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The Last Mogul: The Life and Times of Lew Wasserman (2004)

Cast: Peter Bart, Peter Bart, David Brown, more...
Director: Barry Avrich, Barry Avrich
    see all cast/crew...
Studio: Kino
Genre: Documentary, Biographies
Running Time: 103 min.
Languages: English
    see additional details...

For the second half of the 20th century, Lew Wasserman was the most powerful man in show business, even if most people had no idea who he was. Born in Cleveland, OH, in 1913, Wasserman started out booking music for mob-controlled night clubs, and soon became an agent for Music Corporation of America, which became the most lucrative music agency in America. As Wasserman rose through the ranks at MCA, he established such innovative business practices as "packaging" talent (booking hot acts only in tandem with other artists who were a harder sell) and took the company into managing acting talent in Hollywood, where he changed the film business forever by negotiating a ground-breaking deal for James Stewart on the film Winchester '73, which reduced the actor's up-front salary in favor of a cut of the movie's profits, earning the actor a fortune in the process. Under Wasserman's tenure at MCA, the company took over Universal Pictures, established the studio's television branch (and made enough powerful friends to make it the most important production outlet in the business), created the wildly successful Universal City studio tours, and expanded MCA's recording branch into one of the biggest record companies in the world. Wasserman was also a man with no small degree of political influence (it didn't hurt that Ronald Reagan was one of his early clients when MCA want Hollywood), and was reputed to have some useful connections to organized crime (his personal lawyer was reputed to be the model for Robert Duvall's character in The Godfather). Wasserman was a secretive man who did not give interviews or commit anything to writing if it could be avoided, but he knew nearly everyone of consequence in show business, and The Last Mogul: The Life and Times of Lew Wasserman is a documentary that through interviews with his friends and business associates paints a detailed portrait of his remarkable career, from his childhood in Ohio to his death in 2002. ~ Mark Deming, All Movie Guide

GreenCine Member Reviews

Just Avrich by talltale August 10, 2006 - 8:29 PM PDT
1 out of 1 members found this review helpful
Pretty much what its title proclaims, THE LAST MOGUL: THE LIFE & TIMES OF LEW WASSERMAN, a documentary written and directed by Barry Avrich, is pretty much avrich--or a bit below avrich. I knew more about Wasserman when I finished watching than I did when I started, but I still knew not nearly enough. But then Lew was one secretive guy who never gave up many of those secrets. Clearly there were ties to the Mafia, to labor unions, to politicians (Ronald Reagan is a sterling--if that's the right word--example) & other assorted sleaze. Friends of the guy talked to Avrich but not family members or Lew himself (he's dead now, but while alive, he kept his own counsel).

The film is most interesting as a history, a bit disjointed, of Hollywood from the 30s onwards--and Lew's place in it. I think most would agree that he began to lose his power & control as he grew older, but then, don't we all? Depending on the extent of your present knowledge, you'll learn something here, but not too much.

GreenCine Member Rating

(Average 5.50)
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