Otto, the Magnificent: The Life of Otto Kahn

John Kobler, Author Scribner Book Company $0 (244p) ISBN 978-0-684-19033-4
``I must atone for my wealth,'' Otto Kahn (1867-1934) frequently muttered. This wheeler-dealer financier, soft-spoken investment banker was no ordinary robber baron. His support for labor unions and a stiff tax on excess war profits did not endear him to his Wall Street brethren. He loaned or gave money to Paul Robeson and Hart Crane, supported innovative artists such as Gershwin and Prokofiev, and jazz opera and political off-Broadway theater. As director and board member of New York's Metropolitan Opera, Kahn brought Anna Pavlova and Vaslav Nijinsky to the U.S. Kobler, biographer of Al Capone, John Barrymore and Henry Luce, captures the contradictions of a dynamo who befriended trust-buster Teddy Roosevelt even as he helped an industrialist consolidate a railroad monopoly. Kahn, to be sure, was no saint--his 127-room Long Island chateau, built while WW I raged, was a monument to conspicuous consumption. But he possessed a maverick, unorthodox spirit missing in today's tycoons, and this hugely entertaining biography takes the measure of the man. Photos. (Apr.)
Reviewed on: 01/01/1988
Release date: 01/01/1988
Genre: Nonfiction
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