The Agency: William Morris and the Hidden History of Show Business

Frank Rose, Author HarperCollins Publishers $30 (532p) ISBN 978-0-88730-749-2
The growth of the William Morris Agency, founded in 1898, has mirrored the evolution of the entertainment industry. The agency began by booking vaudeville acts, then continued to supply talent to the ever-changing show biz formats--silent movies, radio, ``talkies'' and TV. And as entertainment become more of a big business, the power of the Morris Agency grew along with it. Rose's descriptions of the formative years of the agency and show business is slow-moving, but his narrative picks up as he details the era of Abe Lastfogel, who headed Morris from the early 1930s to 1969. Rose (West of Eden) really hits his stride in the last third of the book, when his focus shifts from the stars to the Morris agents themselves. Here he vividly describes the Machiavellian tactics employed by the firm's agents against other agencies and against each other to steal clients to advance their own power. Infighting among the Morris agents became public in 1975 when Michael Ovitz and four others bolted to form Creative Artists Agency. Entertainment-industry junkies will find Rose's entire work enjoyable, but more casual readers will likely skim the early sections. Photos not seen by PW. (July)
Reviewed on: 07/31/1995
Release date: 08/01/1995
Genre: Nonfiction
Paperback - 978-0-88730-807-9
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