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City of Nets: A Portrait of Hollywood in the 1940's

City of Nets: A Portrait of Hollywood in the 1940's [Kindle Edition]

Otto Friedrich
5.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (1 customer review)

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Product Description


“A ‘City of Nets’ is what Mr. Friedrich calls Hollywood in the title of his new social history. . . . Mr. Friedrich’s intelligent prose makes for fascinating reading.” (New York Times Book Review)

“What happened in these 10 years is as rich and colorful a story as can be imagined and Friedrich has more than done it justice . . . in a narrative that is often funny and remarkably even-handed--a must for movie buffs and a rewarding read for everyone else.” (Publishers Weekly)

Product Description

In 1939, fifty million Americans went to the movies every week, Louis B. Mayer was the highest-paid man in the country, and Hollywood produced 530 feature films a year. One decade and five thousand movies later, the studios were faltering. The 1940s became the decade of Hollywood's decline: anticommunist hysteria excommunicated some of its best talent, while a 1948 antitrust consent decree ended many of the business practices that had made the studio system so profitable.

In this masterful work of cultural history, the legendary Otto Friedrich tells the story of Hollywood's heyday and decline in a vivid narrative featuring an all-star cast of the actors, writers, musicians, composers, producers, directors, racketeers, labor leaders, journalists, and politicians who played major parts in the movie capital during the turbulent decade from World War II to the Korean War.

Friedrich draws on sources from celebrity biographies to trade-union history, mingling lively gossip with analysis of Hollywood's seedier business dealings and telling the stories of legendary movies such as Citizen Kane, The Maltese Falcon, Double Indemnity, and All About Eve.

A classic portrait of a special place in a special time, City of Nets gives us a singular behind-the-scenes glimpse into a bygone era that still captivates our imaginations.

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Most Helpful Customer Reviews
6 of 9 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Fascinating 27 Jun 2001
By A Customer
If you interested in the movies in any way, this book is a must. Its a long read, but every chapter is a gem. I can't recommend this enough. I bought my copy years ago and still dip into it on a regular basis. Worth every penny and more.
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Most Helpful Customer Reviews on (beta) 4.5 out of 5 stars  19 reviews
25 of 26 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Thorough and Entertaining 11 Feb 2000
By A Customer - Published on
I think I've read City of Nets 4 times since I got it. The main reason is because it's so packed with details and fascinating information that I am always finding something I missed or had forgotten in the flood of knowledge. Some might see that as a detraction, but I think it speaks to how well the author did his homework.
One of the great appeals in this book is in its truth and how it correctly points out that 1940's Hollywood, which we think we know so well from legend and the films, was actually much much more. As the book shows, Los Angeles was not only the filmmaking capital of the world, but quite possibly the center of business, classical music, and literature. It was one of those times and places when most things that were "great" were all lumped together. Throw that against a backdrop of World War II and the ensuing Cold War, and you have a narrative that is almost too good to be true.
Really a great read, many times over.
17 of 18 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A Snapshot of a Fascinating Decade 27 Dec 2001
By William Hare - Published on
This book is one of the reasons why I became a devoted reader of Otto Friedrich's work. Two others were his excellent series in Time about Berlin in the rise of Hitler along with "Going Crazy," a brilliant study of psychoanalysis with analyses of some interesting case histories of individuals who were treated for psychiatric difficulties. "City of Nets" explores the fabled city of lights and dreams during one of its most memorable decades. In addition to receiving all kinds of interesting tidbits about Rita Hayworth's tempestuous marriage to Orson Welles and Robert Mitchum's time spent in a California honor farm on a marijuana possession charge that would ultimately be expunged, Friedrich also provides the broader picture of a town thrown into turmoil and confusion during the period following the war.
Friedrich gives a brilliant account of the tragic blacklist period. As one who has studied this period closely as a historian, I was impressed by the breadth of the author's scope as a researcher. German playwright Bertolt Brecht is colorfully displayed. His offbeat intelligence and unconventional demeanor completely astounded House Un-American Activities Committee members as they sought to interrogate him. Long after the author of "Mother Courage", "Galileo" and many other plays had returned to his native East Germany, committee members and others were still trying to figure him out. Friedrich relates the incident when Charles Laughton threw a wild tantrum at the Coronet Theater as he was rehearsing for the Los Angeles premiere of Brecht's "Galileo." Another interesting character sketch provided by Friedrich is that of Austrian emigre Billy Wilder, who fled Hitler's Germany and became a major figure in films, first as a writer, then as a director-writer.
The anecdotes and richness of the character portraits transpose the reader back to Hollywood in the forties. As revealed, it was a truly fascinating, wildly unpredictable place during a pivotal period of American history.
10 of 10 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars The best book on Hollywood in the 40's 5 Dec 2001
By John Guzlowski - Published on
Of the books I've read about the golden age of Hollywood, this is easily the best. Friedrich combines brief biographies of the great directors, actors, and producers of the period along with lesser known stars to give a thorough picture of the film culture of the period. What is especially interesting is his analysis of the role refugees from Nazi oppression played in creating and not creating some of the great films of the 40's.
12 of 14 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Hollywood Never Had a Better Historian 19 Feb 2001
By Ricky Hunter - Published on
Otto Friedrich's City of Nets (A Portrait of Hollywood in the 1940's) is as evocative a portrait of a time and place as one could hope for. The book travels through more than film history (much, much more) as the reader explores, dragged by the wonderful writing of the author, crime, unions, politics, communism, war, racisim and a host of other isms. This book is about the parts of America that float to the surface of the pool of churning, boiling water that is Hollywood and it is not always a pretty grouping of flotsam and jetsam. The author captures the personality of the characters in this soapy drama with beautiful ease and, often, humour. It was a joy from beginning to end and deserves far more than five stars. A book about Hollywood for those who care about history and do not see a light shining on some very gloomy corners of history.
5 of 5 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars People of Nets... 4 Jun 2009
By nto62 - Published on
Format:Paperback|Verified Purchase
With a title like City of Nets: A Portrait of Hollywood in the 1940's, one might expect a book about Hollywood, the place. But, Otto Friedrich doesn't provide this. He touches on it ever so briefly to begin the book and once again to end it, but in between City of Nets is undeniably about people. This isn't so much a bad thing as it is an unanticipated one, for I assumed the book would provide a good share of both.

As a history of the people of Hollywood, City of Nets is an engaging and often eye-opening book. I learned many things of which I wasn't aware. The book sagged a bit over the HUAC hearings - an obligatory and, thus, well-worn subject - but, by and large, clipped along at an enjoyable pace.

Mayer, Goldwyn, Selznick, Hughes and many lesser lights figure prominently as do a bevy of stars. But, this is not a tabloid-style tell-all and those expecting one will be disappointed. It is a sober, often wry, narrative that I devoured quite quickly. Friedrich writes well with earnestness and a begrudging impartiality. I'll take that given the subject matter. 5 big stars.
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