Peerless: Rouben Mamoulian, Hollywood, and Broadway

Univ. of Wisconsin. May 2024. 352p. ISBN 9780299348205. $34.95. BIOG
Film reviewer Jensen offers an expansive view of American entertainment history as seen through the life and career of director Rouben Mamoulian (1897–1987). Born into a wealthy Armenian family in Tbilisi, Georgia, and exiled after the Russian Revolution to France, Britain, and ultimately the U.S., Mamoulian became a versatile producer and director for both stage and film. Known as a hypersensitive multitasker, he directed 20th-century personalities such as Marlene Dietrich (The Song of Songs), Greta Garbo (Queen Christina), George Gershwin (Porgy and Bess), Fredric March (Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde), Tyrone Power and Linda Darnell (Blood and Sand), and Elizabeth Taylor (Cleopatra.) He recast classic silent flicks into sound (Mark of Zorro) and brought forth heralded comedic and dramatic vehicles, including Applause, Oklahoma!, Carousel, and Golden Boy. Among his signature contributions was choreography that advanced story plots. This book also includes candid anecdotes about Mamoulian’s lovers and his wife, who had a substance-use disorder.
VERDICT Fans of well-told film biographies will relish the film synopses, newspaper critics’ contemporary observations, and the striking photographs.
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