Tonight is another book review. This time it’s “The Fixers: Eddie Mannix, Howard Strickling and the MGM Publicity Machine” by E.J.Fleming.
A fixer was someone on the studio payroll that took care of the messes caused by studio employees, namely the stars. Eddie Mannix and Howard Strickling were the fixers at MGM. They were there from the silents through the Golden Age and then the destruction of the Studio System.
It’s a good read and if you like reading about the scandals and seamy underbelly of life, this book will put you into a sleaze coma! I couldn’t put it down. And this is coming from a guy whose family stuffs his Christmas stocking every year with every tabloid paper from the supermarket.
I’ve lived in Southern California for over twenty years, have always been a film nut, and have heard about a lot of the stories in this book. This book fills in all of the gory details and does a pretty good job of documenting its claims. A lot of it is done in a round about way, through news articles of the time, archive records, old timer interviews, and other authors biographies. The “connect the dots” methodology is very good and entertaining.
Some of the tidbits in the book:
Actor Wallace Beery, gangster Pat DiCicco, and Albert R. “Cubby” Broccoli beat comedian Ted Healy to death in a brawl outside the Trocadero in Hollywood. Beery was sent to Europe by the studio for a few months, while a story was concocted that three college students had killed Healy. Immigration records confirm a four-month-long trip to Europe on Beery’s part immediately after Healy’s death, ending April 17, 1938
MGM had it’s own brothel which it used to service it’s stars, law enforcement, government officials and the studio’s in and out of town business clients. The hookers came from the ranks of the 6 month contract starlet wannabes that flooded the studio from all over the country. MGM thought, and rightly so, that if they owned the shop, they could better control the clientele.
In the 1930’s Clark Gable ran over a pedestrian in a cross walk, killing her, and walked away scott free after the fixers got another studio employee to take the fall for Gable. They did it through fixes with law enforcement, paying off the family, and guaranteeing the fallguy would do only two years on a work farm and then have a job for life at the studio.
The stories go on and on and on.
Now, there are reviewers on some websites that trash this book as sensationalist junk. When you read their reviews they sound like the types that made a religion of Old Hollywood and it’s pantheon of stars. I’m sorry people, not all the people in Hollywood back then were nice. They can’t stand any criticism of their fantasies and heroes. Fleming did a descent job of researching his stories. And even if only 10% of the stories are actually 100% true, there is a special circle in Hell just for Mannix and Strickling.
Paperback: 325 pages
Publisher: McFarland & Company