A big, riveting biography of William Paley, the Chicago cigarmaker's son who built the CBS television empire and reigned as its chairman until 1983, this blockbuster tears away the layers of self-aggrandizing mythology Paley has woven about himself. Former New York Times media reporter Smith presents an often unflattering but never malicious portrait of Paley, now 88, as a cold, power-hungry, insecure narcissist, a ``compulsive womanizer'' and tyrannical paterfamilias who ``tolerated'' his six children. Ambivalent about his Jewish origins, Paley equated ``WASP acceptance with success.'' According to Smith, the free-swinging tycoon was dictatorial and controlling with worldly first wife Dorothy Hart Hearst; his second wife, Barbara Cushing Mortimer, ``devoted her life to creating a perfect world'' for her demanding, ever-unfaithful husband. Packed with revelations, rich in radio and TV lore, sprinkled with intrigues, glitz, and wheeling and dealing at the highest levels of media and government, Smith's well-documented narrative is in good measure the story of CBS. She provides new details of CBS News's collaboration with the CIA in the 1950s; its in-house enforcement of McCarthyist witch-hunt tactics (though CBS was later instrumental in defrocking McCarthy); and its refusal to bow to pressure from the Nixon White House in covering the Vietnam War. She relates Paley's bitter battles with former network president Frank Stanton, and tracks CBS's trajectory from the glory days of star correspondent Edward R. Murrow to current chief executive Laurence Tisch's reign over ``a machine of lowbrow mass market entertainment, now shorn of its pretensions.'' Photos. First serial to Vanity Fair; Reader's Digest Condensed Book Club selection; movie rights to HBO; author tour. (Nov.)
Critics always claimed that former CBS Chairman William S. Paley's As it Happened ( LJ 3/15/79) wasn't how it happened. Here Smith, author of Up the Tube: Prime-Time TV and the Silverman Years ( LJ 7/81), offers an objective discussion of the creation of the ``Tiffany Network.'' Paley, Smith asserts, was often resistant to change; newsman Edward R. Murrow and ``power behind the throne'' Frank Stanton may have molded the media company more than Paley did. Still, Smith also pays tribute to Paley's shrewd, strong personality, even though it sometimes resulted in megalomania and compulsive womanizing. With its mix of business reportage and gossip about a ``brilliant circle'' that included wife Babe, Truman Capote, Slim Keith, and David O. Selznick, this book should have wide appeal in public libraries. Previewed in Prepub Alert, LJ 7/90 as Paley: A Life. --Judy Quinn, ``Library Journal''
"[Smith] has done a great deal of sifting, comparing and inferring, and her account of Diana's life is as full as any sane person could wish, and even a shade fuller.
— The New York Times Book Review