THE spirit of Veblen hovers over this book. Dr. Rosten leads a double life; as Leonard Q. Ross, he wrote that classic of hilarity, The Education of H*y*m*a*n K*a*p*l*a*n, but he is also a redoubtable social scientist. If the literature on Hollywood were stacked up, it would probably reach the moon, but nothing like this volume has appeared. On the one hand, it is a heavily documented account of the economics and organization of Hollywood; on the other, it is a scintillating social analysis that can be read for pleasure as well as profit. On the documentary side, it provides valuable information about a major industry with a capital investment of two billion dollars, and refutes many illusions on the part of the laity. Dr. Rosten’s facts establish that very few producers are foreign-born (only 17.4 per cent), or uneducated. This is hardly a poor average when one considers that of the ten overlords of finance only J. P. Morgan had a college education. Despite excessive prominence on income-tax lists, Hollywood’s elite do not compare in wealth with many business leaders and social lights, and most employees receive moderate salaries. An excellent chapter also dissipates the illusion that the celluloid artists are political imbeciles; the film capital has traveled far since the early days when, according to Dorothy Parker, the only ‘ism’ in which it believed was plagiarism.
The most fascinating portions of the book, however, are the two hundred pages devoted to ‘putting Hollywood under the microscopes of social science.’ The author concludes that its legend reflects the dream of American society, for which the movie colony assumes the social function of European royalty. Its children of fortune, whose wealth expanded while the economy of the rest of the country was contracting, represent a new type of folk-hero in a society whose ethos rests upon hard work and virtuous deportment. Basically, his study of Bagdad-on-the-Pacific merely casts the profile of American society into sharper relief; for ‘Hollywood does what is “done,” does more of it, does it less discreetly, and gets it into all the papers.’
J. G.