Cover

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Title Page, About the Series, Copyright, Dedication

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pp. i-vii

Contents

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pp. ix-x

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Foreword

Robert Wise

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pp. xi-xii

Like any director working in Hollywood in the 1950s, I knew of Walter Wanger's many pictures and his extensive film career. But I had never met him before he contacted me in the fall of 1957 regarding my directing a film about Barbara Graham, the first woman executed in California...

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Preface

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pp. xiii-xx

I first heard of Walter Wanger more than ten years ago while working as a research assistant to Donald Spoto on his massive biography of Alfred Hitchcock, The Dark Side of Genius. Spoto asked me to dig up some information about Wanger and the making of Foreign Correspondent. At that time,...

Part 1. Personal History

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1. The Gentleman from the West (1894–1911)

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pp. 3-12

Walter F. Wanger cut a distinctive figure in Hollywood. His colleagues spoke of his stylish Savile Row suits and his infinite charm. Jesse Lasky, Jr., who in the 1920s was at the Astoria, New York, studios where Wanger worked, described him as a "continental, worldly sophisticate": "I can...

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2. The Boy Manager (1911–1914)

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pp. 13-22

Throughout his life, Wanger was a devoted alumnus of Dartmouth College. In the mid-1930s, he created the Irving G. Thalberg script library and started a course in screen writing. He served as president of the college's Alumni Association in the 1940s. Publicity profiles made his attendance...

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3. Finding a Niche (1915–1919)

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pp. 23-38

When he left Dartmouth in 1915, Wanger was determined to become a professional theater manager. But for all of his expertise in production values and promotion, the one element lacking at Dartmouth had been a sense of risk. All of his activities were financed by the college, and his audience...

Part 2. The Executive Apprentice

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4. Giving the Movies "Class" (1920–1924)

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pp. 41-53

Sometime during the infamous Actors Equity strike of August-September 1919, Belasco's star actor Holbrook Blinn gave a dinner party at his home in Riverdale. Among his guests were the Wangers and Lasky, then vice-president in charge of production for Famous Players-Lasky (FPL)....

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5. Organizational Demands (1924–1931)

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pp. 54-70

Personally, Wanger was glad to be back at FPL, for he enjoyed the power and the contacts that his position afforded. Aside from the other studios' most precious performers, such as MGM's Greta Garbo, there was no major talent in, or attracted to, the film industry, from Griffith to George Gershwin, from...

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6. Too Much Interference (1932–1934)

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pp. 71-90

Eight years older than Selznick and Zanuck, five years older than Thaiberg, Wanger at thirty-eight was no boy wonder. Some believed that after stepping down from Paramount, Wanger had peaked early in his career. But his reputation as an outstanding scout and his imposing Paramount...

Part 3. Going "Independent"

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7. Semi-Independent Production (1934–1936)

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pp. 93-113

In 1934 as now, Hollywood "independent production" was an umbrella term, something defined negatively. As Staiger has noted, it referred to "a small company with no corporate relationship to a distribution firm" and one that produced only a few films a year. "B" film producers from Poverty...

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8. A Fine and Daring Producer (1936–1938)

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pp. 114-128

When Wanger moved to United Artists in the summer of 1936, he embarked upon a five-year venture that placed him squarely in the front ranks of progressive and innovative Hollywood filmmaking. He produced an extraordinary run of memorable films, including message movies...

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9. An Independent in Every Sense of the Word (1938–1939)

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pp. 129-150

In February 1939, Time's critic devoted the bulk of his review of Ford's Stagecoach to introducing "a presentable young Dartmouth man," Wanger, who belonged "in the forefront of Hollywood's crusade for social consciousness." After surveying his career, and noting that Wanger was...

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10. Having It All (1939–1941)

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pp. 151-173

Wanger's public glory was completely divorced from his troubled private life. After her London triumphs and performance in Hush Money on Broadway in 1926, Johnston decided to abandon her show business career. "I could easily have gone on," she told the Boston Herald in 1940, "but...

