Customer Reviews: Goldwyn: A Biography
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on March 17, 2002
What a story! A remarkably easy to read account of Sam Goldwyn's rags-to-riches life. Did you know "Goldwyn" was not his real name? Did you know he was thrown out of the MGM company after a few years?! Goldwyn worked at some stage or other with just about every famous name in the business, and also fell out with just about everybody he ever met. A cantankerous and perverse character who loved contradicting people. When people quit because he made their lives intolerable, he sometimes felt personally attacked and betrayed. The book is full of colourful characters, and Scott Berg has done a wonderful job of using quotations and dialogues to really bring these people alive: Gary Cooper, Marlon Brando, Charlie Chaplin, Mary Pickford, Lillian Hellman, William Wyler, Billy Wilder, and the remarkable Hilda Berl. It reads like a movie! By tracing Goldwyn's history, the book also covers the story of many of the other famous movie companies that are still famous today: United Artists, Universal, Paramount, Warner Brothers, RKO and of course MGM. Goldwyn also came across many young actors and actresses before they were stars: Vivien Leigh, Laurence Olivier, David Niven, Marlon Brando, John Wayne, etc. And of course the famous Goldwyn malapropisms are here, though limited to the ones actually traceable (as far as possible) to Goldwyn himself: "Anyone who sees a psychiatrist should have their head examined! Include me out! A verbal agreement isn't worth the paper it's written on," to pick just a few.
A remarkably well-written and well-researched biography that brings this vigorous, infuriating, yet oddly attractive ugly duckling to vibrant life. This must rank amongst the best biographies, up there with Ron Chernow's book about the Morgans. Anyone at all interested in movies and movie history will enjoy this.
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on January 6, 1999
A most compelling, intricate, mesmerizing, passionate, heartfelt and respectful account of Goldwyn's life! A. Scott Berg has created a profound work as equal an opus to any of Goldwyn's best stuff. The neat thing is that you feel as if you were there - the birth, growing pains and maturity of Hollywood - brutally recreated for our pleasure. Bravo!!
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on August 25, 2000
Great book! I enjoyed reading about a man who literally came from poverty to be on of Hollywood's pioneer filmmakers. He was a rough man to work with no doubt, but knew what worked and lasted in an industry that is hard to last in! A. Scott Berg did a wonderful job of writing a respectful book about this man!
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on August 26, 2014
Parts of this book are fascinating, like Goldwyn's life as a young man and his emigration to the USA, and start in the motion picture inductry The book suffers from the frequent litanies about so-called movie stars. The most interesting ones were the group who were able to convert from silent to sound movies, and more could have been said about this epoch. Also disappointing was the section on the McCarthy witchunt in the early 1950s. If Maxwell Perkins had edited this book it could have become an outstanding one!

Douglas Stuart, PhD, DSc (hc)
University of Arizona
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on May 15, 2006
I picked this book up at the library not knowing what to expect and was amazed! Although it is indeed a biography of Sam Goldwyn, it is also a very well told piece about the studio system and Hollywood in the first half of the century (with an emphasis on the 20's) Not only insightful but entertaining; it makes for a read more gossipy than the trashiest celeb autobiography while maintaining class and style.

I recommend this book to anyone the least bit interested in the classic hollywood days. It is the best book I've read thus far on the era, and it will get you down to the video store hunting down old movies just to see the actors and actresses you've read about.
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on June 27, 2013
I had to do a project based on a biography of a person who influenced American history in some way or another. I didn't want anyone else to have the same person as me, so I picked Goldwyn, because he changed history in a more subtle way than the obvious figures (I'm pretty sure I watched 6 presentations on Abraham Lincoln by the time this thing was over).

