Thursday, August 11, 2022

Book Review: The MGM Effect

Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer’s emblem, which has opened thousands of movies since 1924, is the most recognized corporate symbol in the world. Not just in the entertainment industry, it should be noted, but of any industry, anywhere, in the history of human civilization. But MGM has been a competitively insignificant force in the motion picture industry for nearly as long as it once, decades ago, dominated that industry.

In fact, the MGM lion now presides not over movies alone, but over thirty world-class resorts, and is, or has been, also a recognized leader in the fields of real estate, theme parks, casinos, golf courses, consumer products, and even airlines, all around the world. But the MGM mystique remains. The MGM Effect is a look at what made MGM the Mount Rushmore of studios, how it presented itself to the world, and how it influenced everything from set design to merchandising to music and dance, and continues to do so today.

The MGM Effect: How a Hollywood Studio Changed the World comes out this week on August 15. Rowman and Littlefield provided an early galley for review.

Personally, I grew up in the era of few television channels so weekends were often the time for classic movies. MGM films were a big part of those presentations. I also have a fascination with the classic Hollywood studio system, so this title was an instant interest for me. The story of the studio and the movie business, however, is only a part of this book (the first quarter or so). There is so much more to the MGM story. If you ever wanted to know about MGM's forays into casinos, amusement parks, radio and TV, records, interactive video games and more, it is discussed within these pages.

I also was intrigued by the in-depth look into Louis D. Mayer and the study of his actions through the biographies and writings of others. This was a time when lives were not recorded in intense detail, so building the facts from so many sources is to be admired. This takes careful and thorough research.

Steven Bingen has a wealth of experience in this area - being an author, archivist, lecturer and Hollywood insider. The man knows his stuff, and he shares that knowledge in his latest book. His style is relaxed, conversational. This reads very much like having a deep conversation with a friend over beers. He keeps the narrative entertaining and avoids being scholarly dry. I appreciate that.

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