Showing posts with label Robert Wagner. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Robert Wagner. Show all posts

Thursday, February 23, 2017

I Loved Her in the Movies

I Loved Her In the Movies
Memories of Hollywood's Legendary Actresses
by Robert J. Wagner with Scott Eyman
9780525429111 -272 pages
November 2016
Viking Books

Amazon - Barnes and Noble - Powells

"There's something in the nature of the movie-going experience itself that approximates the reverie that overtakes you when you're in love with a beautiful woman." - Robert J. Wagner

Who captivated you? Was it Gloria Swanson? Lana Turner? Rita Hayworth? Ginger Rogers? Gene Tierney? What was it about the actress that mesmerized you? Was it her beauty, her charm, her fierceness, her poise, her humor or her intelligence? Or all of the above? In I Loved Her in the Movies, actor Robert J. Wagner, in collaboration with biographer and film historian Scott Eyman, takes a closer look at the actresses of the golden age of Hollywood and beyond. Wagner narrates and takes us on a journey as he discovers each star, many of whom he worked with and loved.

The story starts with Wagner as a young boy. He befriends Irving Thalberg Jr. and encounters his very first movie star, actress Norma Shearer. Each chapter focuses on one decade starting with the 1930s and ending with the present day and a spotlight on Glenn Close. Many actresses fill the pages within including Gloria Swanson, Jean Arthur, Doris Day, Joan Crawford, Myrna Loy, Claudette Colbert, Loretta Young, Betty Hutton, Linda Darnell, Lana Turner, Joan Blondell, Claire Trevor, Ginger Rogers, Betty Grable, Rosalind Russell, Jennifer Jones, Ida Lupino, Janet Leigh, Lucille Ball, Stefanie Powers, Angie Dickinson and the list goes on and on. There are brief intermissions chapters that spotlight character actresses as well as close friends of Wagner. Pretty much every actress featured Wagner knew in some respect. In many cases, as was with Joan Crawford, Barbara Stanwyck and some others, he had affairs with them as well. Two chapters highlights the great loves of his life: Natalie Wood and his current wife Jill St. John. (Note: If you're looking for any new details on Natalie Wood's mysterious death, you won't find them here.)

Jill St. John and Robert J. Wagner
As the title suggests, the tone of this book is a positive one. Almost every actress is spotlighted at their best but with a keen eye on their personality traits both good and bad. A couple exceptions to the rule include Shelley Winters and Raquel Welch but eventually Wagner finds something good to say about both ladies or he wouldn't have included them. The narrative explores what made each actress special, examines her career, what made her succeed and what made her fail. One major theme in the book is aging and how that affects a woman's career. Meryl Streep is brought up numerous times as an exception to the rule but many of the actresses discussed suffered career slumps due to getting older.

Bits of gossip are strewn throughout the text. One piece of gossip caught me off guard. Wagner claims that Fred MacMurray's first wife Lillian Lamont committed suicide. I hadn't heard of this so I did some research but couldn't find any sources to corroborate the claim. All I could find was that Lamont was very sick in the final years of her life. Wagner's claim is either hearsay or a bit of insider information.

"In so many ways, acting is a strange business. You work had with another actor, and you become entirely open to each other. You give more than the lines; you give them yourself at that moment in time. That kind of emotional openness has to be accompanied by a great deal of trust and mutual respect, so neither of you will be tempted to take advantage of that privileged connection, either professionally or personally." - Robert J. Wagner

Wagner, i.e. Robert Osborne's brother from another mother, has much love for Turner Classic Movies and the channel is mentioned several times throughout the text. There is some of the "good old days" nostalgia and some mourning of the loss of a bygone era. He does have a somewhat positive but rather mixed outlook on the future. While he does admire young actresses willingness to try anything he does criticize loss of mystique in today's paparazzi and over-sharing culture.

I Loved Her in the Movies is the follow up to Wagner and Eyman's previous collaborations, You Must Remember This and Pieces of My Heart. This is the first one of these I've read and I enjoyed it. It's a light read, perfect for someone who needs a palate cleanser after a hefty tome or for those who are intimidated by in-depth biographies. I don't usually comment on book covers but this one is exceptionally beautiful. The cover image above doesn't do it justice. You have to see it in person. The gorgeous image of Lana Turner with the author's name in gold makes it one you'll want to display face out. I don't even keep this book on my bookshelves. Instead I keep it on my vanity next to my framed portrait of Norma Shearer and Irving Thalberg on their wedding day and my autographed copy of Conversations with Robert Osborne DVD.

I Loved Her in the Movies by Robert J. Wagner with Scott Eyman is a delightful collection of insights and anecdotes on the actresses who've charmed us on the big screen.

Thank you to Viking Books for an opportunity to review this title!