Overall, I enjoyed this book. It was pretty entertaining and described his life well. I was expecting it to be horribly boring because I never read biographies, but this was actually very interesting. I learned a lot about Goldwyn including lesser known things about him, and I was able to create a pretty great project and presentation using this book.
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on June 21, 2014
Scott hit home runs with Lindgergh and Hepburn but Goldwyn can only be classified as an unsuccessful bunt. Why Scott chose to bore rhe reader with endless summaries of the movies he was involved with is beyond me. I think it only detracts from the central purpose of any bio ... The LIFE of the subject. I still hope to read his next undertaking.
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VINE VOICEon August 1, 2016
This true life rags to riches story is worthy of a full length movie itself. Samuel Goldwyn, was one of the earliest and most brilliant immigrants who began the motion picture industry. The characters, unbridled ambition, ruthless behavior, desperate poverty, and fabulous wealth form the backdrop of this truly fascinating biography of Goldwyn. If you have any interest in early Hollywood and its founders you won't find a better book on the subject.
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on January 21, 2014
This is a very readable biography about a colorful and enigmatic character who had a great influence on American culture, although, given the mediocrity of most of the films Sam Goldwyn produced, not an entirely positive influence. Still, the story of Goldwyn's courage and resourcefulness in escaping Czarist poverty and repression to make himself into the greatest independent movie producer America has had-- or is likely to have-- is an admirable one. He got rich, but he got rich making movies, not by exploiting San Fernando Valley real estate or other Hollywood millionaire ploys, and he always risked his money in support of what he considered artistic quality.
For all those pluses, this book has a certain element of the "authorized biography." It spends a lot of space on trivia, sometimes presenting it in tiresomely breezy ad-writer's style, but it is reticent or silent about other aspects of Goldwyn's life and personality. It says he routinely cheated at cards and other forms of gambling, presenting this an amusing minor character flaw. Is that how his card partners saw it? It presents his two marriages as without much sexual or emotional gratification. Was Goldwyn satisfied with that, and if not, what did he do about it?
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on September 6, 2015
First, these movie moguls were without exception pr*cks. And Goldwyn was no exception. Disney wanted nothing to do with him. And people who were involved with him regretted that involvement. Apparently the Goldwyn 'Touch" had more to do with William Wyler as Director than it did with Samuel Goldwyn.

Samuel Goldwyn is in no fashion related to Metro-Goldywyn-Mayer (MGM). Louis B. Mayer and Goldwyn detested each other. The Goldwyn refers to the production company of Samuel Goldwyn and Edgar Selwyn; the production company name was created from combining the first syllables of Goldwyn's name (Goldfish) with the last syllable of Selwyn's name to create "Goldwyn" production studios. Goldwyn came to America with a Polish /Jewsih name that got translated into English as Goldfish. It was only after the production company was created that Goldfish changed his name to Goldwyn (December 2, 1918) almost two years after the Goldwyn production company had been formed.

The book GOLDWYN recounts the history of the moving picture industry. All these movie moguls were Polish Jewish immigrants who had lived within 500 miles of each other in Poland. When they came to the states, a trajectory from Gloverville, New York--home of glove manufactury--brought them together. The decision to become movie makers was made early on when Goldwyn saw his first nickelodeon.

Even way back when, Hollywood was given to self-destructive excess. Norma Talmadge, co-star with Chaplin, was a cocaine addict by the time she was twenty-one and dead by age 37 from tuberculosis. Goldwyn would tell his son Sammy--"Success ruins more people in this business than failure." (Page 340)

When Goldwyn finally achieved success in 1947 with Oscar wins for "The Best Years of Our Lives" he was so overjoyed, he broke out in tears at the end of the day in the privacy of his home. (Page 429)

A. Scott Berg's history recounts the accompanying portraits of people surrounding Goldwyn--his cold and distant wife who recognized a financially rewarding marriage arrangement. Her true love was homosexual George Cukor. And recounts all the other actors, directors, support staff that go into movie production. A book to read for all those movie fans. You don't come away liking these people--after all how likeable can someone be who titles her autobiography ME?--but you do come away with a pretty clear picture of the movie business and how movies were made.
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