Friday, December 6, 2013

Interview with B. James Gladstone, author of The Man Who Seduced Hollywood

I've had the pleasure of interviewing author B. James Gladstone, the author of The Man Who Seduced Hollywood: The Life and Loves of Greg Bautzer, Tinseltown’s Most Powerful Lawyer. Gladstone’s book is not only fascinating and informative, it’s also endlessly entertaining. Who needs fiction when there are stories to tell about people like Greg Bautzer!

Let me say a few things about the author B. James Gladstone. He is enthusiastic about his book and always willing to talk about Greg Bautzer. He has been so kind and patient with me and was willing to share with me some details of his research. Gladstone was very gracious and willing to spend some time answering my questions. This quickly turned into one of my favorite interviews.

Gladstone's books i one all of you must read. Here are some places where you can buy the book: Barnes and Noble IndieBound Powell's and here is my full reviewHere is Gladstone's website for the book.

Now on to the interview!

Raquel: For those of us who are not familiar with Greg Bautzer, why do you think it’s important for us to know who he is?

Photo Source: Chicago Review Press
B. James Gladstone: In addition to leading one of the most glamorous lives of the twentieth century, Bautzer played a major role in the history of the motion pictures. He was much more than a lawyer; he was an industry leader who made things happen. His client list included the cream of Hollywood: Ingrid Bergman, Rock Hudson, Joan Crawford, Kirk Douglas, Gene Kelly, Katharine Hepburn, Merle Oberon, Mario Lanza, Judy Garland not to mention the richest man in the world – Howard Hughes. Bautzer was virtually on the same level as people who ran Hollywood like Zanuck, Mayer, Goldwyn, and Schenck. He played cards with them several times a week and used his friendship with them to influence other people’s careers. He pulled an unknown Marilyn Monroe out of buffet line and hooked her up with the Chairman of Twentieth Century Fox. He took Robert Wagner under his wing and promoted his career by introducing him to the studio heads and producers. He convinced Charles Bluhdorn to hire Robert Evans to run Paramount. When Las Vegas magnate, Kirk Kerkorian, wanted to own MGM, Bautzer got it for him.

Raquel: How did you decide to write your book and how did you do your research?

Gladstone: When I started practicing law in Los Angeles, I heard many stories about Bautzer from lawyers who had known him. He had only been gone 6 years, and his exploits were legendary. Every lawyer and studio executive had a Bautzer story. After a while I decided to see if perhaps there was enough material for a book. As it turned out, I had enough material for several books. He was at the epicenter of many of the film industry’s biggest scandals and business moves. In addition to researching archives and the written record in the media, I interviewed people who knew him such as Robert Wagner, Bob Newhart, Arlene Dahl, Ingrid Bergman’s daughter Pia Lindstrom, his wife Dana Wynter, Wolfgang Puck, producer Al Ruddy, and many L.A. lawyers.

Raquel: Do you have a personal connection with Greg Bautzer?

Gladstone: I didn’t know him while he was living, but I know dozens of lawyers who got their start working for him. Many of today’s most powerful lawyers in Los Angeles, started their careers with him.

Raquel: In your Acknowledgments section, you credit Bautzer’s third wife actress Dana Wynter as being an important resource of information. How did she help you with writing your book?

Gladstone: She was wonderful to me. I e-mailed or spoke to her on almost a daily basis in the three months before her death. She told me many behind-the-scenes stories that she witnessed personally, such as Sinatra bringing mobster Sam Giancana to their vacation home in Mexico.

Raquel: What was it about Bautzer that made him such a sought after lawyer?

Gladstone: He had incredible charisma and confidence. In real life, lawyers are not like they are in movies. They’re actually pretty boring. He was dashing, bold, intelligent, funny and incredibly tough. After he stood up to Bugsy Siegel on behalf of the publisher of the Hollywood Reporter, Billy Wilkerson, everyone in Hollywood knew he was the toughest lawyer you could hire. The most common thing said about him was: “If you were in a fight, he was the lawyer you needed by your side”.

Raquel: Bautzer sure had a way with women. He romanced glamorous actresses like Lana Turner, Joan Crawford and Ginger Rogers. What was it about him that made him irresistible to women?

