Winner of the Los Angeles Times Book Award for history, this "wonderful history of the golden age of the movie moguls" (Chicago Tribune ) is a provocative, original, and richly entertaining group biography of the Jewish immigrants who were the moving forces behind the creation of America's motion picture industry.
Neal Gabler is a distinguished author, cultural historian and television commentator who has been called “one of America’s most important public intellectuals.” His first book, An Empire of Their Own: How the Jews Invented Hollywood, won the Los Angeles Times Book Prize for History and the Theatre Library Association Award for the best book on television, radio or film. On the centenary of the first public exhibition of motion pictures in America, a special panel of the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences named it one of the one hundred outstanding books on the American film industry. His second book, Winchell: Gossip, Power and the Culture of Celebrity, was nominated for the National Book Critics Circle Award and was named the non-fiction book of the year by Time Magazine. His third book, Life the Movie: How Entertainment Conquered Reality, is currently being used in college courses across the country to examine the convergence of reality and entertainment. His fourth book, Walt Disney: The Triumph of the American Imagination, a New York Times best-seller, was named the biography of the year by USA Today and won Mr. Gabler his second Los Angeles Times Book Prize. It was also the runner-up for the prestigious Kraszna-Krausz Book Award in England. His new book, Barbra Streisand: Redefining Beauty, Femininity and Power, was published by Yale Univ Press this past April as part of its Jewish Lives series.
Mr. Gabler was graduated with high distinction and highest honors from the University of Michigan and was inducted into Phi Beta Kappa. He holds advanced degrees in film and American Culture. He has also taught at the University of Michigan, where he won an outstanding teaching award, and at the Pennsylvania State University. Leaving academe, he was selected to replace departing co-hosts Roger Ebert and Gene Siskel on the public television movie review program, “Sneak Previews.” He has also been the host of the American Movie Classics cable television network, of “Reel to Real” on the History Channel, and of “Reel Thirteen” on WNET, the public television station in New York, for which he won an Emmy.
Mr. Gabler is a contributing editor at Playboy and a regular contributor to the New York Times, the Boston Globe, the Los Angeles Times, and Reuters Opinion, and his essays and articles have appeared in Atlantic, Newsweek, Vanity Fair, The Nation, The New Republic, Men’s Journal, George, Time, TV Guide, Variety and many other publications. In 2014, he won the National Arts and Entertainment Journalism Award from the Los Angeles Press Club. He has also been a contributor to the Fox News Channel and served as a panelist on the weekly media review program “Fox News Watch” from 2002 to 2007. One television critic called him a “megawatt brain…whose take on media coverage was fiercely individualistic, profound and original.” He has made appearances on “The Today Show,” “CBS Morning News,” “Entertainment Tonight,” “Charlie Rose” and the PBS “NewsHour.” And this year he is contributing a weekly column to billmoyers.com on the election and the media
Mr. Gabler has been the recipient of a Guggenheim Fellowship, a Shorenstein Fellowship at Harvard University, a Freedom Forum Fellowship, and was a Woodrow Wilson Public Policy Scholar. He has also been the chief non-fiction judge of the National Book Awards and a judge of the Los Angeles Times Book Prizes. He is currently a senior fellow at the Norman Lear Center for the Study of Society and Entertainment at the University of Southern California and is a Visiting Professor in the MFA Literature and Writing program at SUNY Stony Brook. He was also the 2013 recipient of the Patrick Henry Writing Fellowship at Washington College. His older daughter Laurel was a Rhodes Scholar at Oxford where she received her doctorate in Public Health. She is currently matriculating at Harvard Medical School. His younger daughter Tanne taught in the World Teach program in American Samoa, was an A
Not that it was bad but I was disappointed in this book. The subjects that interested me the most, the majority of movies made then portraying characters that represented how the Jews viewed themselves in American society, the schisms between the more established Jews who had immigrated from Germany and the ones from eastern European countries, the muscling in and manipulation of Hollywood by Jewish political groups like the ADL and AJC, and the gradual evolution of Hollywood into a tool of global social engineering, were barely touched on. If you are more interested in personality profiles of the early Hollywood movie moguls then this book is right up your alley though.
Almost all the major film studios were started by Jewish immigrants who rose to amazing power from the 1920s to the 1950s (when the corporations took over). They were able to do this partly because gentile elites looked down on the movies. A major thesis of the book is that these moguls who were immigrants and Jewish shaped America's self-image through their films, which in no way reflected their own lives. Think "It's a Wonderful Life," etc. And they exaggerated the portrayal of American life as a sort of over-compensation for what they thought were their own short-comings (as immigrants and non-Christians). Also, they were very fearful of governmental intervention in their industry (which came eventually), so they vigorously supported conservatives and Republicans (with a few exceptions).
