very much enjoyed this biography of L.B. Mayer and his dream factory, so much so that I read it twice. It containes a lot of rich historical information. I love history and I love the movies. This book was right up my alley. (Pardon the cliche.)A must read for people who love stories about famous men and how they made their fortune.
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Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
Like the previous reviewer, I also have some questions/concerns about Higham's accuracy. I've read at least 5 other books about Thalberg, Shearer & MGM, & several things here are new to me including allegations that the Thalberg Shearer marriage was shaky (I've always read the exact opposite previously), & that Thalberg had a tendency to scream at people when he was angry (I've previously read that his persona tended to be quite mild mannered). I'd be very interested to hear other Mayer/Thalberg/Shearer biographer's opinion of this book's accuracy. I also question the allegations that Walt Disney was a Nazi sympathizer amongst others. My 2 star rating is with the assumption that the book is factually inaccurate.

To me it pretty much reads as one scandal after another..... there may be SOME truth in that!
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