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Lion of Hollywood

The Life and Legend of Louis B. Mayer

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Lion of Hollywood is the definitive biography of Louis B. Mayer, the chief of Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer—MGM—the biggest and most successful film studio of Hollywood’s Golden Age.

An immigrant from tsarist Russia, Mayer began in the film business as an exhibitor but soon migrated to where the action and the power were—Hollywood. Through sheer force of energy and foresight, he turned his own modest studio into MGM, where he became the most powerful man in Hollywood, bending the film business to his will. He made great films, including the fabulous MGM musicals, and he made great stars: Garbo, Gable, Garland, and dozens of others. Through the enormously successful Andy Hardy series, Mayer purveyed family values to America. At the same time, he used his influence to place a federal judge on the bench, pay off local officials, cover up his stars’ indiscretions and, on occasion, arrange marriages for gay stars. Mayer rose from his impoverished childhood to become at one time the highest-paid executive in America.

Despite his power and money, Mayer suffered some significant losses. He had two daughters: Irene, who married David O. Selznick, and Edie, who married producer William Goetz. He would eventually fall out with Edie and divorce his wife, Margaret, ending his life alienated from most of his family. His chief assistant, Irving Thalberg, was his closest business partner, but they quarreled frequently, and Thalberg’s early death left Mayer without his most trusted associate. As Mayer grew older, his politics became increasingly reactionary, and he found himself politically isolated within Hollywood’s small conservative community.

Lion of Hollywood is a three-dimensional biography of a figure often caricatured and vilified as the paragon of the studio system. Mayer could be arrogant and tyrannical, but under his leadership MGM made such unforgettable films as The Big Parade, Ninotchka, The Wizard of Oz, Meet Me in St. Louis, and An American in Paris.

Film historian Scott Eyman interviewed more than 150 people and researched some previously unavailable archives to write this major new biography of a man who defined an industry and an era.

Photograph by Greg Lovett

Scott Eyman was formerly the literary critic at The Palm Beach Post and is the author or coauthor of fifteen books, including the bestseller John Wayne and (with actor Robert Wagner) the bestsellers Pieces of My Heart and You Must Remember This. Among his other books are Hank and Jim: The Fifty-Year Friendship of Henry Fonda and James Stewart; Empire of Dreams: The Epic Life of Cecil B. DeMilleLion of Hollywood: The Life and Legend of Louis B. Mayer; and Print the Legend: The Life and Times of John Ford. Eyman also writes book reviews for The Wall Street Journal, and has written for The New York Times, The Washington Post, and the Chicago Tribune. He and his wife, Lynn, live in West Palm Beach.

More books from this author: Scott Eyman