Gladstone: You left off Ava Gardner, Rita Hayworth, Paulette Goddard, Jane Wyman, Dorothy Lamour, Peggy Lee, Ann Sothern, Greer Garson, and a few dozen more. His third wife, Dana Wynter, told me that the secret to his success with women was the way he lavished attention on them. He knew how to make a woman feel like she was the most beautiful and interesting person in the world. Casanova and Don Juan had nothing on Bautzer. In fact, his love life was probably more prolific.

Raquel: Bautzer had many clients in Hollywood. Who was his most difficult client and why? Or Who was his most interesting client and why?

Gladstone: The answer to both is Howard Hughes. He represented Hughes from about 1950 until Hughes’ death in 1976. Hughes was demanding and eccentric, but Bautzer thought he was the most brilliant businessman he had ever known. Hughes required that Bautzer be available around the clock, which he was. When Bautzer went on vacations, Hughes sent detectives to follow Bautzer so that Hughes knew where to reach him. Hughes was a very tough negotiator and often stalled negotiations in order to gain an advantage. Sometimes it was difficult getting an answer out of Hughes because he was trying to find other angles. Hughes sent Bautzer on all kinds of bizarre missions, from trying to buy Elizabeth Taylor’s hand in marriage from her mother to bribing Random House to keep it from publishing a tell-all biography. Most notably, Bautzer was the man who signed the checks for Hughes’ harem of kept women.

Raquel: Are there still lawyers like Greg Bautzer working (and romancing) today?

Gladstone: No, lawyers today are no longer celebrities. In his day, Bautzer was as famous has his clients. He was constantly in the newspapers and magazines. In the 20th Century, there were quite a few lawyers who had celebrity status: Melvin Beli, F. Lee Bailey, Roy Cohn, Edward Bennett Williams, Jerry Giesler, Louis Nizer, among others. After Johnny Cochran, the concept of a lawyer as a celebrity somehow died.

Raquel: Is there a story about Greg Bautzer that you’d like to share that wasn’t in the book?

Gladstone: There are many stories about famous actresses jumping out of his bedroom window to avoid being caught by their husbands who were knocking on the front door, but these stories are somewhat suspect. One of the stories I wanted to include concerned Walter Wanger shooting Jennings Lang in the groin over the affair with Wanger’s wife, actress Joan Bennett. It’s one of the most famous scandals in Hollywood history and Bautzer played a role. Producer Walter Wanger suspected that Joan was having an affair with talent agent Jennings Lang. Wanger saw her car in the parking lot of the agency, and he surmised they were having an afternoon liaison; so he waited for them to return. When she arrived with Jennings Lang in his car, Wanger pulled a gun and shot Lang in the groin. Wanger was arrested, and Lang immediately became a laughing stock in Hollywood. As a result, he was afraid to go out in public because people would be pointing at him and gossiping behind his back. Bautzer heard that Lang was afraid to go out in public and invited him to go to dinner at Romanoff’s when the restaurant would be filled with Hollywood’s elite. Lang demurred, but Bautzer insisted. “You have to face them some time,” said Bautzer. “When people see that I’m behind you, they’ll stop laughing.” Bautzer and Lang went to dinner and starred everyone down and that was that. By the way, Wanger was one of Bautzer’s clients and would remain so after Wanger got out of prison, right through Wanger’s production of Cleopatra with Elizabeth Taylor. Lang went on to have a successful career as a producer also, producing some of Clint Eastwood’s movies. Oh, and Lang fathered a child, so the damage was not permanent.

Raquel: Can you tell us a little about what you do for a living?

Gladstone: I’m Executive Vice President for Lionsgate Entertainment. Unfortunately, most of what I do is confidential. But I’ve worked on few scandals and major corporate transactions, somewhat similar to the things Bautzer did. But that’s where the comparison ends.

Wednesday, December 4, 2013

2013 Classic Film Holiday Gift Guide

This year's holiday gift guide is exclusively made up of items that I own and love plus a couple of extras. I think these will make great gifts for classic film lovers of all kinds. My guide does include some affiliate links. You don't have to shop with them but if you do thank you! And now on to the gifts...

For the Patriotic film buff who loves WWII history…

Warner Bros. And The Homefront Dvd from Warner Bros.

