By Otto Friedrich
City of Nets: A Portrait of Hollywood in the 1940s opens with the movie industry at the pinnacle of its success, the banner year of 1939, which gave us Gone with the Wind, The Wizard of Oz, and Ninotchka, and ends 10 years later with the chaos of the HUAC hearings, the rise of television, and the Supreme Court’s antitrust decision definitively ending the golden age of Hollywood as a vertically integrated monopoly.
Friedrich who wrote similarly vast and erudite surveys of 1920s Berlin and 1870s Paris, charts the machinations of studio execs, the mechanics of classical studio filmmaking, the tribulations of directors and writers, and the intrusion of gangsters and politicians into frontoffice business matters.
Highlights include David O. Selznick’s maniacal struggle to bring off the gigantic gamble of GWTW; the furiously acrimonious collaboration of uptight, gin-sodden Raymond Chandler and jodhpur-clad Billy Wilder on the screenplay for Double Indemnity; Orson Welles at work on Citizen Kane and The Magnificent Ambersons; John Huston directing his first feature, The Maltese Falcon; and an early account of the comic genius of Preston Sturges during his four years as a director at Paramount
Review written by John Patterson.