A Year in Books/Day 156: Merchant of Dreams

  • Title: Merchant of Dreams Louis B. Mayer, M.G.M., and the Secret Hollywood
  • Author: Charles Higham
  • Year Published: 1993 (A Laurel Book)
  • Year Purchased: 2000?
  • Source: Unknown
  • About: This is not a nice, unicorns and rainbows biography; nor does it go to great lengths to throw dirt on its subject. Any dirt tossed about was thoroughly earned by the actions of Mayer. It relies heavily on interviews with people who worked with the M.G.M. head  who, although willing to engage in breathtakingly awful antics to further his studio, made an incomparable contribution to Hollywood history. He was one of the leading architects in making it a place of mind, and not just a spot on the map. The mythology that he helped put in place is still screwing with our minds a  century later. Merchant of Dreams also succeeds in humanizing Mayer. Even if he isn’t likable or particularly respectable, he is interesting, controversial  and successful-three qualities that would make him an ideal subject for a biopic of his own.
  • Motivation: My passion for cinema history goes deeper than knowing films and their players; I love the machinations and inner workings of the entire system, down to every behind the scenes contributor–no matter how obscure or powerful. Mayer was definitely the latter.
  • Times Read: 1
  • Random Excerpt/Page 25: “Work, constant work was the Puritan solution for grief, and the young Louis B. Mayer worked desperately hard in the first months of 1914. He was determined to build himself up as a motion picture distributor, taking on all comers.”
  • Happiness Scale: 9

    English: Louis B Mayer at the "Torch Song...

    English: Louis B Mayer at the “Torch Song” movie premiere in Los Angeles, Calif., 1953 (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

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