From Publishers Weekly
Until his death last year, Wasserman was one of the last survivors from the corporate side of Hollywood's golden era. Having started as an agent at MCA, he eventually became the firm's president, but not before he'd turned the talent agency into a powerful film and television studio, buying out Universal in the process. Wasserman's story is inseparable from that of MCA, and this book appropriately begins with an account of the company's founder, Jules Stein, who began booking bands from his Chicago office in 1924. This put Stein, and MCA, in contact with the local musicians' union, which then linked him to organized crime-the first of several such links the book explores. Wasserman helped shift the balance of power to Hollywood, remaining with the firm despite being widely sought after by rival agencies and movie studios. He also helped extend MCA's political influence, through extensive fund-raising and a longstanding connection with former client Ronald Reagan. New Yorker staffer Bruck (Master of the Game) is strong on Wasserman's corporate tactics, as well as later buyouts of Universal by foreign investors. But she also demonstrates extensive familiarity with the business's underside, exploring Wasserman's connections with mob lawyer Sidney Korshak, which assured a comfortable relationship between MCA and Hollywood's unions. Much more than a celebrity-studded tale, Bruck's work offers a look at the corporate machinations behind the film industry's myths. 8-page photo insert not seen by PW.
Copyright 2003 Reed Business Information, Inc.
*Starred Review* Lew Wasserman arrived in Hollywood in 1939 to help Jules Stein transform MCA from a band-booking company into a talent agency for movie stars. He did that and a whole lot more, as award-winning business reporter Bruck makes clear in this absolutely riveting account of power-broking in Tinseltown. Wasserman's career possesses a kind of epic symmetry: by freeing the stars of the 1940s from the servitude of studio contracts, he effectively ended the era of the movie moguls, only to become the greatest mogul of them all. But, as Bruck explains in painstaking but absorbing detail, Wasserman redefined the role of the mogul. In the days of Warner, Mayer, et al., the moguls operated their individual fiefdoms, largely independent of one another; Wasserman wanted it all, and eventually, as MCA morphed into Universal Studios, he got it--not a fiefdom but the whole empire. Television, we learn, was the key. Whereas the old guard saw TV as a threat and attempted to close ranks against it, Wasserman saw it as the future and sought to dominate it. Long before content
became a buzzword for the Internet generation, Wasserman bought Paramount Pictures' film library for peanuts and peddled it to the networks for millions. With the gusto of Howard Cosell at ringside, Bruck reports on business coup after business coup, showing not only how Wasserman roped his dopes but also how he acquired the leverage (Mob lawyer Sidney Korshak helped) to do so. This is the most revealing look at the business of Hollywood since Robert Evans growled his way through The Kid Stays in the Picture
(1994). Ilene CooperCopyright © American Library Association. All rights reserved