An interesting book, but more than I really wanted to know about most of the moguls -- except for Irving Thalberg, Harry Cohn and Frank Capra (a director rather than a studio boss and a favorite of mine).
I was very interested, however, in the role of Jews in the film industry in Hollywood politics from the 1930s to the 1950s, when many Jews in the industry were active Communists or sympathizers. NOT the studio bosses, of course, so there was a huge division within the Jewish community in Hollywood between the conservative/reactionary bosses and screenwriters and other film making technicians. So another piece of the conservative motivations of the studio bosses was to combat the emerging and largely left-wing unions--led by other Jews.
Much of this came to a head with the House UnAmerican Activities Committee investigations of the film industry (19302-1950s). I was unaware just how much antisemitism motivated the investigations and how that complicated the reactions of the Hollywood players--both bosses and workers.
از کتاب های مرجعی هست که خیلی از خوندنش لذت بردم و توصیه می کنم تمام اهالی هنر هم مطالعه کنن نکات جالبی در مورد تاریخ هالیوود و بنیانگذاران یهودیش که عموما اهل اروپای شرقی بودن، توی کتاب بیان شده از اونجا که نویسنده کتاب خودش یه غربی با دیدگاه لیبرال هست، نظریاتی مثل تئوری توطئه و... در مورد نشر وترجمه کتاب خود به خود منتفی میشه اگرچه تو بخش هایی از کتاب، تمجیدهایی از فیلم سازان نژادپرست شده؛ مثل «تولد یک ملت» که به تمجید از تروریست های نژادپرست «کوکلوس کلان» تو آمریکا می پردازه و به سیاه پوست ها حمله میکنه
قریب به پنج سال قبل، روزهای جالبی رو با این کتاب گذروندم
Before every film was a bloated 200 million dollar franchise fest, movies were about people. And back in the halcyon days of moviemaking, studios and the films they produced took after those people. The first Hollywood moguls are the subject of An Empire of Their Own: How the Jews Invented Hollywood. Meticulously researched and well-paced, Neal Gabler’s book is a fantastic addition to any classic film lover’s library.
Gabler gives each of the studio founders an exhaustive opening chapter. He traces their routes from eastern Europe to America and their various ways into show business. Most started out by owning and operating theaters. Others got their entry through distribution. They all transitioned into making movies of their own because it made sense. There’s more money to be made when you own the product.
The movies they produced were largely reflective of the attitudes of the men in charge. Paramount founder Adolph Zukor was streetwise and tough but he aspired to be witty and urbane. So his movies were. The Warner Brothers were the outcasts so their films featured heroes who fit the bill. Louis B. Mayer was a grandiose, conservative purveyor of family values. Enter Andy Hardy. Harry Cohn and Columbia were located on Poverty Row in Hollywood. So Columbia’s films were a fight against the Depression and a tribute to the everyman. Basically, Frank Capra films. Gabler also gives significant time to Carl Laemmle, the benevolent founder of Universal, as well as RKO, the house that Sarnoff and Selznick built. William Fox and his namesake studio get their due as well.
The author does some of his best work discussing attitudes and lifestyles of the men. Gabler finds that these men, all Jewish, did their best to assimilate into upper-class WASP society. While the moguls didn’t actively hide their Judaism, they certainly didn’t advertise it either. Always sensitive to the stereotypes about Jews controlling Hollywood, they didn’t produce movies dealing with anti-semitism until the late 40s with Crossfire and Gentleman’s Agreement.
The book has a fairly exhaustive chapter about the Congressional investigation of Communism in Hollywood. While fascinating, it’s infuriating to read. If the bigotry of Congressman John Rankin or Representative J. Thomas Parnell doesn’t rankle you, the cowardly response of the industry will.
Overall this is an excellent book for classic film lovers or anyone with any interest in history. Neal Gabler, who’s also written a brilliant biography of Walt Disney, does masterful work here. He tends to write in long paragraphs but they’re never dull. Gabler states his arguments clearly and provides plenty of evidence. I’ve read this book four times now and I can state with certainty that there will be a fifth. Very well-done.
Fascinating book about how the common experiences of 1st generation Jewish immigrants, usually with absent or unsuccessful fathers, strove for success and assimilation, and approval from gentiles and previously assimilated Jews. Thesis is that they created a world they could control, onscreen and off and were afraid of doing anything to draw attention to their religion, fearing a backlash from gentiles and loss of power. Didn’t get along with next generation of Hollywood Jews—writers and actors recruited from left wing New York theater during the talkies. Thinks Communist Jews and the reactionary assimilationist studio heads are two sides of the same assimilationist coin—the Communists striving for a classless utopia and studio heads trying to become part of the establishment. He does make most of the execs seem pretty pathetic, however.
