The Agency: William Morris and the Hidden History of Show Business

  • by Frank Rose
  • Narrated by Marlin May
  • 21 hrs and 58 mins
  • Unabridged Audiobook

Publisher's Summary

For decades, hidden from the public eye, William Morris agents made the deals that determined the fate of stars, studios, and networks alike. Mae West, Frank Sinatra, Marilyn Monroe, Danny Thomas, Steve McQueen--the Morris Agency sold talent to anyone in the market for it, from the Hollywood studios to the mobsters who ran Vegas to the Madison Avenue admen who controlled television. While the clients took the spotlight, the agency operated behind the scenes, providing the grease that made show business what it's become.
The story begins more than a century ago, when a fiery young immigrant named William Morris opened a vaudeville-booking office on New York's Fourteenth Street and went up against the trust that ruled the leading entertainment medium of the day. Led after Morris's death by the legendary Abe Lastfogel, a cherubic little man who treated agents and clients alike as family, the firm transformed the agent's image from garish flesh-peddler to smooth-talking professional. But when Lastfogel's successor brutally sacrificed his best friend--the man who'd brought Barry Diller and Michael Ovitz out of the mail room--William Morris gave birth to its own nemesis: Ovitz's new firm, CAA. Throughout the '80s and '90s, as the Morris Agency made, and lost, such stars as Mel Gibson, Julia Roberts, Kevin Costner and Tom Hanks, Ovitz's power grew inexorably as Morris's waned. Lulled by the phenomenal success of Bill Cosby and the upward spiral of the Beverly Hills real estate market, Morris's board failed to act as death and defection thinned its ranks. Finally, with its flagship motion-picture department on the brink of collapse, the board was faced with the stark reality of having to buy its way back into the business it had once owned.

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What the Critics Say

"Reading The Agency is like sitting in on a long, gossipy afternoon at the Hillcrest Country Club, feasting on a collection of war tales from the front lines. But The Agency is more than a titillating string of bold-face names. . . . Rose uses the saga of the Morris Agency's rise and fall as a prism through which to examine the constantly evolving nature of show business itself." (Los Angeles Times Book Review)
"A cram course on the modern entertainment business as seen not from the customary perspective of the talent, but from the point of view of the humble apparatchiks who doggedlyvtried to prevent the lunatics from wrecking their asylum." (Peter Bart, New York Times Book Review)
"Reveals the shark tank at its most lethal and hilarious." (San Francisco Chronicle)
"A darker side of show biz than one sees on Entertainment Tonight." (USA Today)

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Book Details

  • Release Date: 04-12-2013
  • Publisher: Frank Rose