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From Cowboy to Mogul to Monster: The Neverending Story of Film Pioneer Mark Damon Hardcover – 7 May 2008
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"If you saw Mark Damon in a tux at the 55th Annual Academy Awards you probably wouldn't picture him in a toga. If he flashed his dazzling smile at his wife, Maggie, your first thought wouldn't be "Oooh, vampire fangs." But Mark played a beast and a vampire, rode across the desert in a toga as the son of Cleopatra, walked the streets of Toledo as a Spanish king named Peter the Cruel and cleaned up the West as two Spaghetti Western cowboys named Johnny. As an actor he played a hero, a rebel and a fool in over fifty teenflicks, Spaghetti Westerns and swashbucklers. As a producer and film distributor, he was involved in the success of over 350 films. Teen idol, singer, film director, writer and producer, astute businessman, inventor of the foreign film sales business - by 1983, Damon had pursued almost as many careers as a tomcat has lives..." - From Cowboy to Mogul to Monster Twenty-five years later, Mark Damon continues to reinvent himself in the film business. His is a NeverEnding Story.
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Although it gave one in site into his life after acting. Which had some hilarious stuff. Like that flight to Russia and the banana meal courtesy of Castro. Boy did I howl on that one. But overall I think the book was a little flat. It is my belief that he could of been a little bit more forth coming. The writing style was some what fairytale, once upon a time verse a no holds bar I did it my way.
There was something missing. The picture inserts were very economical too, for a $30.00 plus book.
The book was okay, but not great. I read the reviews prior to purchase. And they were so glowing that it seemed like a must read. But it did not meet my built up high expectations.
Though I'm not fully qualified to critique biography, I do have book
reviewing experiences, having written a business book review column for several years, and what I look for when reviewing is how well the various dances work together in any piece: the dances of content and language, topic and author, and abstractness and concreteness. This book effectively captured my attention in each of these dances. I loved being at the dance.
I very much liked how Linda Schreyer didn't force the story into tight chronology but rather she told of the passage, the evolving, of Alan Harris, to Al Harris, to Mark Damon through anecdotally rich experiences in various cities, roles, businesses, successes, failures, risk takings, and foresights. It's a great read for anyone interested in the movie industry and should be required reading in film, acting, and film marketing classes.
It would be fun to teach this book both as a genre piece, and even as a business and marketing piece. I'm going to pass it along to my grandson, a sophomore in college majoring in business with a
focus on economics and marketing. He and I often enjoy having discussions, so this could be fun for both of us.
As I moved through reading Mark's passage, I found that I had to take many breaks just to catch my breath, and was amazed that HE, Mark, seldom ever had to do that in his life. The book is a powerful testament of Mark's incredible skills, especially knowing that this profound man (born a year before I was, in the same city and following the same Chicago Cubs) once stood in an unemployment line in 1956. Then he went on to become, along with other accomplishments, one of the earliest successful practitioners of globalization. And not to cheapen his profound intuitive business skills, I have to say he is one-hell-of-a salesman! Imagine just starting a business making a living off puzzles. That's something only an intuitive business person could see as being possible, and that's what Mark did as a high school student.
Would that we all could remember Mark's long career of ups and downs, and then remember what he said when it looked like things weren't going to work out: "I think any time that something hits you that is overwhelming, you have to say 'This is an opportunity' And you have to find out how to turn it around to make it work to your advantage." That's wisdom.
I like how Linda Schreyer often summed up the scope and breadth of Mark's work in such statements as "After fifty years in the business he was intimately acquainted with its vicissitudes." (after the Neverland deal fell apart) "He took the changes in stride...He also took the constants in stride." And I was further moved by Schreyer's final paragraph telling how Mark renewed his devotion to his wife and his family. I loved how she included even simple things such as how, in the shooting of a war film, Mark, the actor, turned around and looked directly into the camera. He quickly explained to the not too happy director that he was "just looking to see if any enemies were following."
Having been denied movies as a kid (verboten in my family's conservative Calvinism), I never knew about Spaghetti Westerns, let alone any westerns. (The first movie that I snuck in to see when I was around 15 was Easter Williams in "On an Island with You." Oh my, did I have a hard time sleeping that night, not because of guilt, but because I was madly in love with Ester...) So I learned about Spaghetti Westerns (westerns made in Italy) from Schreyer's book. And how much fun it was to find that Mark's life included so many actors who were just getting started, such as Jack Nicholson, Clint Eastwood and others. In one movie, the voice of a then unknown William Shatner was dubbed in as Mark's voice. And to learn of his love affairs with so many women (whew) (including Diane Cannon), and then to discover that he turned that around and became devoted to his wife Maggie.
There's so much more I'd love to say about this very professional book, but I'll sum it best by saying I enjoyed it all the way.