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11. Wanger at War (1941–1945)

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pp. 174-194

"I have been struggling with the problem of motion pictures and mass enlightenment ever since the last war," Wanger wrote an official of the Office of War Information seven months after Pearl Harbor. Though all Hollywood producers leaped at the sudden opportunity to prove the value...

Part 4. Bitter Teas and Reckless Moments, 1945–1952

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12. Fritz Lang, Incorporated

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pp. 197-216

Diana Productions, Wanger's first postwar semi-independent company, was formed in early 1945 with the highest expectations. Yet three years later, the venture went down in flames. At that time, Wanger sent his friend and attorney Bienstock a lengthy description of his difficulties with...

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13. Susan Hayward, Past and Present

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pp. 217-236

For Wanger, the four-year period from 1945 to 1949 was as restless as his shifts in the early 1930s from Paramount to Columbia to MGM to Paramount again. Now, however, with remarkable energy, he often maintained affiliations with Universal-International, Eagle-Lion, Columbia Pictures...

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14. The Price of Anglophilia

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pp. 237-256

At age fifty-two, Wanger saw the $4.5 million Joan of Arc as his Gone with the Wind and his Best Years of Our Lives, the crowning glory of his career and the answer to all of Hollywood's postwar problems. From the selection of the film's property through its roadshow presentation...

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15. On the Way Down

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pp. 257-278

"Let me tell you about Hollywood," Wanger once instructed Lantz. "Two sets of bad reviews and the cook quits." Wanger had had more than two. From 1949 onward, every project Wanger undertook and every hope he entertained came unraveled. The failure of Joan of Arc was catastrophic,...

Part 5. Another Comeback: Three Films

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16. Riot in Cell Block 11 (1954)

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pp. 281-301

When the West Coast press corps converged on the Castaic Honor Farm on September 5, 1952, to watch Wanger's release after ninety-eight days of his four-month sentence, the producer offered only one comment for publication: the prison system "is the nation's number one scandal. I want...

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17. Invasion of the Body Snatchers (1956)

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pp. 302-316

Wanger was anxious to build on the success of Riot in Cell Block 11 and 1954 seemed to be the year to do it. The Internal Revenue Service audits finally ended. By mid-1954, distribution expert James Mulvey's Motion Picture Capital Corporation settled Wanger's debts from...

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18. I Want to Live! (1958)

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pp. 317-339

Wanger's new partner in September 1956 was one of his oldest acquaintances: Joseph L. Mankiewicz. After a distinguished career at MGM as a writer-producer, supervising many of the studio's most memorable films such as Fury, Three Comrades (1938), and The Philadelphia Story...

Part 6. Hollywood Merry-Go-Round

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19. Arabian Nights (1958–1961)

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pp. 343-357

The best commentary on Cleopatra, the last film Wanger produced, remains writer-director Joseph Mankiewicz's quip: "This picture was conceived in state of emergency, shot in confusion, and wound up in a blind panic." Cleopatra's conception merged Wanger's lifelong infatuation...

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20. The Kafka Play (1961–1962)

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pp. 358-374

The Cleopatra that premiered in New York in June 1963 and which critic Judith Crist called "a monumental mouse" was the result not of four year's work and $44 million, but of 222 shooting days in Italy from the fall of 1961 to the summer of 1962 and $24 million in direct costs, exclusive...

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21. The Curse of Cleopatra (1962–1968)

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pp. 375-391

Wanger's "move" in the fall of 1962 was to write a memoir of the Cleopatra production and simultaneously to inaugurate a libel and breach of contract lawsuit against Fox. The second gesture was expected, but the first was not. When an excerpt from My Life with "Cleopatra" appeared...

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Conclusion

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pp. 392-400

Like every producer working in a mass medium, Wanger wrestled with the question of what the public wants to see. Selznick, in Schatz's words, favored "lavish production values and cloying sentimentality." Goldwyn usually relied on familiar best-sellers and Broadway successes. Although each...

Bibliographic Notes

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pp. 401-432

Filmography

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pp. 433-448

Illustration Credits

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pp. 449-450

Index

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pp. 451-464

About the Author

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p. 465

Image Plates

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pp. 467-510