Warner Bros. and the Homefront DVD Collection contains three WWII musicals boasting an incredible array of talent including Bette Davis, John Garfield Barbara Stanwyck, Dennis Morgan, S.Z. Sakall, Humphrey Bogart, the Andrews Sisters, Ida Lupino, Eddie Cantor, Joan Leslie, Ronald Reagan, Olivia de Havilland and more. It's a great set of entertaining movies which demonstrate how Hollywood used their talents and resources to support the war effort.

For the Gone With the Wind (1939) devotee…

Kendra Bean's book Vivien Leigh: An Intimate Portrait is a labor of love and a great tribute to the actress best known for her role as Scarlett O'Hara. Many Gone With the Wind fans are enamored with Vivien Leigh and would love to have this gorgeous book as part of their library. This book details the actress' life and career and showcases many never-before-seen photographs. It's a collector's item as well as an informative read.

For the serious student of film history…

Room 1219: The Life of Fatty Arbuckle, the Mysterious Death of Virginia Rappe, and the Scandal That Changed Hollywood is one of my favorite books from 2013. Author Greg Merritt carefully examines the scandal that shook up Hollywood and changed film history forever. This makes the perfect gift for the studious film scholar who wants to learn everything there is to know about the early history of Hollywood. Read my full review of the book here.

For the movie musical fan who wants to grow their collection...

Introduce them to the wonders of movie musicals with this Best of Warner Bros. 20 Film Collection: Musicals set. It includes various WB and MGM musicals from The Jazz Singer (1927) to Hairspray (1988).  Read my full review of this boxed set here. This is a fun set for a musical movie marathon. You wont be able to watch them all in one day but it would be ideal for a (really) long weekend or staycation.

For the parent who wants to introduce their child to old movies...

Bluffton: My Summer with Buster Keaton by Matt Phelan. This graphic novel takes place in Bluffton, a small neighborhood in Muskegon, Michigan. A young Buster Keaton travels with his family to Bluffton each year to spend the summer. Keaton meets a local boy and the story is told from that boy's perspective. A little bit from my review:

Bluffton is intended for children ages 9-12... It's a great way to introduce children to an important figure in film history and to show them a time before electronic devices in which work and play were exclusively physical. Adults will revel in the nostalgia and the history and everyone will be transfixed by the amazing illustrations. This is a great choice for reluctant readers because of the accessibility of the illustrations, the story and the text.

For the very generous gift giver who wants to treat someone to something extra special…

Best Of Warner Bros. 50 Film Collection (Blu-ray) Blu-Ray from Warner Bros.

Best of Warner Bros. 50 Film Collection (Blu-ray) Blu-Ray from Warner Bros. This set is amazing and one of the treasures in my home library. It retails at just under $600 (you can probably find a good deal online) so this is definitely for the gift giver who has some room in his or her wallet. It contains 50 movies plus extras on 52 Blu-Ray discs. Two flip-books holding the discs are inside and the movies are organized in chronological order. There are extra goodies including a fold-out poster and collectible postcards. The entire folds out and holds together with a magnetic closure. I've been meaning to review this one for a long time and I will soon! Movies include: Grand Hotel, Gone with the Wind, Wizard of Oz, Citizen Kane, The Maltese Falcon, Singin' in the Rain, A Streetcar Named Desire, Casablanca, Ben-Hur, North By Northwest and plenty more . Years covered are from 1932 to 2010.

For the frugal gift giver who wants their dollars to go the extra mile…

Give the gift of a TCM Greatest Classic Films or Greatest Classic Legends collection is a great way to treat a classic film fan to something special without breaking the bank. The Greatest Classic Film sets are by theme, director or pairing and include Literary Romance, Busby Berkeley Musicals , Family, Holiday, Astaire and Rogers , Hitchcock Thrillers, Murder Mysteries and more. The Greatest Classic Legends feature four films starring one classic film actor or actress. I own the Jean Harlow and Kirk Douglas sets! Some out-of-print titles can be found in these sets too making them even more valuable. You can usually find these for 30-50% off the retail price at Barnes and Noble or at the TCM Shop. Walmart has an exclusive line with 2 films instead of 4 which is even less expensive.

