HOLLYWOOD DREAMS MADE REAL
Irving Thalberg and the Rise of M-G-M
A Harry N. Abrams Book
Mark A. Vieira
Mark A. Vieira appears in the TCM series Moguls and Movie Stars in November 2010.
ABOUT THE BOOK
Ben-Hur, Flesh and the Devil, Tarzan the Ape Man, Grand Hotel, Mutiny on the Bounty, A Night at the Opera, The Good Earth—most filmgoers even today have heard of these Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer classics from the 1920s and 1930s, not to mention the remakes they spawned. Yet few know the name of the young genius behind these masterworks, Irving G. Thalberg. Nicknamed the “Boy Wonder,” Thalberg was running Universal Pictures at the age of twenty and M-G-M at twenty-three. Thirteen years later, he was dead. During that brief span, from 1924 to 1936, he supervised more than four hundred M-G-M films; made stars of, among others, Norma Shearer, Jean Harlow, Clark Gable, Joan Crawford, Lon Chaney, and Greta Garbo; gave Hollywood careers to stage legends from Helen Hayes to the Barrymores; and elevated film to the level of fine art. This groundbreaking new book tells the story of Thalberg’s short but productive life and confirms his role as the prime architect of the Hollywood studio system.
That Thalberg was a cinematic genius is undisputed. It was he who pioneered many of today’s filmmaking practices, including story conferences, sneak previews, and the resulting retakes. Indeed, it is not every year that the Irving G. Thalberg Memorial Award is presented during the Academy Awards™ ceremony, but only when the Academy’s Board of Directors wishes to honor a special producer, one whose work reflects “a consistently high quality of motion picture production.” Yet, despite his visionary talent and prodigious output, Thalberg is regarded by some as a cardboard saint, a humorless advocate of canned theater, and an exploiter of writers. Critics such as Pauline Kael have taken pleasure in perpetuating the myth of an untalented Shearer foisted on an unwilling public by an obsessed Thalberg. The production files, financial records, and interviews that form the basis of this book tell a very different tale.
Hollywood Dreams Made Real is the first book to treat the “Boy Wonder” as a human being, using unpublished correspondence, interviews, and archival documents to reveal the beguiling, mesmerizing man behind the legend. In this enthralling volume, film historian Mark A. Vieira sets the record straight with a strictly chronological narrative of Thalberg’s life. He interweaves the unpublished recollections of M-G-M veterans with newly discovered transcripts of Thalberg’s conversations; data from previously unseen production records; and a treasure trove of images from Thalberg’s films, most of which have never before been in print.
Publication-related events include:
• Lincoln Center for the Performing Arts hosted an exhibition of photographs from Thalberg photographs printed by Mark A. Vieira from original M-G-M negatives. New York, October 15 through 31 with a reception, author speech, and book signing on October 15.
• The California Film Institute presented a Thalberg mini-festival at the Smith Rafael Film Center in San Rafael, California, with book signings on October 29 and 30.
• Larry Edmunds Cinema Bookshop in Hollywood hosted a book signing at 7:30 p.m. on Thursday November 13.
IMAGES FROM THALBERG FILMS
Mamo Clark and Clark Gable in Mutiny on the Bounty
Greta Garbo in The Temptress
Photograph by Bert Longworth
"The Wedding of the Painted Doll" number from The Broadway Melody
Joan Crawford in Our Blushing Brides
Portrait by Sam Manatt
Norma Shearer in Riptide
portrait by Clarence Sinclair Bull