“Pieces of my Heart”

by Scott Eyman


The Washington Post Review by John DiLeo:


There won't be too many more first-person accounts coming from those who knew and worked with Hollywood's golden-age stars, and for that reason Robert Wagner's autobiography, Pieces of My Heart, is a treasure.


Growing up in Los Angeles, Wagner dreamt of becoming a movie star from an early age. Once he entered the business, he compensated for a difficult relationship with his father by collecting an amazing contingent of surrogate dads, including Fred Astaire, Clark Gable, Frank Sinatra and especially David Niven and Spencer Tracy. What impressed the kid about these role models was not just their talent but their ability to lead successful personal lives with interests outside the biz, such as Astaire's passion for horses and Gable's love of hunting. With palpable pleasure and deep fondness, Wagner evokes all these larger-than-life figures as generous mentors whose lessons have stayed with him. Wagner was also chummy with Bette Davis and Katharine Hepburn, had a satisfying one-night stand with Joan Crawford and kept a four-year affair with Barbara Stanwyck secret because of their 23-year age difference.


Most readers will be waiting for the arrival in this narrative of Natalie Wood, whom Wagner married twice. Theirs was one of Hollywood's great true-life romances, and Wagner's portrait of Wood is adoring and poignant. Their first marriage (1957-62) failed because Wood's stardom eclipsed her husband's. Their 1972 remarriage was a more mature union and, with their three daughters, apparently idyllic.


But we know what's coming: Wood's accidental drowning in 1981. Wagner reconstructs what he remembers of that mystifying night aboard their yacht, but no one will ever know what really happened. He pulled himself together for his children and later found marital contentment with Jill St. John. With admirable strength and honest self-awareness, Wagner makes plain that there's much more to him than his handsome face.

“Lion of Hollywood”

by Scott Eyman


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.


Reviews:


"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

“Ernst Lubitsch: Laughter in Paradise”

by Scott Eyman


From Publishers Weekly:


Ernst Lubitsch (1892-1947) made elegant, warmly human comedies exuding sexual sophistication, yet in his personal life, notes Eyman, the German-born film director was vulnerable and almost naive. Son of a middle-class Berlin tailor who had escaped the squalor of czarist Russia, Lubitsch moved to Hollywood in 1922 with his first wife, temperamental actress Helene Sonnet Kraus. Her affair with Lubitsch's best friend, screenwriter Hans Kraly, wrecked their marriage, reports Eyman ( Mary Pickford ). Lubitsch's second wife, aristocratic Vivian Gaye, who considered him vulgar, was widely viewed as a gold digger by his friends. As production head of Paramount, Lubitsch encountered a hornet's nest of egos and political intrigue that led to his dismissal in 1936. In an entrancing, revealing biography that illuminates the unique chemistry behind "the Lubitsch Touch," Eyman limns a single-minded director, despised by Hitler, who embodied the classic immigrant experience in Hollywood by giving a European twist to American genres in classics like Ninotchka , Design for Living and Heaven Can Wait. Photos.


Copyright 1993 Reed Business Information, Inc. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.


From Library Journal


After starring in and directing silent films in Germany, Lubitsch emigrated to America, where his success continued until he died in 1947. Lubitsch produced, directed, and was the uncredited co-writer on some of the most stylish and sophisticated comedies ever made, including Trouble in Paridise (1932), Ninotchka (1939), and To Be or Not To Be (1942). Eyman's well-researched biography is successful in showing how Lubitsch was similar to, and different from, the characters in his films. While Eyman is not blind to Lubitsch's faults, his admiration is evident. More detailed notes on the sources would have been welcome; nevertheless, this account is highly recommended.


  1. -John Smothers, Monmouth Cty. Lib., Manalapan, N.J.

- Copyright 1993 Reed Business Information, Inc. - This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

“John Ford: Print the Legend”

by Scott Eyman


Amazon.com Review:


Borrowing his title from dialogue in John Ford's classic Western, The Man Who Shot Liberty Valance ("When the legend becomes fact, print the legend"), Scott Eyman heeds this advice in his splendid study of Ford, finding a convincing balance between the gruff image Ford cultivated and the sensitive artist that Ford truly was. The result is a to-date definitive biography, occasionally prone to indelicate critical assessment while benefiting greatly from Eyman's full access to the Ford family archives. Arguably the greatest American filmmaker of the 20th century, Ford protected himself with a façade of belligerence yet engendered more loyalty among his crew and stock players (notably John Wayne and Ward Bond) than any other director. Eyman illuminates the Ford legend while focusing on fact--on a complex genius who would berate even the most vulnerable actor and then "apologize without apologizing," a binge drinker who never let alcohol interfere with his closely-guarded artistry, and a stalwart Navy captain whose service in World War II became his primary source of pride.