Hollywood was founded by a bunch of Jews who recognized the potential of the movies and were willing to use all their business acumen to exploit every facet of the industry. Their personalities, hopes and dreams became part of the American Culture through the movies they made. Even with all the power and money they had they were never accepted into mainstream society and were always looked down upon as interlopers. Gabler tells the story wonderfully. If you want to know how Jewish immigrant dreams became America's dreams read this book.
Surprisingly engaging book about the founders of the great Hollywood Studios (MGM, Fox, Columbia, etc). These people (Zukor, Mayer, Warner, etc) were all immigrant Jews from Eastern Europe. They were strong-willed men who wanted to escape their past and assimilate into their vision of the American Dream. They gravitated to the movies because, early in the 1900s, movies were seen as low class. So an opportunity was opened to people who were willing to grab it. These men created monopolies: studios, theaters, actors, directors, writers, etc and became wealthy and powerful. Gabler describes each of these men and the trials they all went through to create the studios and then nurture and grow them. Gabler takes us through the run up to WWII, the hunt for communists and the ultimate end of the great studios. The end is tragic, which was really unexpected. The irony that Gabler knits throughout the book is that these immigrants chased their version of the American Dream which was captured in their movies. Our current understanding of the American Dream is very much informed by the movies these men produced.
An absolutely fascinating and insightful read, one of the finest books of film history I have ever read. Neal Gabler traces the history and motivations of the 'founding fathers' of the American film industry; late 19th-century Jewish immigrants from Central and Eastern Europe, they found themselves rejected by the established American trades in the east and turned the originally disreputable business of moving pictures into one of the most influential and iconic insitutions of American life. Dealing with the history of immigration, the life of the Jewish moguls in Hollywood, including their relationship to their religion, politics, their families and yearning for status, as well as the horrifically anti-semitic House Un-American Activites Committee hearings, Gabler brings to life the making of the American film industry. Highly recommended!
A superb history of the Jews in Hollywood by a noted film historian. Gabler explains that since emigrant Jews were barred from traditional industries -- like white shoe investment banking -- they were essentially forced to create their own business: Hollywood. They subsequently had their own country club, beautiful L.A. homes, polo teams, etc. Just a fascinating & beautifully researched chronicle. Highly recommended!
I was completely unaware of the early history of Hollywood, a deficiency which this book has corrected. Speaking for myself, I thought the 1930s and 1940s were the early days of Hollywood. But all the major players were firmly established by the early 1920s before sound was ever used in film.
This book is very methodical in telling the story of the early Jewish movie moguls, starting with Adolph Zukor (Paramount), then moving on to Carl Laemmle (Universal), William Fox, Louis B. Mayer (MGM), the Warner Brothers, and Harry Cohn (Columbia).
Gabler tells the stories of each of these moguls: where they came from, what life events shaped them, their motivations, and more. And he doesn't stop there. He also tells the stories of other major Hollywood players like Frank Capra, Irving Thalberg, Nick Schenk, Rabbi Magnin, Marcus Loew, and others I'm forgetting.
It's a fascinating history, although very complex, as you might expect with the number of years and people covered in the book.
Overall, this book is excellent and makes for good reading. Although I got bogged down in the second half of the chapter "Refugees and British Actors," which covers the communist witch hunts of the late 1940s that focused on Hollywood. The level of detail is important, but tedious.
Interestingly, most of the Jewish moguls were conservative, patriotic, and went out of their way to prove their Americanism. It was the second generation of Hollywood Jews who began to lean left and embrace communism. But during the late 1940s there was no uniform political ideology in Hollywood.
The final chapter is engrossing. It describes the changing of the guard as the original moguls find their power waning, their families falling apart, their studios taken from them. A stark reminder that youth, wealth, and power are fleeting.