Monday, October 21, 2013

The Man Who Seduced Hollywood by B. James Gladstone

The Man Who Seduced Hollywood
The Life and Loves of Greg Bautzer, Tinseltown's Most Powerful Lawyer
by B. James Gladstone
ISBN 9781613745793
Hardcover 352 pages
Chicago Review Press
May 2013

Barnes and Noble

“... Bautzer’s legacy is the way he created a public image in order to advertise his services and the swashbuckling way he practiced law. He planned his life as if it were a movie. He wrote the script, cast himself as the star, and directed it himself.” - Gladstone

I confess that I've never heard of famed Hollywood lawyer Greg Bautzer. Now thanks to B. James Gladstone's book I'm fully informed about this fascinating man. Bautzer was a quintessential charmer who used his people skills to woo beautiful women and win court cases. His list of romantic conquests is as impressive as his list of clients. Bautzer had relationships with actresses Lana Turner, Ginger Rogers, Joan Crawford, Dorothy Lamour, Merle Oberon, Jane Wyman, Ann Sheridan, Simone Simon and that's only part of the full list.  Bautzer's clients included Howard Hughes, Marion Davies, Ingrid Berman, Robert Mitchum, Farah Fawcett, Jeanne Crain, Kirk Douglas and more. One of his clients and friends was actor Robert Wagner who wrote the foreword for this book.

Bautzer handled many high-profile Hollywood divorce cases most notably the very complicated one between Ingrid Bergman and her first husband Petter Lindstrom. There was adultery, a pregnancy, child custody issues as well as a morality clause in Bergman's film contract. Bautzer also handled Nancy Sinatra's divorce from Frank Sinatra but still managed to befriend Frank after the fact (that's an accomplishment if there ever was one!). He also handled wills and estates of big tycoons like William Randolph Heart and Howard Hughes as well as financial transactions of major corporations like TWA, CBS, Warner Bros., MGM, Paramount and the Flamingo casino in Las Vegas. He faced notorious gangster Bugsy, got punched by actor George Hamilton and tried to pick a fight Humphrey Bogart. Needless to say, there are countless stories about all the romances, fights, legal battles, friendships and partnerships that Bautzer had in his long life and career. Bautzer wasn’t perfect. He had a short temper, was obsessed with winning and eventually became an alcoholic. He wasn’t very good at monogamy either and didn’t take naturally to fatherhood. However, he was a talented lawyer who wanted loyalty above all else, loved his clients and would do anything for them. He was generous too and even waived legal fees if his clients were in financial straits.

The author B. James Gladstone is the Executive Vice President of Business and Legal Affairs for Lionsgate Entertainment.  In this book, he’s covering the life of a figure who is both a legend and a hero to him. I couldn’t quite tell if Gladstone had ever interactive with Bautzer during his lifetime but he did have a brief friendship with actress Dana Wynters before her death in 2011. Wynters was Bautzer’s third wife, the mother of his only child Mark Bautzer and proved to be an invaluable resource to Gladstone in writing this book.

This book is an endlessly enjoyable read full of interesting stories about a figure who is very captivating. It follows Bautzer’s life story chronologically for the most part but some chapters dip in and out of different time periods. Some chapters focus on big moments, relationships and trial sin Bautzer’s life and career. These chapters profile Bautzer’s relationships with the following key figures: Lana Turner, Bugsy Siegel, Howard Hughes, Ingrid Bergman, Humphrey Bogart, Dorothy Lamour, Marion Davies/William Randolph Hearst, Robert Evans (Paramount), Kirk Kerkorian (MGM), Dana Wynters, etc.

Bautzer was a key figure in many deals, transactions, divorces and meetings. Because of him certain movies were made and certain careers rose and flourished. While not essential to one’s film history education, I think it’s very interesting to read about the other people who worked Hollywood during it’s golden era. It wasn’t just actors, actresses, directors and producers. Many people in the industry and on the peripheral influenced film history in many ways.

I loved the story of how Bautzer borrowed $5,000 to start his career. He used that money to dress nicely, get the best tables and the best restaurants so he could pique the interest of the Hollywood elite and open doors to both meet them and work with them.

I did find one error in the book. The author recounts a story that Bautzer himself told many times of Marion Davies requesting a black Rolls Royce so she can take it to the 1953 New York wedding of JFK and Jacqueline Bouvier. The wedding was actually in Newport, Rhode Island. I thought maybe it was just a location error until the story also said that Davies had the car waiting for her at Grand Central Station. It's very possible that the story was actually about Peter Lawford and Patricia Kennedy's New York wedding in 1954. I did a little digging and found out that Davies was a guest at that wedding. Davies might have also gone to the JFK-Bouvier wedding too. I've been told that the author is looking into it and it will be clarified when the paperback is released.

Thank you to Meaghan of IPG for sending me a copy of this book to review!

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