Otto Preminger: The Man Who Would Be King

Foster Hirsch, Author
Foster Hirsch, Author . Knopf $35 (573p) ISBN 978-0-375-41373-5
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Meticulously researched with nearly 100 new interviews with family members and co-workers, this epic biography offers a multifaceted portrait of the Viennese-born filmmaker and reappraisal of his films. Preminger's “creativity was fueled by abrasion,” says Hirsch, so nearly every film boasts testimony from actors who were verbally abused. His explosive rows extended to censors, crew members and studio heads. But Hirsch also reveals the gentler side of “Otto the Terrible,” protecting fragile stars and doting on his family. “With family, Otto was like a marshmallow, and capable of great love in a primal way,” says Erik, his son with Gypsy Rose Lee. Film buffs will enjoy the candid looks behind his volatile productions (including Laura , Anatomy of a Murder , Hurry Sundown ). Historians will appreciate Preminger's belated recognition for breaking the blacklist (he credited Dalton Trumbo for writing Exodus nine months before Kirk Douglas did the same with Spartacus ) and dismantling the oppressive censorship board (he released The Moon Is Blue and Man with the Golden Arm without the Production Code's seal of approval). This is a long-overdue critical biography of the temperamental titan with a genius for self-promotion. Photos. (Oct. 21)

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