Print the Legend essentially confirms Ford's brief affair with Katharine Hepburn, but Eyman emphasizes Ford's deep, abiding affection for his wife, Mary, who valiantly tolerated his absolute devotion to filmmaking. While hundreds of interviews yield a comprehensive account of Ford's working methods (which the director was loathe to discuss), Eyman expertly navigates around Ford's own penchant for autobiographical embellishment. What emerges is likely to remain the most thorough portrait of a cinematic master who recognized his own greatness without parading it, and whose human flaws were ultimately forgivable by those--and they were many--who loved him. Readers should look elsewhere for more astute studies of Ford's films, but Eyman has captured Ford the man with lasting authority. -- Jeff Shannon


From Publishers Weekly:


One of the great directors in the history of film, John Ford (1894-1973) was "America's tribal poet," writes Eyman, a man whose movies added up to a national epic. The director of such classics as The Grapes of Wrath, The Searchers and The Man Who Shot Liberty Valance, Ford certainly had a dark side, according to Eyman: he was bad-tempered and pugnacious; a sloppy, self-pitying drunk; a dictatorial, frequently abusive director; and a failed father estranged from his son and daughter. Biographer of Ernst Lubitsch and Mary Pickford, Eyman has written a quietly magnificent biography of an American original who has shaped our perception of movies as serious art. His westerns conjure up a democratic community of equals unified by shared purpose. A Maine saloonkeeper's son, Ford grew up in a large, working-class Irish immigrant family. Using hitherto untapped transcripts, Eyman tells the full story of the famous, tumultuous 1950 Screen Directors Guild meeting, when Ford took a courageous stand against hard-line conservative Cecil B. DeMille, who sought to mandate a McCarthyite loyalty oath for members. Eyman's study serves up a big, gorgeous chunk of Hollywood history, chock-full of priceless anecdotes of Katharine Hepburn, James Cagney, Henry Fonda, Frank Capra, Clark Gable and others. Though many considered Ford pass? by the 1960s, a new generation of critics and cineastes were championing the six-time Academy Award winner for his largeness of spirit, his deeply felt poetry, his evocation of innocence and of America as it was meant to have been. (Nov.)


Copyright 1999 Reed Business Information, Inc.

“The Speed of Sound: Hollywood and the Talkie Revolution, 1926-1930”

by Scott Eyman


“Ingrid Bergman”

by Scott Eyman (Author), Paul Duncan (Editor), Kobal Collection (Photographer)


Product Description:


Ingrid Bergman was more than the luminous image of healthy sensuality that intoxicated audiences worldwide during and immediately after World War II in movies like Casablanca, Gaslight, Spellbound and Notorious. In later life she found continued film success with Anastasia, The Inn of the Sixth Happiness, Indiscreet, and Autumn Sonata. She was also a ferociously ambitious actress

who played Strindberg, O'Neill, Cocteau, and Maugham on the stage to great acclaim, as well as a woman who found the most lasting sensual experience to be found in the response of an audience rather than any individual husband or lover. The Hollywood Icon series: People talk about Hollywood glamour, about studios that had more stars than there are in heaven, about actors who weren't actors but were icons. Other people talk about these things, Taschen shows you. Hollywood Icons is a series of photo books that feature the most famous movie icons in the history of cinema. These 192-page books are visual biographies of the stars. For each title, series editor Paul Duncan has painstaking selected approximately 150 high quality enigmatic and sumptuous portraits, colorful posters and lobby cards, rare film stills, and previously unpublished candid photos showing the stars as they really are. These images are accompanied by concise introductory essays by leading film writers; each book also includes a chronology, a filmography, and a bibliography, and is peppered with apposite quotes from the movies and from life. All the icons in the first 20 books of the series were voted for by over 7500 Taschen readers in a special online poll!

Book review: 'Empire of Dreams' by Scott Eyman

By Tim Rutten, Los Angeles Times


You don't have to be much of a film buff to know you're in for a particular treat when you open Scott Eyman's remarkable new biography of the American cinema's iconic director and find a prologue that opens: "On the morning of May 23, 1949, at the Paramount studio on Marathon Street in the heart  of Hollywood, Cecil B. DeMille was busily engaged in polishing Billy Wilder dialogue."


