Showman of the Screen: Joseph E. Levine and His Revolutions in Film Promotion
296 pages Pubdate: 11/01/2016 6 x 9 30 b/w images
Publicity Inquiries: Cameron M. Ludwick
Short, immaculately dressed, and shockingly foul-mouthed, Joseph E. Levine (1905–1987) was larger than life. He rose from poverty in Boston’s West End to become one of postwar Hollywood’s most prolific independent promoters, distributors, and producers. Alternately respected and reviled, this master of movie promotion was responsible for bringing films as varied as Godzilla: King of the Monsters! (1956), Hercules (1958), The Graduate (1967), The Lion in Winter (1968), and A Bridge Too Far (1977) to American audiences.
In the first biography of this controversial pioneer, A. T. McKenna traces Levine’s rise as an influential packager of popular culture. He explores the mogul’s pivotal role in many significant industry innovations from the 1950s to the 1970s, examining his use of saturation release tactics and bombastic advertising campaigns. Levine was also a trailblazer in promoting European art house cinema in the 1960s. He made Federico Fellini’s 8½ (1963) a hit in America, feuded with Jean-Luc Godard over their production of Contempt (1963), and campaigned aggressively for Sophia Loren to become the first actress to win an Oscar for a foreign language performance for her role in Two Women (1960).
Despite his significant accomplishments and prominent role in shaping film distribution and promotion in the post-studio era, Levine is largely overlooked today. McKenna’s in-depth biography corrects misunderstandings and misinformation about this colorful figure, and offers a sober assessment of his contributions to world cinema. It also illuminates Levine’s peculiar talent for movie- and self-promotion, as well as his extraordinary career in the motion picture business.
A.T. McKenna is associate professor of film history at USC-SJTU Institute of Cultural and Creative Industry. He is the coauthor of The Man Who Got Carter: Michael Klinger, Independent Production and the British Film Industry 1960-1980, which received the 2015 Best Book Award from the British Association of Film, Television and Screen Studies (BAFTSS). He is also coeditor of Beyond the Bottom Line: The Producer in Film and Television Studies.
Anthony Thomas McKenna’s Showman of the Screen: Joseph E. Levine and His Revolutions in Film Promotion is a fast, thoroughly enjoyable and informative read that paints an honest portrayal of Levine’s good and bad characteristics from his youth right up until a month before his death. -- Robert Crane, author of Crane: Sex, Celebrity, and My Father's Unsolved Murder
This study of Levine, because it is so thorough and detailed, is likely to remain the standard account of his life. -- Andrew Spicer, author of Sydney Box, Film Noir, and Typical Men: The Representation of Masculinity in Popular British Cinema