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Goldwyn: A Biography Paperback – Bargain Price, September 30, 1998

4.4 out of 5 stars 32 customer reviews

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Editorial Reviews

From Publishers Weekly

In his first 40 years, poor, Warsaw-born Shmuel Gelbfisz walked 500 miles to Hamburg, then from London to Liverpool, arrived in America at 19, became a U.S. citizen as Sam Goldfish, worked as a glove salesman, established a company to produce and distribute films and took the name Samuel Goldwyn. This comprehensive, amusing account of his private life and lengthy career as a Hollywood studio head--by the author of Max Perkins: Editor of Genius --depicts an often unscrupulous businessman, gambler, woman-chaser and inadequate father, who frequently burst into tears when overcome by emotion or frustration and who was married for more than 40 years to a charming, witty, tough-as-nails social lioness. The book is peppered with hundreds of Goldwyn's famous and infamous malapropisms, dozens of anecdotes about his critical and commercial failures as well as his outstanding successes ( Wuthering Heights ; The Little Foxes ; The Best Years of Our Lives ), and details of his relationships with, among scores of others, Eddie Cantor, Ronald Colman, Merle Oberon, Gary Cooper, George Cukor, William Wyler, Billy Wilder. This is a thoroughly engrossing book about an unadmirable man. Photos. 45,000 first printing; first serial to the New York Times; Movie-Entertainment Book Club dual main selection; BOMC featured alternate.
Copyright 1989 Reed Business Information, Inc. --This text refers to the Hardcover edition.

From Library Journal

Among the legendary Hollywood moguls, Samuel Goldwyn occupies a special place, if not for his famed "Goldwyn touch" (indicating a film project with distinction) or his malapropisms, then for his fierce independence. He broke into the business in 1913 with partners Jesse Lasky and Cecil B. DeMille, but Goldwyn soon personified his most famous "Goldwynism," "Include me out," forming his own company. Among his classics (with director William Wyler) are Dodsworth , Wuthering Heights , and The Best Years of Our Lives . Granted complete access to Goldwyn's archives, Berg has produced a lively portrait which bears none of the earmarks of an authorized, sanitized biography. Recommended for all collections. BOMC alternate and Movie-Entertainment Book Club dual main selections.
- Thomas Wiener, formerly with "American Film," Washington, D.C.
Copyright 1989 Reed Business Information, Inc. --This text refers to the Hardcover edition.
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Product Details

  • Paperback: 579 pages
  • Publisher: Riverhead; 1st edition (September 30, 1998)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1573227234
  • ISBN-13: 978-1573227230
  • ASIN: B000C4T27G
  • Product Dimensions: 6.1 x 1.4 x 9 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 2.6 pounds
  • Average Customer Review: 4.4 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (32 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #10,622,184 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

Format: Paperback
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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Format: Paperback
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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By A Customer on August 25, 2000
Format: Paperback
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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Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
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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Format: Paperback
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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Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
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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Format: Kindle Edition Verified Purchase
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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Format: Paperback
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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