Showman: The Life of David O. Selznick

David Thomson, Author
David Thomson, Author Alfred A. Knopf $35 (792p) ISBN 978-0-394-56833-1
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David Selznick (1902-1965) was 20 when his father, a high-rolling silent film producer/distributor, went bankrupt. Bent on fame, wealth and publicity, the precocious son who had served his domineering father as a sorcerer's apprentice would actually surpass his father. In his entertaining, prodigiously researched biography, Thomson characterizes Selznick as an arrogant manipulator, a megalomaniac hooked on Benzedrine, a brash charmer who believed he was pursuing perfection as a noble aim neglected by Hollywood. A walking contradiction, the highly sexed mogul made a pass at nearly every woman he employed but shied away from the erotic on screen. The self-educated high-school dropout produced Anna Karenina, David Copperfield, Dinner at Eight, Gone with the Wind and King Kong. Thomson, a novelist and author of A Biographical Dictionary of Film, has written a scintillating bio that includes glimpses of Garbo, Hepburn, Gable, Olivier, Dietrich, Graham Greene, Alfred Hitchcock and dozens of others. The book follows Selznick's trajectory from expansive creator to suspicious negotiator preoccupied with a fear of failure. Photos. BOMC alternate. (Nov.)
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