Friday, February 8, 2013

Carl Rollyson's "Hollywood Enigma: Dana Andrews"

Carl Rollyson, Professor of Journalism at Baruch College, has published more than forty books ranging in subject matter from biographies of Marilyn Monroe, Lillian Hellman, Martha Gellhorn, Norman Mailer, Rebecca West, Susan Sontag, and Jill Craigie to studies of American culture, genealogy, children’s biography, film, and literary criticism. He has authored more than 500 articles on American and European literature and history. His latest books are Hollywood Enigma: Dana Andrews, a biography of Dana Andrews published by University Press of Mississippi in September 2012, and the biography American Isis: The Life and Death of Sylvia Plath, released in January 2013.

Rollyson applied the “Page 99 Test” to Hollywood Enigma and reported the following:
Chapter 8 of my biography begins on page 99 and is titled "Goldwyn." This period begins Dana's Hollywood career, and, as usual, his recollection of what it was like to work with the legendary producer does not quite square with what others in Goldwyn's employ have said. Much has been made of "the Goldwyn touch," by which is meant his good taste or his go-it-alone mentality. Dana describes a studio mogul whose operation was far more hit and miss: "He asks everybody, from the hairdresser on the set to the head of the business department, what they think about little things like hairdos, or whether a man's clothes fit properly, or questions about his personality. A lot of people say, 'Goldwyn asks everybody what they think and then does what he thinks.' But I think what he thinks is made up to some extent (or influenced, certainly) by what he hears from various people."

The more I learned about Goldwyn, the more I think Dana was right. Goldwyn would have his screenwriters, one by one, tell him the story of a picture until Goldwyn himself had mastered all the elements and figured out what worked best. Unlike many of his fellow stars, Dana kept an aloof distance from the glamour and hype of Hollywood and, therefore, saw more clearly than others exactly how the business was run. In talking about Goldwyn, in other words, Dana was expressing precisely the sensibility that pervades every aspect of his years in Hollywood.
View the video trailer for Hollywood Enigma: Dana Andrews, and learn more about the book and author at Carl Rollyson's website, blog, and Facebook page.

My Book, The Movie: Hollywood Enigma: Dana Andrews.

--Marshal Zeringue