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Lion of Hollywood: The Life and Legend of Louis B. Mayer Hardcover – Deckle Edge, April 19, 2005

4.5 out of 5 stars 60 customer reviews

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Editorial Reviews

From Publishers Weekly

Anyone who's heard one of the legions of tales about obstinate Hollywood founding father Mayer's tyranny over his stars (and the entire studio system) won't be surprised to learn Mayer grew up selling scrap machinery in the eastern Canadian port town of Saint John: "Junk dealing itself made [Mayer] endlessly resourceful and opportunistic," Eyman (Print the Legend: The Life and Times of John Ford) writes in this meticulous and engaging biography. But because Mayer (1885–1957) was a Russian Jew selling scrap metal and was looked down upon by many, he developed his "almost feral belligerence" early on. That ruthlessness may explain his unprecedented consolidation of power once he arrived in Los Angeles in 1918, but not his genius for packaging and selling the nascent and suspicious medium of film to audiences. Mayer's maudlin sentimentality about American values and the virtues of family life (despite major womanizing) surfaced in most of the films he oversaw at Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer—and in what he did to get them made. Mayer's "mania for quality" drove MGM to the top of Hollywood's studio system, while his melodramatic fainting spells and crying jags would frequently induce fellow executives or stars to relent. Eyman's extensive knowledge of old Hollywood, his scrupulous research and his refusal to indict the often-pilloried Mayer make this biography an often revelatory delight. Agent, Fran Collin. (May)
Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved.


"Lion of Hollywood is compulsive reading as well as thoroughly enjoyable. There is so much that is new, so much that surprised me."

-- Kevin Brownlow, author of The Parade's Gone By...

"Scott Eyman has accomplished the near impossible -- he's taken Louis B. Mayer, the comic goblin of so many Hollywood histories, and restored him to his rightful place as one of the great business executives of the twentieth century. Laughable no more, Mayer is a fascinating amalgam of vision, chutzpa, cunning, and sheer genius."

-- James Curtis, author of W. C. Fields and James Whale: A New World of Gods and Monsters


This Book Is Bound with "Deckle Edge" Paper
You may have noticed that some of our books are identified as "deckle edge" in the title. Deckle edge books are bound with pages that are made to resemble handmade paper by applying a frayed texture to the edges. Deckle edge is an ornamental feature designed to set certain titles apart from books with machine-cut pages. See a larger image.

Product Details

  • Hardcover: 608 pages
  • Publisher: Simon & Schuster; First Edition edition (April 19, 2005)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0743204816
  • ISBN-13: 978-0743204811
  • Product Dimensions: 6.2 x 1.8 x 9.2 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.9 pounds
  • Average Customer Review: 4.5 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (60 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #717,627 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

By G.I Gurdjieff TOP 500 REVIEWERVINE VOICE on April 21, 2005
Format: Hardcover
I was anxiously awaiting the publication of this book, and it was well worth the wait. Finally a book about the much maligned Louis B. Mayer that is balanced and objective.

While the book primarily is devoted to telling the story of how Mayer went from dealing in scrap metal to running the classiest movie studio in Hollywood (o.k., Culver City) and then describing Mayer's eventual fall from grace, a wide cast of characters fills out Mayer's story. This book relates commonly circulated stories as well as some new ones. However, Eyman meticulously has researched his subject and allows his readers to draw their own conclusions by evaluating the validity of some of these stories which would be considered questionable.

Eyman also provides his reader with an exacting description of the dynamics that came into play while Mayer was running a large movie studio as well as the dynamics within his own family.

The list of those people Eyman interviewed while writing this book is mind-boggling. Many of his interviewees have died since he began this book which makes a lot of the information provided in this book even more significant.

This book was long overdue and I am glad the author took this project on while there were still enough people alive who could provide first hand information about the subject.

I am hoping that I don't have to wait too long for Mr. Eyman's next book.
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Format: Hardcover
What distinguishes this book about Louis B. Mayer, the fearsome and legendary Hollywood mogul of the classic MGM era, is that it's far more than a biography. I was tempted into reading not by a fascination with Mayer (though I came to be fascinated once I began reading) but by the author's, Scott Eyman, previous books about Hollywood and the studio system. His knowledge and understanding of movie-making back in the Golden Age of Hollywood are outstanding, nuanced and multi-faceted. "Lion of Hollywood" is so much more than just an insightful biography of a complicated man -- Eyman's expansive book is also about the ins-and-outs MGM, from the business practices to the personalities, and how Mayer forged American cinema because he was the head of the greatest movie studio in Hollywood, therefore the greatest movie studio in the world.

There is a lot of well-researched information and carefully argued hypotheses of Mayer's personality and home-life, and while Eyman is full of understanding for his subject, he never lets Mayer off the hook for his hypocrises or cruelties. He didn't write this book to redeem Mayer into a "good man" -- he wrote this book to properly give Mayer the place in movie history he deserves. When he and the other moguls arrived, L.A. and Hollywood consisted of orange groves and dirt streets. Mayer didn't build Hollywood with his hands, he did it with his massive will, guile, business acumen and cunning understanding of mass entertainment. What comes through in the book is not what a nice man Mayer was, but what a *great* man he was. Flawed and venal, yes. Brilliant and complicated, also yes.
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Format: Hardcover
You can always rely on Scott Eyman for a readable, well-researched and even-handed bio. This is no exception: it's fascinating to see L.B. Mayer not as the monster so many have painted him, but as a well-rounded human being.

Eyman also gives his readers credit for intelligence and judgment: he repeats the questionable stories (John Gilbert hitting Mayer; Mayer cheating Marie Dressler out of money), but then cites his sources and lets us make up our minds as to how legitimate these stories are.

No doubt Mr. Eyman is taking a well-deserved breather after this book, but I al already anxiously awaiting his next project.
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Format: Hardcover
How and when did so many great Americans get thrown into the dust bin of history? We really need hero courses in our schools to provide kids with information on these grand, legendary figures. Instead, we work to undermine what little hero worship there is. John D. Rockefeller is one such figure, Teddy Roosevelt another. No doubt, one could come up with a dozen such creators of new worlds, but instead they are belittled and destroyed by neglect. Louis b. Mayer has his detractors and no doubt deserves them, but the man we are talking about created one of the greatest arts institutions in the world. Unlike the founders of theatres and ballet companies, however, this great institution will last forever, or certainly as long as the great movies he produced can be preserved. The studio itself is long gone, of course, but through Turner we learn the films themselves will survive. This is a well-written, well-documented biography of one of America's titans of industry. His flaws are great, but in the end we must acknowledge the result of this man's devotion to great film making and admit that if he was flawed so are we.
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Format: Hardcover
I couldn't put it down. What an incredible journey into the years of building the famous movie studios from their beginnings as nicolodeons right up to the razzle-dazzle of the 40's and 50's! To read about Louis B. Mayer and the amazing people he drew in around him, is to read about the minds behind the images that so profoundly affected all of us growing up in America in the last century--whether we realized it or not. As a story of one immigrant's rise from abject poverty to fame and influence that few people ever acheive, Mayer's unstoppability wakes you up and inspires you to get to work on making your own dreams come true.
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