Watching The Last Mogul is like leaving an expensive restaurant by the rear entrance next to the dumpster. It exposes the odious greedy reality behind the glamour of Hollywood under the control of the most powerful figure in perhaps Hollywood history. Great producer, director, writer, actor? Nope a ten per center, talent agent Lew Wasserman. Never heard of him. For ,good reason, he was from Henry Ford school of never complain never explain, wrote nothing down and gave no interviews. But he could have easily written the most telling memoir in Hollywood history since he had nearly every major star in his stable. From Doris Day to Marlon Brando, Gregory Peck to Jimmy Stewart to Alfred Hitchcock he made them all very rich as well as pave Ronald Reagan's way to the White House.
It is a fascinating but unsettling look at an unctuous business filled with bottom line types grasping for every dime they can get by hook and by the doc's innuendo crook. Wasserman began his career in Cleveland booking bands at club's including Al Capone's joints in Chicago. Going to work for talent agent and promoter Julie Stein he moved on to where the action was NYC but Swifty Lazar ran things there so he and Julie moved on to Hollywood and the rest is history. MCA was soon monopolizing the film industry, would take over Universal and go on to greater heights with an almost complete monopoly of television. Meanwhile he wasn't doing too bad in the movie business backing films like The Sting, Jaws and Airport. When close scrutiny threatened he would employ all his power from mob lawyers, union thugs and sitting Presidents (Reagan) to smooth things over.
Wassermann was a man of remarkable insight and energy who truly understood power and how to use it. The film is interspersed with interviews and archival footage of many people he had love hate relationships with, still cautious in their criticism and coy about Lew so in awe of his power that you get the feeling they believe he could come back from the grave to deal with them. Many shed tears for Wasserman leaving it up to David Carr to handle his surly side and provide a counter view to the slavish worship of his lackeys. Eventually Wassermann is undone by the Japanese and the new kid on the block CCA CEO Danny Ovitz who undermines Lew with his own play book. How Shakespearean and why not, Wasserman in his own way cast a shadow every bit as large as Lear and Richard the Third.
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