Goldwyn: The Man and His Movies (2001)

Genres - Film, TV & Radio  |   Sub-Genres - Biography, Film & Television History  |   Run Time - 118 min.  |   Countries - United States   |   MPAA Rating - NR
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Review by Tom Wiener

Although not breaking any formal ground in the tried if not always true formula of TV biography shows, Goldwyn rises above the pack on the strength of its origins: A. Scott Berg's superb biography of the legendary independent film producer. Berg cowrote the script and appears often to add invaluable insights. But it's the fact that he not only had the cooperation of the Goldwyn family when he wrote the book but also when this film was made that pushes it into the first rank. Like Berg's book, the film is as scrupulous at recording its subject's shortcomings as his virtues, both as a professional and as a family man. Particularly poignant is the testimony from Sam Goldwyn, Jr., his wife Peggy Goldwyn, Leonora Hornblow, widow of producer and Goldwyn associate Arthur Hornblow, Jr., and Ruth Capps, Goldwyn's daughter from his first marriage--and the real star of this film with her sharp opinions. They offer insights into Goldwyn's marriage to the former Frances Howard, an actress who admitted after marrying Goldwyn to having a cash register where her heart should have been, and whose first real love was director George Cukor. The film doesn't dwell on but makes good use of what it calls Goldwyn's "conflicted feelings about motherhood" and how it was manifested in such films as Stella Dallas, a property he shot twice. The filmmakers have done their homework, ferreting out snippets of archival interviews with Goldwyn associates, most notably William Wyler, who directed two of Goldwyn's best films, Wuthering Heights and The Best Years of Our Lives. What this film does more successfully that most of its type is to give full credit to its subject's achievements while offering nuanced psychological insight.