City of Nets: A Portrait of Hollywood in the 1940's

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9780060156268: City of Nets: A Portrait of Hollywood in the 1940's

In 1939, fifty million Americans went to the movies every week, Louis B. Mayer was the highest-paid man in the country, and Hollywood produced 530 feature films a year. One decade and five thousand movies later, the studios were faltering. The 1940s became the decade of Hollywood's decline: anticommunist hysteria excommunicated some of its best talent, while a 1948 antitrust consent decree ended many of the business practices that had made the studio system so profitable.

In this masterful work of cultural history, the legendary Otto Friedrich tells the story of Hollywood's heyday and decline in a vivid narrative featuring an all-star cast of the actors, writers, musicians, composers, producers, directors, racketeers, labor leaders, journalists, and politicians who played major parts in the movie capital during the turbulent decade from World War II to the Korean War.

Friedrich draws on sources from celebrity biographies to trade-union history, mingling lively gossip with analysis of Hollywood's seedier business dealings and telling the stories of legendary movies such as Citizen Kane, The Maltese Falcon, Double Indemnity, and All About Eve.

A classic portrait of a special place in a special time, City of Nets gives us a singular behind-the-scenes glimpse into a bygone era that still captivates our imaginations.

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Review:

The late Otto Friedrich enlivened the pages of many newspapers and magazines with his vigorous prose. His journalistic ability to convey complex material in a vivid, accessible manner is evident in City of Nets, a mordant portrait of Hollywood in the 1940s. (Originally published in 1986, it's the middle volume in a trilogy of superb urban histories that also includes Before the Deluge: A Portrait of Berlin in the 1920s and Olympia: Paris in the Age of Manet.) Friedrich drew on his voluminous reading of everything from celebrity bios to trade-union history to create a unique synthesis that, for a change, depicts Tinseltown not as a dreamland floating above American reality, but as a city subject, like any other, to economic and political forces. Friedrich mingles enjoyable gossip with hardheaded analysis of Hollywood's often unsavory industrial underpinnings, including studio heads' willingness to rely on gun-wielding gangsters to solve their labor problems. There's no other movie book quite like it; Rita Hayworth's divorce proceedings against Orson Welles follow hard on the heels of a gruesomely detailed description of Bugsy Siegel's execution. The '40s were the decade of Hollywood's decline: a blacklist prompted by anticommunist hysteria shut out some of its best talent, while a 1948 antitrust consent decree ended many of the business practices that made the studio system so profitable. Friedrich's brilliantly selective use of colorful anecdotes and revealing details perfectly captures a decaying, but still glamorous, culture. --Wendy Smith

From the Back Cover:

This dazzling story of Hollywood during the 1940s is a social and cultural history of the movie capital's golden age. Its cast includes actors, writers, musicians and composers, producers and directors, racketeers and labor leaders, journalists and politicians in the turbulent decade from World War II to Korea.

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