GOLDWYN: A BIOGRAPHY; By A. Scott Berg; Knopf; 575 pages; $24.95.
The life of Samuel Goldwyn, one of the founders of Hollywood and pioneers of motion pictures, was as much a "Samuel Goldwyn production" as any of the movies he helped bring to the screen.He was born Schmuel Gelbfisz in Warsaw, Poland, but after emigrating to America in 1899 changed his name first to Goldfish and then Goldwyn. Biographer A. Scott Berg says records show his birth was "probably in July 1879" but Goldwyn in later years always swore his birthday was Aug. 27, 1882.
The uncertainty of even basic facts gets to the core of the problem in understanding Goldwyn. After becoming rich he tried to distance himself from his youth. In fact, he groomed himself to the point he literally reinvented himself.
Along the way he helped pioneer silent pictures and found or build Paramount and Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer - the company he also took his name from - and had a hand in bringing to the screen many memorable movies. He helped create hits including "Dodsworth," "Stella Dallas," "Wuthering Heights" and "The Best Years of Our Lives."
But behind every smash picture there were monumental battles with actors, directors and writers.
Goldwyn tried to produce quality pictures and surrounded himself with quality talent. But somehow he never seemed to fit in.
This book recounts his many losses as well as the victories and awards he won. Michael V. Uschan (UPI)