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The long, colorful career of producer Walter Wanger (1894-1968) represents one of Hollywood's greatest untold stories. Married to actress Joan Bennett, he is perhaps best remembered for shooting his wife's lover in a Beverly Hills parking lot and for his involvement with the catastrophic Cleopatra. But Wanger was also an intellectual sophisticate whose astute skills as a producer have received remarkably little attention. A socially conscious movie executive responsible for such film classics as Queen Christina with Greta Garbo, John Ford's Stagecoach, Alfred Hitchcock's Foreign Correspondent, and Don Siegel's Invasion of the Body Snatchers, he exemplified the figure of the glamorous, independent Hollywood producer.
Matthew Bernstein's lively and exhaustive study utilizes archival correspondence and interviews with film industry veterans, including Joan Bennett, director Robert Wise, and writer-director-producer Joseph L. Mankiewicz. Wanger's tempestuous career serves as an incomparable window into the process of filmmaking during the heyday of the studio system. Bernstein defines the flexible nature of the term "producer" in golden-age Hollywood and demonstrates how Wanger's efforts to produce films independently were often compromised by the omnipotent studio system. This comprehensive biography offers new insights into the producer's influence in the history of American cinema, and it makes for fascinating reading.