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This is the extraordinary story, told for the first time, of Joseph P. Kennedy’s remarkable reign in Hollywood, in which he ran three movie studios simultaneously, led the revolution in sound pictures—and made the fortune that became the foundation of his empire.
Kennedy saw filmmaking as “a gold mine” when movies were an idea one week, in front of the camera the next, and in theaters within the month.
It was 1919; Kennedy was thirty-one years old.
Between 1926 and 1930, Kennedy used his talents to position himself as a Hollywood leader. He ran Film Booking Offices (FBO), was brought in to run Pathe; and the Keith-Albee-Orpheum theaters, and became the chairman of their boards. Within months, he was asked to head First National film company. By 1928, Kennedy—merciless, electrifying, a visionary—was running three studios at once.
In Joseph P. Kennedy Presents, Cari Beauchamp writes about the genius behind Kennedy’s profiteering and his importance in changing the way Hollywood conducted business. As one of the first nonfamily members to be given access to Kennedy’s personal papers, Beauchamp, through years of meticulous research and countless interviews with those close to Kennedy, has dug through the maze of deals and the files of memos and notes, only recently made available, to tell in full how he made it all happen: how he charmed, cajoled, and bullied; how he juggles various backers—and managed to line his pockets with millions.
Beauchamp writes about the movies Kennedy produced and the stars he made, about the studios he razed and those he reorganized, about the jobs that were lost and the careers that were ruined (among them, that of silent film cowboy star Fred Thomson—one of America’s top box-office draws).
Beauchamp tells for the first time the full story of Kennedy’s affair with the feisty Gloria Swanson, the “reigning Queen of Hollywood”—an extravagant escapade that became legend and that triggered one of Hollywood’s biggest financial fiascos. It began with Kennedy taking over Swanson’s personal and professional life (“Together we could make millions,” he promised), and ended with his first failure (personal and public) and her career on the brink of ruin, a million dollars in debt.
Beauchamp writes as well about the Hollywood titans surrounding Kennedy: William Randolph Hearst (Kennedy was a welcome guest at “the ranch”) . . . Cecil B. De Mille . . . David Sarnoff, who, with Kennedy, masterminded the unprecedented deal that resulted in the founding of RKO, and that made Kennedy millions.
A fascinating tale of business genius and personal greed that brings to light not only the way Joseph P. Kennedy made his fortune, but how he forever changed the business of movie-making.