The Last Mogul: The Life and Times of Lew Wasserman
Director: Barry Avrich
An official selection of the 2005 Scottsdale International Film Festival and now made available from Netflix, Canadian director Barry Avrich’s fascinating documentary about movie and music mogul Lew Wasserman will not only delight fans of cinema but those interested in American history as well. The film chronicles Wasserman’s life from his humble beginnings as the son of Russian immigrants growing up in the violent streets of Cleveland to his first big break booking nightclub bands for MCA in Chicago up through his ambitious rise to power as one of the last great members of the Hollywood elite. Although Wasserman never gave interviews, humbly declaring himself as a pencil pusher who was so private that (worried about leaving a paper trail) he never wrote down a word, his approach to the field of film production and studio politics has remained the source of the current star system we have today in American popular cinema. A brilliant businessman with a controversial temper, ego and ties to the mafia, Wasserman never forgot his poor roots and became very supportive in unions and working on presidential campaigns for various candidates including JFK and Clinton. Although perhaps he was most famous for helping to launch the career of former President Ronald Reagan by getting him named the President of the Screen Actors Guild and helping to encourage his initial rapport with the public by sending the actor on speaking engagements to General Electric plants around the country. With interviews and insights from some of the figures who knew the man best or have studied him extensively including Jack Valenti, Peter Bart, Larry King, Michael Ovitz, Jimmy Carter, Richard D. Zanuck, Alan Ladd Jr., Sydney Pollack, Dominick Dunne and more, The Last Mogul is a wonderful documentary that should be of just as much interest as the more high profile, critically acclaimed Robert Evans documentary, The Kid Stays in the Picture.