The legendary financier and Kennedy-clan patriarch impressed even Hollywood with his heartlessness, according to this meticulous but chilly narrative of his stint as a movie mogul. Entertainment journalist Beauchamp (Without Lying Down: Frances Marion and the Powerful Women of Early Hollywood) follows Kennedy's 1926-1931 sojourn in the movie industry, when he amassed several studios and theater chains that became the nucleus of RKO Studios. Beauchamp's Kennedy is a charming, ruthless snake with a " 'dollar sign implanted in his heart,' " who used, betrayed and discarded a string of investors, stockholders, friends, employees and stars, including his longtime mistress, Gloria Swanson. That's Hollywood, but Kennedy, in Beauchamp's portrayal, lacked a crucial redeeming feature-the eye for talent and feel for moviemaking that led other studio chiefs to nurture great films along with great fortunes. Caring more about the biz than the show, he gutted his studios' creative potential through ruthless cost cutting and layoffs; the author's styling of him as a "visionary" empire builder rings hollow given how casually he disposed of his squeezed-dry holdings. Beauchamp adds a touch of Tinseltown glamour to her account of Kennedy's byzantine deal making and financial schemes, but he's not a lead that audiences will warm to. Photos. (Feb. 3)Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved.
Joseph P. Kennedy, father of JFK, was also a fascinating businessman: in the late 1920s, having already established himself in Boston as a banker and entrepreneur, he sought and found success as a Hollywood producer. Here, Beauchamp (Without Lying Down) draws on contracts, letters, and memos to tell the story of Kennedy's career, projects, and relationships during this time. Pam Ward's (The Sky Took Him) narration is clear and expressive; the reedy Boston accent she employs when voicing Kennedy is dead-on hilarious. Recommended for those interested in the Kennedys and for movie history and popular culture buffs. [Audio clip available through www.blackstoneaudio.com; the review of the Knopf hc deemed this "the first in-depth look at [Kennedy's] years in Hollywood," LJ 1/09.—Ed.]—Barbara Valle, El Paso P.L., TX
Beauchamp (Without Lying Down: Frances Marion and the Powerful Women of Early Hollywood, 1998, etc.) uncovers the largely untold story of the Kennedy patriarch's adventures in the early days of Hollywood. Kennedy demonstrated preternatural business instincts, ambition and self-promotional flair in his hometown of Boston, winning fame as "America's youngest bank president" by the age 25 before being seduced by the spectacular profits to be made in the movie business. Employing his enormous personal charm, financial acumen and public-relations savvy, he quickly moved to the head of three movie studios and began amassing a personal fortune that would help establish him as one of the richest men in the country. Beauchamp's exhaustive research details Kennedy's every stock manipulation and cost-cutting measure, but the meat of the story is in the tyro's ruthlessness and single-minded pursuit of the bottom line. This approach led to, among other things, the death of vaudeville, as Kennedy's purchase of the K-A-O theater chain left that medium's performers without a venue for their art; the ruined career of cowboy star and Kennedy friend Fred Thomson, who represented competition for Kennedy's new hire Tom Mix; and the spectacular career flameout of Gloria Swanson, superstar and Kennedy paramour. The section dealing with Swanson's epic, uncompleted fiasco Queen Kelly, hemorrhaging money as out-of-control director Erich von Stroheim descended into autocratic perversity, is a riveting account of filmmaking in the nascent sound era. It also provides a welcome bit of color in a narrative that, owing to Kennedy's relative lack of interest in the creative side of the business, tends toward adryness in its dogged reportage of wheeling and dealing. Beauchamp doesn't attempt a psychological investigation of Kennedy; he appears simply as a predatory animal, a grinning shark instinctively improving his position without sentiment for those suffering in his wake. An engrossing, important forgotten chapter in the history of Hollywood and America's premiere political dynasty. First printing of 40,000. Author tour to Boston, Chicago, Los Angeles, New York, San Francisco, Washington, D.C.
“An exceptional work of film scholarship, packed with information no one had uncovered before that reads like a juicy novel.” —Vanity Fair
“Beauchamp serves up with gusto many measures of gossipy history and historical gossip. . . . One hell of a story.” —San Francisco Chronicle
“Fascinating. . . . The intellect, the intuition, the gumption, the gall, the vision, and the restless ambition of the founding father are meticulously documented.” —The Boston Globe
“Cari Beauchamp deserves great credit for bringing Joseph P. Kennedy into sharp focus with a wealth of detail. . . . Beauchamp has succeeded not only in finding a new way of telling the story, but one which adds to it much we didn’t know before. ” —Michael Korda, The Daily Beast
“Smart. . . . Beauchamp suggests that nothing in Kennedy’s long career of banking, stock manipulation, and New Dealing prepared him for presidential politics the way his time in the picture business did.” —New York Times Book Review
“[A] crackling page-turner. . . . Beauchamp demonstrates again and again, that apart from [Kennedy’s] abiding love and concern for his nine children (and perhaps a few others including Marion Davies), the bottom line was everything.” —Los Angeles Times
“Rarely has [Kennedy’s Hollywood years] been documented in such meticulous detail. . . . Well-written and researched, Beauchamp’s book is a probing examination of the man in the industry during perhaps its most fascinating period.” —Chicago Sun-Times
“Beauchamp’s research is phenomenal and would have daunted any other author. . . . A masterpiece of backstage capitalism.” —Cineaste
“Cari Beauchamp has dug deep into my mother’s files and records and emerged to finally tell the true story of Gloria Swanson’s relationship with Joe Kennedy. No one else has ever been as honest or as thorough.” —Michelle Farmer Amon, daughter of Gloria Swanson