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A magnificent history of Hollywood from the invention of film to the present day, by the everywhere acclaimed David Thomson, who has established himself as the “greatest living film critic and historian” (The Atlantic Monthly), “irreplaceable” (The New York Times), and simply “the best writer about the movies” (San Francisco Chronicle).
Now we have his master work, The Whole Equation, which, in his own words, embraces “the murder and the majesty, the business statistics and millions of us being moved, the art and the awfulness.” It accommodates “the artistic careers, the lives of the pirates, the ebb and flow if business, the sociological impact–in short, the wonder in the dark, the calculation in the offices, and the staggering impact on America of moving pictures. Which is also the thunderous artillery of America unleashed on the world.”
Thomson tells us how D. W. Griffith and Charlie Chaplin created the first movies of mass appeal. He writes about Louis B. Mayer, who understood the whole equation and reaped the profits. He shows us how David O. Selznick exemplified the vanity and passion that gets memorable movies made; how the movies, offering a sense of common experience, helped Americans through the difficult years of the 1930s and ’40s; how and why the quest for the blockbuster changed the industry.
He examines the films of Capra, Wilder, Hitchcock, Spielberg; of Gable, Cagney, Monroe, Crawford, Brando, Bogart, Nicholson, Kidman; of Irving Thalberg, Lew Wasserman, Harvey Weinstein–and scores more. He considers noir films, the blacklist, agents, method acting. He tells us the stories behind The Godfather, Chinatown, and Jaws. And he follows the money–a trip essential to understanding Hollywood at its most thrilling and most disappointing.
David Thomson has given us a one-volume history of Hollywood that is as well one of the most brilliant, most insightful, entertaining, and illuminating books ever written on American film.
“A must-read for anybody who loves film and is fascinated with the less-than-romantic machinery behind the glitter. . . . Engaging.”—Liz Smith, The New York Post
“You are not likely to find a more affecting and intellectually absorbing book on film...” —Louis Menand, The New Yorker
“I’ve always wanted to read a history of the movies that dealt with their whole ecology—what they were, why they were, who made them, who watched them, how they were paid for, and where the money went. This is it. It’s engaged, passionate, tender, informative, critical, mournful, funny, and unsentimental.” —Richard Eyre
“Once again, with his intelligent eye and sharp wit, David Thomson has managed to bring the reader inside and underneath the world of cinema, this time creating a remarkable one-volume compendium of the history and the magic that we call Hollywood.” —Harvey Weinstein
“Thomson traces an arc as sure and elegant as the best of Tinseltown’s movies in his totally absorbing book, hitting all the right bases along the way—risk, fantasy, ruthlessness, joy, horror and money, always money. A remarkable summing up from perhaps the only observer with the right balance of passion and perspective to pull it off.” —Kate Buford
“From the opening chapter on writer Robert Towne and his struggles with Chinatown to the cloudy denouement–the future of cinema–this is a must-read for anybody who loves film and is fascinated with the less-than romantic machinery behind the glitter...For its candid good taste alone, the book goes on my shelf.” —Liz Smith, New York Newsday
“The excitement of Mr. Thomson’s wild ride is infectious. . . the author’s penchant for outrageous bons mots never fails to hit the bull’s eye…Thomson’ s “mathematics” of myth-building—both Hollywood’s and his own—is so compulsively readable…you still can’t turn the pages fast enough.” —David Fear, Time Out New York
“On one end the problematic creative folk like Charlie Chaplin, Erich von Stroheim, Marlon Brando, on the opposite end of the equation are the businessmen and studio heads whose interest was, and always will be, the bottom line. As Mr. Thomson unreels the history of film in a series of flashbacks forward and back, budgets are broken down, boardrooms are spied upon, scripts and personalities pass before us in fascinating and unprecedented review.” —Stefan Kanfer, The Wall Street Journal
“ . . . With strong opinions and acerbic prose Thomson puts a contemporary spin on Hollywood’s origins by crunching the numbers in Greta Garbo’s contract, dissecting the budget of Gone with the Wind, and psychoanalyzing pioneering producers Thalberg and David O. Selznick… A meditation on [the American film industry’s] significance, Thomson’s engrossing book blows the dust off forgotten scandals and offers vivid examples of money’s toxifying power.” —Andrew Johnston, Entertainment Weekly
“Compelling are [his] musings on stars and directors, from Charlie Chaplin to Steven Spielberg… He offers arguments powerful enough to make the reader view the movies in a new light…Most important is the intersection of art and business, the center of The Whole Equation.” —John McMurtrie, San Francisco Chronicle