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Leading Lady: Sherry Lansing and the Making of a Hollywood Groundbreaker Hardcover – April 25, 2017
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“With great insight and exceptional research, this biography shows just what made [Sherry] so special, what allowed her to break every glass ceiling and become one of the most brilliant and talented producers and executives Hollywood has ever known.” —Michael Douglas
“This book, drawing on hundreds of interviews with Sherry and the people who know her best, takes us inside her thinking, into the heart of Hollywood, and on to her groundbreaking work in health and education.” —President Jimmy Carter
“This is a must-read for movie lovers. Sherry Lansing, the first woman to run a film studio, divulges a trove of insider stories about the making of Titanic, Braveheart, Forrest Gump and many other modern classics. The bio also looks at how much Hollywood has and has not changed since 1970, when Lansing appeared in Rio Lobo with John Wayne.” —AARP
“Sexism is just one interesting facet of the life and career that biographer Stephen Galloway explores in Leading Lady. He presents a fully realized portrait of a professional woman breaking glass ceilings. But more important, The Hollywood Reporter journalist shows us the person who endures failure as often as she savors triumph. Her strength of spirit, personally and professionally, is what underlies Galloway’s title.” —The Washington Post
"Galloway has created a colorful page-turner chronicling Lansing’s legacy as both a filmmaker and a philanthropist." —Publishers Weekly
“An energetic and entertaining story, filled with divas, tantrums, and abundant Hollywood gossip …[Leading Lady] is a brisk, breezy look at the turbulent world of moviemaking.” —Kirkus Reviews
“Galloway has crafted a sharp-eyed, captivating look at a brilliant pioneer who broke through the glass ceiling.” —Booklist
About the Author
STEPHEN GALLOWAY is an award-winning writer who was named Entertainment Journalist of the Year in 2013 and has served for many years as the executive features editor of The Hollywood Reporter. He lives in Los Angeles.
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For example: "The freeway whisked them through an avenue of skyscrapers and along a collection of urban arteries before spitting them into the streets of the city, where Lansing still believed unknowns such as Lana Turner had been spotted at a soda fountain, and where Schwab’s Pharmacy was a real place, not just a metaphor for every hopeful wanting to be made a star."
So the first few chapters, which are standard biography stuff, are a bit of a slog. The book becomes much more compelling starting at Chapter 4, where Lansing begins working with Howard Hawks. Beginning at that point, the author’s style works much better with the subject matter and level of detail available, and Ms. Lansing’s story and personality become much more real and compelling. The author, in particular, does a great job of mixing interesting quotes from other people with little details to make a scene memorable.
For example, here is the author’s description of Lansing’s interactions with David Begelman, the president of Columbia Pictures, who was eventually fired for embezzling from the company:“[Begelman] carried himself like a gentleman,” [Lansing] said. “He dressed in tailored suits and drove a Rolls-Royce and lived by appearances. One day Danny Melnick and I went to a party and sat next to him. Danny said, “God, aren’t you lucky? You have the best person to sit next to,’ because everybody loved him. But I said, ‘He has strange eyes.’ There was something about him that made me nervous, something off."
Lansing’s second career as a philanthropist is naturally not as compelling, but the author keeps that part of the story brief and focuses on some very interesting incidents. For the most part, the book succeeds in delivering amazing and interesting stories about the business of making movies, and in painting a memorable picture of Sherry Lansing as an ethical and driven businesswoman succeeding in a sexist environment
I briefly saw Lansing and husband William Friedkin at baggage pickup in Paris airport. As Sherry smiled at me I got the same sense of her personality in those few seconds that Galloway reveals in his book.