For the TCM fanatic…

TCM Bistro Mug - Green . I don't have this one yet but thanks to a kind friend who gave me a TCM gift certificate for my recent birthday, there is one on it's way to me! For a gift recipient who loves hot beverages and watching classic movies, there is no better way to show off their TCM pride than with a branded mug.

You could kick things up a notch and upgrade your gift to the Classic Cocoa Gift Set which includes the Bistro Mug, a blanket and hot cocoa mix.

For the film buff who lives for extras…
Lawrence Of Arabia: 50th Anniversary Collector's Edition Blu-ray  PLUS Exclusive Gift with Purchase!
Lawrence of Arabia: 50th Anniversary Collector's Edition Blu-ray. I asked Carlos if he wanted to suggest something he owned for my holiday gift guide and he picked this. It's one of his most treasured possessions. It's a stunning boxed complete with a coffee table book, an individually numbered 70mm mounted film frame, a soundtrack CD and three Blu-Rays with the film and enough extras to keep you busy for several hours. If you buy the set at TCM's shop, they offer a set of magnets and a gift with purchase.

For the film trivia expert who thinks they know everything…

The Man Who Seduced Hollywood The Life and Loves of Greg Bautzer, Tinseltown's Most Powerful Lawyer by B. James Gladstone. Maybe your loved one and friend has read every book about every major movie star and director? Well, have they heard about Greg Bautzer the legendary lawyer whose list of Hollywood romances was as impressive as his list of elite clients. Read my full review of the book here. (Stay tuned as I'll be posting an interview with the author on this blog soon!)

For the discriminating classic film fan who is impossible to shop for…

A rental or streaming service! I have subscriptions to Netflix (streaming and 2 DVDs at a time) and Classicflix (1 DVD at a time). There is also the Warner Archive streaming service which is growing in leaps and bounds. I love having services like these available to me for random projects and for quick access to new-to-me films I learn about. Netflix offers gift subscriptions. If your recipient already has any of these services, you can always offer to pay for a few months on their behalf.

Now here are some of my favorites from Warner Archive...

For the lover of American nostalgia…

Andy Hardy Collection, The: Volume 1 from Warner Bros.

Andy Hardy Film Collection, The: Volume 2 from Warner Bros.

Spend some time with the Hardy family. There is Andy Hardy (Mickey Rooney), he's got energy to burn and skirts to chase, Judge Hardy (Lewis Stone) who is the voice of reason even if he sometimes gets sidetracked and who can forget Mrs. Hardy (Fay Holden), Aunt Milly and Marian Hardy. The series evolved over time but many things stayed constant. Andy Hardy's many romances gave some young starlets including Lana Turner, Judy Garland, Esther Williams and two of my personal favorites: Bonita Granville and Susan Peters a chance to shine.

For the B-movie detective enthusiast

Falcon Mystery Movie Collection, The Volume 1 from Warner Bros.

The Falcon Mystery Movie Collection, Volume 2 from Warner Bros.

Spend some time with the Falcon as he solves murders and makes the ladies swoon. Actor George Sanders plays Falcon in the first three films until his brother Tom Conway takes over in the fourth film and in the ones that followed. Both Sanders and Conway are excellent in these B-murder mysteries and these films are great for rainy days.

For the Robert Benchley fan or lover of film shorts…

Robert Benchley Shorts from Warner Bros.

These are hilarious! Robert Benchley was the quintessential humorist of the early 20th Century. This three disc set includes 30 of his humorous miniatures from 1935 to 1944. Some of my favorites include How to Sleep, How to Train a Dog, A Night at the Movies and How to Read. You might not love them all but you'll find plenty in this set to enjoy. Fans of Robert Benchley's brand of humor will love to have this set in their home library.

Saturday, November 30, 2013

Peter Pan (1924) with Live Musical Accompaniment by Jeff Rapsis


On November 17th, Carlos and I headed to the Somerville Theatre to watch the silent film Peter Pan (1924) on the big screen with live music performed by my favorite accompanist, the talented and tireless Jeff Rapsis.

