Otto the Magnificent: The Life of Otto Kahn

Otto the Magnificent: The Life of Otto Kahn

by John Kobler

Editorial Reviews

Publishers Weekly - Publisher's Weekly
``I must atone for my wealth,'' Otto Kahn (1867-1934) frequently muttered. This wheeler-dealer financier, soft-spoken investment banker was no ordinary robber baron. His support for labor unions and a stiff tax on excess war profits did not endear him to his Wall Street brethren. He loaned or gave money to Paul Robeson and Hart Crane, supported innovative artists such as Gershwin and Prokofiev, and jazz opera and political off-Broadway theater. As director and board member of New York's Metropolitan Opera, Kahn brought Anna Pavlova and Vaslav Nijinsky to the U.S. Kobler, biographer of Al Capone, John Barrymore and Henry Luce, captures the contradictions of a dynamo who befriended trust-buster Teddy Roosevelt even as he helped an industrialist consolidate a railroad monopoly. Kahn, to be sure, was no saint--his 127-room Long Island chateau, built while WW I raged, was a monument to conspicuous consumption. But he possessed a maverick, unorthodox spirit missing in today's tycoons, and this hugely entertaining biography takes the measure of the man. Photos. (Apr.)
Library Journal - Library Journal
From the Nineties until the Depression, Kahn (1867-1934) epitomized the cultured millionaire. For 35 years he made fortunes on Wall Street and then channeled them into opera, ballet, theater, and art. His lifestyle became a public symbol of wealth and power, showing (as a servant remarked) ``what God could have done if He'd had the money.'' And the energy: at 60 Kahn confessed, ``I have never in all my life felt the sensation of being tired.'' Kobler competently decribes Kahn's business conquests, cultural escapades, and private philanthropy, but his book is too long on anecdote and too short on analysis. This is easy to overlook, however, as we willingly indulge a voyeuristic interest in a luxury and taste rarely equaled.-- Michael Edmonds, State Historical Soc . of Wisconsin, Madison

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Cengage Gale
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