This is a brilliant book of the history of Hollywood that has been seemingly ignored. The book takes us from the time that Griffiths early films were helping Mayer form the basis of his studio(and the whole studio system), through the golden age right up to the modern day. Well kind of, since Thompson doesn't concern himself with the exact details of how the business evolved. Rather he tries to imagine what Hollywood actually is and how such a thing could and does exist in the most powerful nation on earth(Where on earth has this paradox sprung fromwhere we enter the dark in order to see light). Of course in the process he describes the men(and women or to be more honest their women) who made the films, whether they be great directors, producers or studio bosses and the power play between them. Early on in the book Thompson recites the history of infamous film director Erich Von Stronheim as he tries to get his nine and a half hour cut of his film greed on screen and his battle with Thalberg head of MGM production. Both men have a certain yearning for films to be more than entertainment. Though only Thalberg understands more than simply the film but also the audience. Through the book Thompson looks controversially at other filmic concepts such as method acting and the impact that has had on film. Fundamentally to garner an answer to the fundamental question of whether art and business have ever existed side by side and more cynically if such a question can ever seriously be posed to such a vain and narcissistic industry. To Thompson understanding the question has only ever been in the minds of the most powerful men in the history of the business.