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The Agency: William Morris and the Hidden History of Show Business Hardcover – July, 1995

4.2 out of 5 stars 9 customer reviews

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Editorial Reviews

From Publishers Weekly

The growth of the William Morris Agency, founded in 1898, has mirrored the evolution of the entertainment industry. The agency began by booking vaudeville acts, then continued to supply talent to the ever-changing show biz formats?silent movies, radio, "talkies" and TV. And as entertainment become more of a big business, the power of the Morris Agency grew along with it. Rose's descriptions of the formative years of the agency and show business is slow-moving, but his narrative picks up as he details the era of Abe Lastfogel, who headed Morris from the early 1930s to 1969. Rose (West of Eden) really hits his stride in the last third of the book, when his focus shifts from the stars to the Morris agents themselves. Here he vividly describes the Machiavellian tactics employed by the firm's agents against other agencies and against each other to steal clients to advance their own power. Infighting among the Morris agents became public in 1975 when Michael Ovitz and four others bolted to form Creative Artists Agency. Entertainment-industry junkies will find Rose's entire work enjoyable, but more casual readers will likely skim the early sections. Photos not seen by PW.
Copyright 1995 Reed Business Information, Inc.

From Booklist

This would be a fascinating enough story if it was limited to the history of the William Morris Agency, the theatrical agency that has dominated the entertainment industry since the days of vaudeville. But you can't tell the William Morris story without immersing yourself in the history of show business in the twentieth century--how it evolved, who the movers and shakers were, where the business might be heading as the century draws to a close. Rose's exhaustive research is evident throughout. More than 200 sources were used, and while these personal remembrances are what gives the book its depth, the numerous anecdotes also occasionally weigh it down. Not that there's anything very dishy here. One would expect that a story featuring a cast of characters like Marilyn Monroe, Barbra Streisand, Frank Sinatra, and Bill Cosby, to name a few, would have a few tales to tell, but Rose sticks pretty much to the business side of their lives. The real stars here are the agents themselves. For once, the backstage boys get to step center stage, and it's power and influence that give them their glow. Ilene Cooper
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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 528 pages
  • Publisher: HarperCollins; 1st edition (July 1995)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0887307493
  • ISBN-13: 978-0887307492
  • Product Dimensions: 2 x 6.5 x 9.5 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.8 pounds
  • Average Customer Review: 4.2 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (9 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #405,760 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
Frank Rose's book really delivers a fascinating history of William Morris. It's not about the stars as much as the men (and women) who helped make the stars -- the "star-making machinery" as Joni Mitchell sang in "Free Man in Paris," her ode to David Geffen, himself one of the William Morris men who, incidentally, became a star himself. The Agency is substantial stuff -- and it was a full on inspiration for my own book, The Mailroom, which came later, and covered the Wm Morris Agency in part. Classic stuff, this book.
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Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
I worked at the William Morris Agency in Beverly Hills in the early 80's and this is a clear and concise history of WWA over the decades. It's accurate, entertaining and will give the reader a bird's eye view of the whole entertainment industry over the years since it the power broker agents that put all the deals together.
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Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
The history concentrates on celebrities but gets into the making of careers at some points which is fascinating. The wannabe agent can learn about the emergence of this professional field from this memoir. No too many memorable moments but a clear picture of the zoo.
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Format: Audible Audio Edition
Frank Rose did his research! His accounts of the William Morris Hollywood agency from the 1890s through 1992 documents the people, doings, and attitudes of the elite and not-so-elite Hollywood talent agents and stars. Rose tells it like it was, from the lowest points of the William Morris Agency through its highs of the height of Hollywood. It is well worth the read if you're interested in the back stories of agents and agencies in Hollywood.

Narrator Marlin May makes this book come alive. What could be considered less than interesting sections are well within May's reach to grab the audience's attention and keep it focused on the narrative. His voice is a very melodic baritone and held my attention throughout the book. Being a 22-hour book could become redundant and boring, but May makes sure he varies his timbre to keep up with the highs and lows of the book.

Based on my enjoyment of this book, I'm giving it five stars.
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Format: Hardcover
One of the best researched books on Hollywood. He names names and tells where the power of Hollywood is located. He backs up his stories with facts and flawless detective work giving creditability to what he writes. A very revealing look at the inside of the world of make believe and the people who run it....known and unknown.
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