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MGM: when the lion roars.

MGM: WHEN THE LION ROARS, by Peter Hay (Turner Publishing, 335 p.) is an elaborate, beautifully produced and exquisitely printed history of Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer, from the beginning (1924), through its heyday under Marcus Loew, Nicholas, Schenek, Irving Thalberg and Louis B. Mayer, on to the Dory Schary period and into its eventual (and current) decline.

This coffee-table volume makes one positively nostalgic for "the good old days," when the MGM logo really stood for the very best in screen entertainment and represented the top stars, the top writers and the top directors.

There is a certain logic to Turner Publishing generating this kind sumptuously illustrated history, considering that Ted Turner owns most of the MGM library, and that TNT will carry a six-hour mini-series about MGM next spring. Hay has tried to strike a sensible balance between the editorial and the pictorial, and has succeeded at both ends--although the wide-ranging selection of pictures and their superb reproduction probably tips the scale towards the visual.

On the story side, Hay has done an admirable job of picking, choosing and arranging, including a year-by-year rundown of events at the studio. The running story itself makes for good reading, though the text doesn't really compare with such books as the Bosley Crowther volume about Mayer, who emerges somewhat differently when seen through Hay's eyes.

Mayer was an enormous force during his years as studio boss. He was also quite a miserable human being, a benevolent dictator whose power affected many lives, and whose limitations frequently kept the studio from broadening its themes.

But this shouldn't detract from the value of Hay's work. His MGM story is utterly readable and enjoyable, full of color and anecdotes. Hay is perceptive in detailing the subtle changes that did take place once Mayer had departed, and the less cliche-ridden Schary had taken over the helm.

Unquestionably, MGM: When the Lion Roars is "made" by its extraordinary collection of stills, which recreate a glamour and sophistication long gone. This sparkling book may not represent the "ideal" movie history, but packs so much value and greatness into its pages, that it belongs on the shelf of anyone who remembers shivering with anticipation when that gently-growling lion came onto the screen.
COPYRIGHT 1991 TV Trade Media, Inc.
No portion of this article can be reproduced without the express written permission from the copyright holder.
Copyright 1991, Gale Group. All rights reserved. Gale Group is a Thomson Corporation Company.

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Publication:Video Age International
Article Type:Book Review
Date:Nov 1, 1991
Words:370
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