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The Goldwyn Age

by RICHARD RUSHFIELD

October 2001

 

"I don't care if this picture makes a dime as long as every man, woman, and child in America sees it" is a typical burst of romantic braggadocio attributed to the black sheep of Hollywood's founding fathers, Samuel Goldwyn, in the lively documentary by Peter Jones and A. Scott Berg called "Goldwyn", which airs on PBS this month. The film tells the fascinating tale of the rise of a Jewish immigrant who applied the motto of his glove-maker employer ("Make fewer, better") to filmmaking and turned his name into a legendary standard of quality, producing some of the golden age's greatest films, including "Wuthering Heights", "The Pride of the Yankees", "Ball of Fire", "The Best Years of Our Lives", and "Guys and Dolls". He achieved all this largely on his own, becoming Hollywood's first great independent producer after his gargantuan ego twice prompted his ouster as head of what became Paramount and MGM. "Goldwyn" offers an extreme close-up of the gigantic personality who was almost as famous for his epic malapropisms ("The next time I send a damn fool . . . I'll go myself") as he was for his films.

(Rating: ★★★½) - RICHARD RUSHFIELD