Eyman, books editor of the Palm Beach Post, is the author of numerous books on film, including widely admired biographies of John Ford and Louis B. Mayer. "Empire of Dreams: The Epic Life of Cecil B. DeMille" is the first account of the pioneering filmmaker's life based on his own correspondence and papers, and Eyman has parlayed his unprecedented access into both a judiciously balanced portrait of a complex, contradictory subject, but also a wonderfully readable Hollywood history. Simon Louvish's 2008 biography, "Cecil B. DeMille: A Life in Art," also is an intelligent, thorough account of the director's life, but Eyman's more detailed account manages to be exhaustive without being exhausting — a notable feat in a book of this length.


Take, for example, that opening sequence, which of course took place on the set of "Sunset Boulevard" in which DeMille played himself against the fictional Norma Desmond, portrayed by Gloria Swanson, one of the many stars DeMille, in fact, had discovered. As Eyman writes:

"Wilder's films were noted for their pungent dialogue and merciless examination of human cupidity, while of late DeMille's had been noted for the splendid vastness of their images and the frequently silly lines his actors were paid to speak.


"But if there was anything Cecil B. DeMille knew it was how Cecil B. DeMille should sound.


"His first scripted line was 'It must be about that appalling script of hers. What can I say to her? What can I say?' In his rushed but legible handwriting, he changed 'appalling' to 'impossible' and gave the second sentence a more rhythmic quality: 'What can I tell her? What can I say?' "


DeMille moved through the scene, rewriting dialogue and inserting stage instructions absent from Wilder's original script. "Throughout his revision," Eyman writes, "DeMille's polish lessens the staccato rhythm of Wilder's dialogue into something more conversational, more graceful, with special attention paid to cadence." For his part, Wilder was pleased with what now ranks as one of the most famous scenes in what may be the only truly serious picture Hollywood ever made about itself — and with the older director's performance. " 'DeMille was very good,' Billy Wilder remembered with satisfaction. 'Much better than a lot of the actors in his pictures. He took direction terrifically. He loved it, he understood it. He was very subtle.' "


As someone who knew Wilder as a friendly acquaintance in his later years and who specifically discussed dialogue with him on a couple of occasions, I can't believe Wilder, an uncontestable master in his own right, ever would have acquiesced to changes he didn't believe improved the scene, no matter the source. I also can say with certainty that, in Wilder's lexicon, "subtle" was a profound compliment.


That Eyman repeats it at his book's outset points to one of his underlying themes — his belief that DeMille the outsized character and pioneer is underappreciated as an artist and, in memory at least, caricatured as a man. He makes a fairly compelling case for the former, grounding it in the influential, though insufficiently recognized, body of work DeMille amassed and in his success as one of few directors to move from the silent era into sound. There are wonderful vignettes sprinkled throughout that illustrate his skill as a director. On the massive set of the silent version of "The Ten Commandments," for instance, he was unhappy when the huge cast expressed insufficient "awe" and reverence in one scene. Later, he assembled the entire group, read them a telegram on the death of a nonexistent fellow cast member who supposedly had left his widow with eight fatherless children. DeMille asked for a moment of silence in his memory and — as the cameras secretly rolled — got his "awe."


Eyman also convincingly locates the director's aesthetic in the influence of his theatrical family and, particularly, the influence of his playwright father's great friend, the legendary Broadway impresario, David Belasco. "The old Belasco plays are like religious plays. The story is nothing; it's what you breathe into it," DeMille once said. This biographer's thesis is that DeMille breathed into his own work the tensions of an astonishingly contradictory personality — a gentleman of strict Edwardian propriety who remained devoted to a single wife for his entire life, while never having fewer than three mistresses; an autocrat known for his kindness; a director of legendary profligacy, who drove bargains for his own compensation that would have satisfied a Philadelphia  banker; an instinctual libertarian and opponent of censorship, who nonetheless was able to use the Hays office for his own purposes and, later, helped usher in the McCarthy era Red scare with its blacklist and loyalty oaths.


Eyman's reconstruction of DeMille's now notorious attempt to unseat Joseph L. Mankiewicz  from the presidency of the Directors Guild in the struggle over loyalty oaths is thorough, sober, fair-minded and alone is worth the price of the book. Suffice to say, that nobody but Ford — a conservative who wanted no part of McCarthy or the blacklist — comes out looking better than anyone else involved.


"One thing is inarguable," the author writes, "there was never a career like DeMille's before, and there has been none like it since [his death in 1959]. DeMille's importance transcends his individual films, and even transcends his achievements, because he embodies the story of the American feature motion picture and its rise to world preeminence."


"Empire of Dreams" makes as good and as enjoyable a case for that appraisal as you're likely to read.