Watching this film was a treat considering how special it is. Peter Pan (1924) was the first film adaptation of J.M. Barrie's famous play by the same name. The play was also adapted by Barrie into a full-length novel which I listened to as an audio book before I attended this screening. I wanted the original story to be fresh in my mind while I watched the film. (You can check out my review of the novel on my book blog.)

Betty Bronson as Peter Pan

Author J.M. Barrie was directly involved in the production of this film. All of the inter titles are taken directly from the play's text, Barrie had approval of the actress who would play Peter Pan (it went to Betty Bronson after a very lengthy audition process) and because of his involvement the story stays as true to the original as possible. All of the special effects are done with as much creativity and ingenuity as possible in a time well before computers became a part of filmmaking. The children fly with the aid of wires that are virtually invisible, close-ups of Tinker Bell were filmed with actress Virginia Brown Faire alongside larger-than-life props and Nana the dog comes to life with the help of stage actor George Eli and a custom dog suit. If you are familiar with the original story, Nana the dog has remarkable abilities. She can bathe the children, feed them, tuck them in and otherwise care for them. It would not have been possible to accurate portray Nana with a real dog. However, a trained actor in a very elaborate dog suit will do just the trick. The costume comes complete moving eyes and mouth and a wagging tail. There are other animal/animal-like costumes in the film too, most notably the crocodile. The costumes are creepy by contemporary standards and they take some getting used to. The audience at the screening nervously laughed when Nana the dog made her first appearance. But once we all came to accept the weird looking dog, the other weird looking costumes seemed to fit in just fine. Legendary Edith Head is listed as an uncredited textile designer for this film. I wonder if she worked on the animal costumes?

This film is stunning in what it could achieve with costumes, camera tricks, props and clever set design.

George Eli in costume with Philippe De Lacy

There were two versions of the film made: an Americanized one and a British one. Even though the original story is absolutely British, the filmmakers thought an edited version would be more welcomed by an American audience. The term "British Gentleman' is swapped out for "American Gentleman" and there is an American flag and a rendition of the Star-Spangled Banner is performed.

The cast is made up of actors who are relatively obscure today. The most recognizable name is that of Anna May Wong who plays Tiger Lily. Actresses Betty Bronson (Peter Pan) and Mary Brian (Wendy) and actor Jack Murphy (John Darling) got their start with this film.

The most bizarre and tragic trivia fact about the movie is related to the two young actors who play the Twins, real life twin brothers Winston Doty and Weston Doty. Not only were they born on the same day, they also DIED on the same day. The Doty Twins were victims of the New Year Flood of 1934 and perished at the tender age of 20. So sad!

There is another interesting bit of trivia which had the makings of a tragedy but eventually achieved a happy ending. Disney made Peter Pan into an animated feature film and released it in 1953 (J.M. Barrie died in 1937). And in one of those stories that make us all shake our fists at the mass media corporation, Disney sought to destroy all copies of Peter Pan (1924) so there would be nothing to compete with their film. And for many years everyone thought they had mostly succeeded with there only being some defective copies available. In the 1990s, one original copy, in good condition, was discovered at the George Eastman House. It was restored and all existing copies of this film are from that one original.

Now onto the screening! Jeff Rapsis gave a very informative introduction before the film. A lot of the information I shared in this post came from both this introduction and his posts about the film on his blog. Rapsis gives us much needed context which has proven to be crucial for a contemporary audience to be able to understand and appreciate a film from so long ago. Rapsis is passionate about the films he screens, always very personable and approachable, loves to interact with his audience and always very creative with his music. The music during this screening was excellent. I loved how Rapsis did variations of the Pirate Song (Yo ho ho and a bottle o' rum) during the climactic scene which features a face-off between Captain Hook and his band of pirates and Peter Pan, the Darlings and the Lost Boys. 

Carlos and I had a lot of fun at the screening. It was a great film, great music and incidentally the popcorn so delicious we devoured it all in a couple of minutes. Note to local fans of the Somerville Theatre, they are celebrating their 100th anniversary next year. The celebration will include lots of classic movies, including some silents with live music performed by Jeff Rapsis! I'll be attending as many of those screenings as I possibly can.

Peter Pan (1924) is available on DVD from Kino Lorber. It's also in the public domain and available to watch in it's entirety on YouTube. I included the movie below. Enjoy!

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