Joseph P. Kennedy presents : his Hollywood years /
Cari Beauchamp.
1st ed.
New York : Alfred A. Knopf, 2009.
xvii, 506 p. : ill. ; 25 cm.
1400040000 (hbk.), 9781400040001 (hbk.)
More Details
New York : Alfred A. Knopf, 2009.
1400040000 (hbk.)
9781400040001 (hbk.)
A tale of business genius and personal greed that brings to light not only the way Joseph P. Kennedy made his fortune, but how he forever changed the business of movie-making. Between 1926 and 1930, Kennedy--merciless, electrifying, a visionary--used his talents to position himself as a Hollywood leader. By 1928, at age 40, he was running three studios at once. Biographer Beauchamp writes about the genius behind Kennedy's profiteering and his importance in changing the way Hollywood conducted business. As one of the first nonfamily members to be given access to Kennedy's personal papers, Beauchamp has dug through the files of memos and notes to tell how he made it all happen: how he charmed, cajoled, and bullied; how he juggled various backers--and managed to line his pockets with millions. Beauchamp writes about the movies Kennedy produced and the stars he made, about the jobs lost and the careers ruined.--From publisher description.
catalogue key
Includes bibliographical references (p. 475-482) and index.
A Look Inside
First Chapter
Mention the name Joseph P. Kennedy, the patriarch of America’s royal family, and it evokes a mental picture: an older man smiling out from a photograph surrounded by numerous family members, or perhaps he is gaunt and wheelchair-bound, felled by a stroke. Erase those images.

Visualize, instead, a young man in his mid-thirties, a “wickedly handsome six footer, exuding vitality and roguish charm.” He strides confidently into a room wearing “the most wonderful smile that seemed to light up his entire face,” impressing everyone he met with “his warm handshake and his friendly volubility.” His vibrant energy fuels a headturning charisma that commands attention. “You felt not just that you were the only one in the room that mattered,” recalls Joan Fontaine, “but the only one in the world.” With bright blue eyes behind wire-rimmed glasses, a frequent laugh, and a tendency to slap his thigh when amused, he is strikingly different from the typical Wall Street banker or studio mogul.

This is the man who took Hollywood by storm, at one point running four companies simultaneously when no one before or since ran more than one. He was profiled in national magazines and newspapers as a brilliant financial wunderkind, “the most intriguing personality in the motion picture world” and “the person who now monopolizes conversation in the studios and on location.” Kennedy was “the blonde Moses” leading film companies into profitable territory as they faced the pivotal years of converting from silent films to sound. In the process he was instrumental in killing vaudeville. The mystique around him grew so thick thatFortunemagazine warned “the legends are so luxuriant that when you see Joe Kennedy you are likely to be startled to find him as plain and matter of fact as he is—a healthy hardy good natured sandy haired Irish family man—athletic, unperplexed, easily pleased, hot tempered, independent and restless as they come.”

Louella Parsons hailed Joe Kennedy as “the coming Napoleon” of the movies, the white knight with the wherewithal to save film studios by bringing bankers and corporate representatives onto their boards of directors. He was the architect of the mergers that laid the groundwork for today’s Hollywood. While even he might be surprised to find that United Artists, Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer, and Columbia are now all partially owned by the same multinational conglomerate, he was the one who designed that very blueprint.

Kennedy was the first financier to simply buy a studio.Fortuneused the metaphor of a chess game to describe his Hollywood climb: taking “small pawns” such as Robertson-Cole and FBO and methodically knocking down the knights and bishops of Pathé and Keith-Albee- Orpheum to create “the queen of R-K-O” in less than four years. They concluded that “Kennedy moved so fast that opinions still differ as to whether he left a string of reorganized companies or a heap of wreckage behind him.”

Over one hundred films were released under the banner of “Joseph P. Kennedy Presents” during which time he influenced the careers and personal lives of Gloria Swanson, Marlene Dietrich, and the cowboy stars Fred Thomson and Tom Mix, as well as dozens of other investors, executives, and underlings. Kennedy was a multifaceted, magnetic charmer, a devious visionary with exquisite timing and more than a flash of genius. And nothing, including the destruction of other people’s careers, deterred his consuming passion to increase his personal bank accounts.

“Not a half dozen men have been able to keep the whole equation of pictures in their heads,” F. Scott Fitzgerald noted in his final novel,The Last Tycoon.Joe Kennedy was not one of those men, for he had no appreciation of th