One could have even said that California was the social equivalent of the movies themselves, new and unformed, which really made the producers' emigration there a matter of an industry discovering the appropriate spot. The outsider looking in who ends up telling the story to the masses while weaving in his own aspirations - only the Jews, as outsiders, could bring American values to the screen as they pined to be a part of that world. The West coast, still largely undeveloped, provided the best entry point with the lack of established institutions that required connections and WASP provenance, and the nascent novelty called "moving pictures" provided the means of entry, since the establishment looked down their noses at such cheap thrills for the unwashed masses. The writer's ultimate thesis seems to posit that perhaps, in building the great dream factory called Hollywood, these Eastern European Jewish émigrés lost something of themselves. I don't know if I would completely agree with that idea, though to a certain extent it may be true, but this fascinating read leaves a sense of admiration for what these men accomplished and the incredible legacy of their work. It's stunning what they created, and delightful to see these same themes bubble up in the movies of the Coen Brothers, especially "A Serious Man" and "Hail, Caesar" - no doubt this book is an influence on their work.
I hate to make any criticism of this very long and deeply researched history. Let's just say that I wished for more context and less detail. And that the book was written in 1988 so the lens offered by the "#MeToo" movement is absent.
Here is some of what I learned:
The studio heads featured (Carl Lammle of Paramount, Harry Cohn of Columbia, the Warners of Warner Brothers, Louis Mayer of MGM) were all first or second generation Americans.
They typically got into movie production in a roundabout way: they began by owning nickelodeons or small theaters, expanded into distribution, then got into producing movies because they needed good content to sell to their audiences. Same path as Netflix.
Movie theaters were only semi-respectable in the early part of the 20th century. To broaden the appeal, owners constructed the elaborately decorated "movie palaces" to attract the middle class.
They got into movies because discrimination prevented them from entering the well established businesses owned by earlier WASP immigrants. Interestingly, the author doesn't engage in the schadenfreude observation that the over proud WASPs missed a good bet: a wildly successful business that required living in the climate paradise of Southern California. So the Elysian Fields were open to these crude but hardworking parvenus.
They worked hard and played hard and became very rich and typically had distant relationships with their wives and children.
But they never lost that wish to be accepted by "mainstream" Americans, and that fear that they were not quite "American". My Canadian immigrant mother had that same fear.
And late in life they continued to use the racial slurs they'd heard as children. Although they were Jewish, they insulted each other with that dreadful word "kike".
Walt Disney, whose animated fairy tales brought such joy to my childhood, makes the briefest of appearances: only long enough to establish that he was an anti-Semite.
Despite the dubious subtitle, this is really a social history of the early days of Hollywood, when it was a business with little or social status and consequently of little interest to the WASPs who ran American business and the dramatic arts. The colourful entrepreneurs who set up the great studios which dominated the industry until 1960, such as Louis B. Mayer, Jack Warner and Adolph Zukor, are presented here as barrow-boy types, with an eye for a business opportunity in an open field (literally, as Hollywood was just an orange grove then). As the book says, none of the moguls was particularly devout, and several tried to distance themselves from their religious heritage as far as possible (especially Mayer, the king of the moguls), so the main factor behind their 'empire' was outsider-status, rather than jewishness per se, and a burning desire to make good and climb the social ladder (especially true of Mayer). The book is elegantly written and full of anecdotes about the great buccaneers of the time, and especially good on Harry Cohn, of Columbia, probably the nastiest man in Hollywood. This is the perfect complement, and almost and antidote, to the grim economics of The Genius of the System.
An interesting read... I felt that the writer over-tightened virtually every action to the Jewish heritage of these moguls...But maybe he's right. Some of the legal issues that occurred during their long reign. needed a better short summary: I find myself making frequent trips to Wikipedia to find a more concise definition in several of the issues (cf: William Fox' attempt to control MGM). I also wish there had been more "Hollywood" in this core story about Hollywood; having grown up there and spent most of my career there I was expecting a bit more sizzle. In some interview with James Stewart, he rhapsodized about a whorehouse across the street from MGM. And where were the references to the fetishistic parties and orgies that the studio heads allegedly hosted for their theater owners and exhibitors? Where was the casting couch? Maybe that's a whole other book (probably). What he did capture admirably was the Hollywood social whirl: dozens of events where people's only purpose was to see and be seen and not form any close attachments. And the book's centerpiece and crowning achievement was its analysis of the HUAC investigations from the 1940s forward. Amazing that this sordid witch hunt could have the authority of the US Congress. But it is any better today?
This book is so great that I am actually reading it for the second time. The first time I read it for content; now I am reading it for style.
It is the story of the sons of Jewish immigrants who created the great production machines of the Hollywood studio era -- Mayer, Cohn, Zucker, the Warner Brothers. These men have so many similarities that differentiating them from one another presents a daunting task, but Gabler rises to it brilliantly. A must-read book for anyone who's interested in the history of film, but more than that -- for anyone who's interested in the history of American culture.
For anyone who is deeply curious about what's behind the Hollywood curtain, this is a must-read book. An Empire of Their Own is a rich tome documenting the sheer inspiration and complexities of Hollywood.
