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Irving Thalberg

Boy Wonder to Producer Prince

Mark A. Vieira (Author)

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Hollywood in the 1920s sparkled with talent, confidence, and opportunity. Enter Irving Thalberg of Brooklyn, who survived childhood illness to run Universal Pictures at twenty; co-found Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer at twenty-four; and make stars of Lon Chaney, Norma Shearer, Greta Garbo, Joan Crawford, Clark Gable, and Jean Harlow. Known as Hollywood's “Boy Wonder,” Thalberg created classics such as Ben-Hur, Tarzan the Ape Man, Grand Hotel, Freaks, Mutiny on the Bounty, and The Good Earth, but died tragically at thirty-seven. His place in the pantheon should have been assured, yet his films were not reissued for thirty years, spurring critics to question his legend and diminish his achievements. In this definitive biography, illustrated with rare photographs, Mark A. Vieira sets the record straight, using unpublished production files, financial records, and correspondence to confirm the genius of Thalberg's methods. In addition, this is the first Thalberg biography to utilize both his recorded conversations and the unpublished memoirs of his wife, Norma Shearer. Irving Thalberg is a compelling narrative of power and idealism, revealing for the first time the human being behind the legend.
Mark A. Vieira is a photographer, filmmaker, and Hollywood historian. His previous books include Hurrell's Hollywood Portraits and Greta Garbo: A Cinematic Legacy.
“Mark Vieira has accomplished something quite extraordinary: he amplifies, clarifies, underscores, and illuminates what we already know about Irving Thalberg, to create the most thorough and empathetic biography ever written about this legendary figure . . . some film buffs may feel they already know the story and don’t have to read ‘another’ book about the subject. I hope I can persuade those holdouts to change their minds. This is the definitive volume about a towering figure in the history of Hollywood.”—Leonard Maltin Leonard Maltin’s Movie Crazy
“Using previously untapped sources like production files, financial records, and correspondence, Vieira has written the definitive biography of Thalberg. Highly recommended to those looking for a well-researched work on the foundation of the studio system and the people who made Hollywood.”—Teri Shiel Library Journal
“Vieira’s Irving Thalberg, Boy Wonder to Producer Prince is the third biography of Thalberg, and far and away the most thoroughly researched, comprehensive, and penetrating. . . . This book is as close to definitive as any biography of Irving Thalberg is likely to get.”—Joseph Epstein The Weekly Standard
“Vieira writes with great verve and enthusiasm, and he has a flair for narrative movement that suits these exponents of the new storytelling . . . an excellent narrative of those [the MGM] years, well written and extensively researched.”—David Thomson New Republic
“An engaging new biography . . . Film history has long been told from the vantage point of the director or the star, or focused our attention on a specific genre, period, or national cinema, but rarely has it come from the perspective of the producer. Vieira's biography offers an unusually animated and revealing tour of Hollywood in the 1920s and '30s. His detailed accounts of the personalities and the productions are replete with wonderful anecdotes.”—Noah Isenberg Bookforum
“This is a worthy, well-documented account of [Thalberg’s] life.”—R. D. Sears Choice
“The jury has been out for 70 years on the MGM studio chief, even though F Scott Fitzgerald immortalised him as the “last tycoon”. Was Thalberg art’s gift to Hollywood, with his well-bred epics (Romeo and Juliet, Marie Antoinette)? Or was he a mogul playing to the middlebrow? Read this impressively researched study and decide.”—Nigel Andrews Financial Times
“Vieira has put the enigmatic producer back in the spotlight with his biography . . . a thorough and readable book.”—Matthew Rovner Forward
“This is a sympathetic, diligent, and intelligent account of a wondrous era in Hollywood.”—Jewish Book World
“Vieira’s excellent biography reveals a master player...[and] sheds much needed light upon significant, influential life.”—Magill's Literary Annual / Salem Press
“Vieira’s work is both exhaustively researched and beautifully presented, rich in detail yet compulsively readable. If you want to know about Hollywood’s Golden Age, then you must know about Thalberg. And if you want to know about Thalberg, then you must read this book.”—Anthony McKenna Screening The Past
“Vieira’s work is both exhaustively researched and beautifully presented, rich in detail yet compulsively readable. If you want to know about Hollywood’s Golden Age, then you must know about Thalberg. And if you want to know about Thalberg, then you must read this book.”—Anthony McKenna Screening The Past
“Among the many virtues of Mark Vieira’s biography is the use he makes of the story conferences preserved in the MGM archives and the glimpses they offer of the Thalberg touch in action.”—The Economist
“A well-researched and readable biography. . . . Vieira is well-versed in production costs and box-office returns. . . . Vieira's portraits of Garbo, Harlow and Crawford are detailed and fascinating.”—David Yezzi Wall Street Journal
“An important book on a pivotal figure in Hollywood history. . . . Vieira’s biography is an invaluable resource and would appeal to a wide spectrum of scholars.”—Camille McCutcheon, University of South Carolina Upstate Jrnl Of American Culture
“A fast-paced and well-researched new biography of Thalberg. . . . This fine biography points away from a portrait of an innovator of thoughtful, quirky movies, toward one of those touching yet monstrous mythical American figures, beloved by our greatest historians and novelists, who were compelled to realize their impossible dreams on vast canvases.”—Kent Jones Film Comment
“Vieira takes students of movie history deep into the bowels of MGM.”—Robert Fulford The National Post
"I thought I knew the story of Irving Thalberg, Hollywood's fabled boy wonder, but I learned a lot from this well-written, diligently researched book. Mark Vieira immerses us in Thalberg's life and career and sheds new light on the workings of Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer at the peak of its powers. This is an altogether remarkable piece of work. "—Leonard Maltin, film critic and historian

"Mark A. Vieira's book is exceptionally well researched and makes a tremendous contribution to our understanding of an extraordinary era."—Kevin Brownlow, film historian and filmmaker

"Being the son of David O. Selznick and the grandson of Louis B. Mayer, I have read many books about Irving Thalberg, but none has brought this elusive figure to life as does Mark A. Vieira's. Because he had access to Norma Shearer's memoir notes and because he painstakingly reconstructed each year of Thalberg's brief life, a new figure emerges. Where before we saw a gentle and sensitive man who devoted great care to his films, we now see fierce concentration, arrogance, impatience with stupidity, and a compulsion to oversee every detail of every MGM film. Whatever it cost—and it cost him his health—it resulted in a body of work unprecedented in the history of the medium. I found Irving Thalberg compelling reading and masterly in its ability to keep me reading chapter after astonishing chapter."—Daniel Mayer Selznick, film historian and filmmaker

Finalist for the Richard Wall Memorial Award, Theatre Library Association

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