Excerpted from Joseph P. Kennedy Presents: His Hollywood Years by Cari Beauchamp
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Full Text Reviews
Appeared in Library Journal on 2009-01-01:
Joseph P. Kennedy, patriarch of the Kennedy political dynasty, spent only a few years in the film business (roughly 1926-30), but he brought the same drive to his film efforts as he displayed in all his enterprises, juggling several studios, perfecting the art of the deal, and laying the grounds for modern corporate Hollywood while adding considerably to the family's wealth. There are numerous biographies of Joe Kennedy, but this is the first in-depth look at his years in Hollywood, much of the material drawn from previously unavailable papers in the Kennedy Library. Beauchamp (Without Lying Down: Frances Marion and the Powerful Women of Early Hollywood) captures Kennedy's charm, his business acumen, and a certain ruthlessness with friends and enemies, and he details Kennedy's prolonged personal and professional relationship with Gloria Swanson and his work with such varied figures as FDR, William Randolph Hearst, and Cecil B. DeMille. Beauchamp covers an important period of change in Hollywood, with the coming of sound technology and the decency code, but the average reader might be confused by the intricate details of Kennedy's movie deals. This carefully researched biography is recommended for academic and large public library collections. [See Prepub Alert, LJ 10/1/08.]-Stephen Rees, Levittown Lib., PA (c) Copyright 2010. Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted.
Appeared in Choice on 2009-07-01:
Joseph Kennedy (1888-1969), head of the Kennedy clan, had several careers, eventually heading the newly established Securities and Exchange Commission for F. D. R., then serving as ambassador to the Court of St. James. He was a genius at manipulating people and making money. As Beauchamp (a freelance writer) announces in chapter 26, by 1932 he was "the richest Irish American in the world," having started as a bank president in Boston in 1914 and then succeeded in motion pictures to the extent that Betty Lasky identified him as "the first and only outsider to fleece Hollywood." The focus here is on the Hollywood years, and the author covers more details than some readers might want to know. The writing brightens when Beauchamp discusses Frances Marion (whose husband's career Kennedy ruined) and Gloria Swanson, with whom he had an extended affair that ended unhappily. Like his son Jack, Joe Kennedy was famous for his "congenital, emotionless womanizing." While making his fortune, Kennedy sacrificed relationships, business and romantic. Beauchamp treads gingerly between reputation and scandal, commerce and smut. She offers unpleasant surprises for readers who might have been spared some of the depressing details she serves up, but the book surely has value as motion-picture history. Summing Up: Recommended. With reservations. All readers. J. M. Welsh emeritus, Salisbury University
Appeared in Publishers Weekly on 2009-03-30:
Former New York Times journalist Beauchamp offers a fascinating inside look at the reign of moviemaking king Joseph P. Kennedy, who held sway over the industry from 1926 to 1930. Kennedy was responsible for creating some of the most renowned movies; he plucked iconic stars from obscurity and transformed the business forever. Pam Ward delivers a solid performance, presenting Beauchamp's findings with a straightforward, journalistic tone. Neither over the top nor monotonous, Ward relates the material with an ear for old Hollywood-speak without sounding forced or mechanical. The result is an entertaining and incredibly informative listening experience. A Knopf hardcover (Reviews, Dec. 1). (Feb.) (c) Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved
This item was reviewed in:
Kirkus Reviews,
Publishers Weekly, December 2008
Library Journal, January 2009
New York Times Book Review, January 2009
Booklist, February 2009
Boston Globe, February 2009
Chicago Tribune, February 2009
San Francisco Chronicle, February 2009
Wall Street Journal, February 2009
USA Today, March 2009
Choice, July 2009
New York Times Full Text Review, October 2009
To find out how to look for other reviews, please see our guides to finding book reviews in the Sciences or Social Sciences and Humanities.
Table of Contents
List of Illustrationsp. xi
Prefacep. xv
"America's Youngest Bank President"p. 3
"This Is Another Telephone"p. 21
"I Have Just Reorganized the Company"p. 33
"Fight like Hell to Win"p. 43
"We Have Valued Your Advice and Assistance"p. 54
"I'm Beginning to Think I'm a 'Picture Man'"p. 66
"I Never Needed a Vacation Less"p. 75
"The Inner Cabinet of the Film Industry"p. 93
"All Records Have Been Broken"p. 100
"The Reigning Queen of the Movies"p. 107
"Together We Could Make Millions"p. 120
"Like a Roped Horse"p. 136
"Industry Wide Influence and Respect"p. 149
"I Have Gone into the Vaudeville Game"p. 169
"Another Big Deal in Prospect"p. 178
"You Ain't Heard Nothing Yet"p. 186
"Swinging the Axe"p. 198
"Now He's Back and Almost Anything May Happen"p. 211
"The Dollar Sign Implanted in His Heart"p. 222
"Gilding the Manure Pile"p. 237
"Give Our Love to Gloria"p. 256
"Having Tea with His Wife and My Husband and the Vicar"p. 272
"Things Are Bad Enough Here"p. 286
"A Good Trick If You Can Do It"p. 300
"I Am Now Definitely Out of the Motion Picture Industry"p. 309
"The Richest Irish American in the World"p. 324
"Wall Street Awaits Kennedy's Findings"p. 334
"The Embers of Terror, Isolationism, and Racism"p. 350
Epilogue: "The First and Only Outsider to Fleece Hollywood"p. 372
Author's Notep. 405
Notesp. 413
Bibliographyp. 475
Indexp. 483
Table of Contents provided by Ingram. All Rights Reserved.

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