The Last Mogul: Lew Wasserman, MCA and the Hidden History of Hollywood

Dennis McDougal, Author Crown Publishing Group (NY) $27.5 (448p) ISBN 978-0-517-70464-6
Originally founded as a talent agency in 1924 by Jules Stein, an erstwhile Chicago ophthalmologist, the Music Corporation of America reached the pinnacle of its power from the mid-1940s to the early 1960s, when it perfected the art of delivering complete ""packages"" to film and television companies. These pictures were not only produced by MCA but also featured stars repped by the ""Octopus,"" as the company came to be known. MCA's market domination was so complete that in 1962, the U.S. Justice Department made the company to choose between the talent agency and its production facilities. It chose the latter. Lew Wasserman, named MCA president in 1946, often played bad cop to Stein's good cop by trying to milk every cent from any negotiation, while Stein excelled at soothing a star's or studio exec's bruised feelings. McDougal (Fatal Subtraction: How Hollywood Really Does Business) had no access to Wasserman, but here puts hundreds of interviews and secondary sources to good use, combining crack business reporting with plenty of Hollywood gossip. As MCA becomes a ""rapacious behemoth,"" McDougal focuses on the dark side of its business dealings (e.g., its alleged ties to organized crime), at times veering into innuendo, as when speculating that MCA had a hand in the death of Marilyn Monroe. Although the company remained a force in the movie and TV business, its strength was never the same after the 1960s, and Wasserman's days as a true Hollywood power broker faded after he sold the company in 1990 to the Japanese electronics firm Matsushita. McDougal has produced a feisty behind-the-scenes account of the multimedia empire MCA was in its glory days--a status no Hollywood studio has attainedenjoyed since. Pictures not seen by PW. (Nov.)
Reviewed on: 09/28/1998
Release date: 10/01/1998
Genre: Nonfiction
Paperback - 600 pages - 978-0-306-81050-3
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