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.
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