What I liked most is how Neal Gabler delved into the lives of the Hollywood moguls. By understanding their struggles and motivations, we truly appreciate the foundation of the image we appreciate - even denigrate - today.
This is a beautifully written piece that I highly recommend for those eager to learn the realities of Hollywood and its creators.
A history of the development of the major Hollywood studios & the movie industry itself, framed in the angle of how nearly all of the moguls were Jewish immigrants from Russia & East Europe. Shut out of other parts of the business world by old prejudices (well, maybe not old considering some of the headlines in today's world) they started their own industry, one that has become synonymous with American culture. Well written & a good read.
If you're at all interested in the history of movies, this is highly recommended. The background bios of section one got a little too detailed for me, I found my interest waning, so I skipped to section two and found myself fascinated at the day-to-day lives of the moguls. Oh, to see LA in the 20s and 30s!
I had a very difficult time with this book. While it purports to be about "How the Jews Invented Hollywood," in reality Gabler does a very poor job of illustrating how the Jewishness of the men who founded the major movie studios influenced them at all. In fact, through the first 150 or so pages, he fails to distinguish how their religion influences any more than the fact that they are immigrants. Gabler writes at length about how the moguls' economic circumstances influenced them; and even details how their early forays into business influenced them. But hardly at all about how their religion influenced them.
At one point, on page 53, he gives one good example of the difference between the Jews and the gentiles: "This was, in fact, one of the reasons Jews like Laemmle were able to gain a foothold. Big money, gentile money, viewed the movies suspiciously - economically, as a fad; morally, as potential embarrassments." That's a legitimate difference between the two religions - the Jews, struggling to make it in America saw the movies as a way to become successful businessmen while non-Jews looked at it with distaste. Unfortunately, Gabler doesn't go that deep into the arguments again until much later.
But while Gabler takes his time addressing the anti-Semitism that made finding financing more difficult and how the Jews had to turn to their own people - other Jews, to fund their expansions, he continually refers to the moguls - Mayer, Fox, Zukor, Laemmle, the Warners, et al - as the "Hollywood Jews" and the "movie Jews." He used those phrases continuously, to the point that it seems almost... anti-Semitic. Why not refer to them as the "Hollywood moguls?" That's what they were, and based on Gabler's writing, it's almost as if their Jewishness was besides the p0int.
I feel like Gabler sort of missed the point. Either the fact that these men were Jewish had significant impact on their careers or it didn't. Continually referring to their religion but rarely detailing how that made them different or gave them an advantage is disingenuous.
Un ensayo muy exhaustivo, que parece más bien una crónica por las continuas alusiones a anécdotas, tanto que puede resultar un poco abrumador la cantidad de nombres que aparecen. No obstante la mayor parte del libro me pareció tener material de sobra para gionizar varios biopics memorables, a la altura de La Red Social o Steve Jobs. Aunque todas esas historias venden una idea extremadamente capitalista que siempre hay que matizar.
No puedo dejar pasar por alto el hecho de que la edición tenga tantas erratas. Por una parte son errores de traducción al repasar en exceso, y por otro un error de edición al no supervisar adecuadamente. Digo esto porque no son errores aislados, son numerosos por todo el libro y siendo el precio considerable apreciaría un trabajo que se ajuste a ese valor. Es por eso que le pongo 3 estrellas.
Very interesting read providing background into the major players responsible for the growth of the motion picture industry and its evolvement. It was a little difficult to follow at times because it jumped around quite a bit, but it was still a fascinating story with lots of behind-the-scenes history of the personalities involved, how stars were treated back when they were under contract with the various studios, and the struggle these Jewish men had amongst themselves as well as their ongoing attempts to assimilate and be accepted as an equal in a gentile culture and society that looked down on them despite their wealth and success.
From the beginning, Jews saw a chance to make a good business of new technology. From Displaing to ditribution to production, the movie industry was moved into the large entertainment business. Its heyday was roughly 60 years. Huge studios like MGM, Universal, Warner Brothers dominated the lives and livelihoods of employees and families.
I enjoy the way it was written and well researched. If you like Hollywood history, don't pass this one up.
This book is incredibly informative and well-written. For anyone curious about the history of Hollywood's early days and the rise of movie moguls this book is it! I didn't quite finish it as I was reading it for a book club and life got in the way, but I learned a lot reading it.
Another user's review put it best: this is another book "that reminds us how boring America would be without Jews." Ain't that the truth. A hell of a tale, and a hell of a book. An essential history of the American film industry. Required reading for hardcore film buffs.