WHEN HOLLYWOOD HAD A KING: The Reign of Lew Wasserman, Who Leveraged Talent into Power and Influence

Connie Bruck, Author . Random $29.95 (528p) ISBN 978-0-375-50168-5

Until his death last year, Wasserman was one of the last survivors from the corporate side of Hollywood's golden era. Having started as an agent at MCA, he eventually became the firm's president, but not before he'd turned the talent agency into a powerful film and television studio, buying out Universal in the process. Wasserman's story is inseparable from that of MCA, and this book appropriately begins with an account of the company's founder, Jules Stein, who began booking bands from his Chicago office in 1924. This put Stein, and MCA, in contact with the local musicians' union, which then linked him to organized crime—the first of several such links the book explores. Wasserman helped shift the balance of power to Hollywood, remaining with the firm despite being widely sought after by rival agencies and movie studios. He also helped extend MCA's political influence, through extensive fund-raising and a longstanding connection with former client Ronald Reagan. New Yorker staffer Bruck (Master of the Game) is strong on Wasserman's corporate tactics, as well as later buyouts of Universal by foreign investors. But she also demonstrates extensive familiarity with the business's underside, exploring Wasserman's connections with mob lawyer Sidney Korshak, which assured a comfortable relationship between MCA and Hollywood's unions. Much more than a celebrity-studded tale, Bruck's work offers a look at the corporate machinations behind the film industry's myths. 8-page photo insert not seen by PW. (On sale June 3)

Forecast:Crown published Dennis McDougal's The Last Mogul: Lew Wasserman, MCA, and the Hidden History of Hollywood just four years ago; it received positive reviews. Bruck's version might appeal to readers who want a second opinion on Wasserman, and ads in the New Yorker and radio drive-time interviews could find readers who missed McDougal's book.

Reviewed on: 04/28/2003
Release date: 06/01/2003
Genre: Nonfiction
Paperback - 528 pages - 978-0-8129-7217-7
Compact Disc - 978-1-59007-515-9
Peanut Press/Palm Reader - 302 pages - 978-1-58836-299-5
Analog Audio Cassette - 978-1-59007-514-2
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