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2.0 out of 5 stars Hagiography is tiresome, 31 July 2014
This review is from: Lion of Hollywood: The Life and Legend of Louis B. Mayer (Hardcover)
What a curious fellow Scott Eyman is - he does seem to know a good bit about the movies, but he doesn't seem to have much taste or understanding concerning them. His prejudices are as marked as they are bizarre, and he also has peculiar enthusiasms, as this large book shows. No other biographer has ever liked Louis B. Mayer as much, nor enthused so volubly over L.B.'s long ascendancy at Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer. For Eyman, it is simply indisputable that M-G-M was the greatest of the Hollywood studios, that the films it produced were not only the most lavish and starry, but the best, and that the architect of all this wonderfulness was dear old Louis. Sharing the praise is not for Scott - indeed, he is quite savage about certain Metro luminaries, in particular Vincente Minnelli, about whom he speaks with such distaste that one rather assumes there was some personal animosity. Directors do not seem to impress him much at all, in fact, he seems to think it was the notorious "committee" method of film-making which old L.B. favoured which led to all those great films. Now, as anyone who has sat through the films of the Mayer years will know, there was an incredible amount of drivel put out by the studio in that time, with only certain of the musicals produced by Arthur Freed (one of Mayer's few friends, and the only producer whom he invariably allowed to do things in his own way) achieving a high artistic standard. It might even be argued that the studio's output got a good deal more interesting after Mayer was ousted in 1951, although there were still plenty of poor movies. Scott will have none of this - Dore Schary, Mayer's replacement, is depicted as an out-and-out villain and hypocrite, and post-Mayer successes at the studio are dismissed as flukes. Eyman is quite willing to print dubious information from unreliable sources if it goes along with his absurd central thesis. There is, to be fair, quite a lot of interesting stuff in this book, but it is fundamentally flawed in conception as well as philistine and shallow, and its facilely hagiographic tone is all the more grating when coupled with such patronising dismissals of real talents.
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