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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Customer Reviews

Most Helpful

Informative look into the cogs of the Hollywood Machines

Wow! I was ALWAYS so curious about how things started and worked with these big powerhouses of the film industry.
William Morris has been such a big name in the industry. Even today we still hear many of the names listed as a part of this agency.
What a fascinating look into the world where only the most powerful in Hollywood play a game of high stakes gambling on the backs of the talent that walks through the doors.
If you are fascinated by actors/actresses, films, movies, Hollywood, and or the history of some of the most powerful men in the industry of film, and Hollywood..., this book is for you!
Yes!! The stories you've heard are true!
Peddling the flesh of new talents and fighting to hold onto what they have..., the William Morris Agency is cut throat, and at times ruthless.
A book well worth the time and the money👍🏻
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- Bindy Wuertenberg "BindiCo"

Whew...finally finished it

What did you like best about The Agency: William Morris and the Hidden History of Show Business? What did you like least?

What I liked the best was the overview of the history of the company and the tiny bits of interesting stories about certain artists. What I disliked was - the details were overwhelming (too many names to keep up with), the length of the story, the inconsequential side stories that I expected would be picked up later but simply fell off the cliff and the narrator's voice was much too monotone for this kind of in-depth story.


What could Frank Rose have done to make this a more enjoyable book for you?

Finished any of the 'side stories', shortened the story by eliminating the details that didn't seem to fit into the story of the company (we learned more about CAA than I expected) and because the company's history is almost a hundred years long, I wouldn't have told the story in such a linear way...made it boring.


Did the narration match the pace of the story?

The narrator's voice was rather monotone and because of the length of the story, and the linear way in which it was written, yes, the narration matched the pace of the story...unfortunately.


Was The Agency: William Morris and the Hidden History of Show Business worth the listening time?

Nope - not almost 22 hours. A few hours with the highlights - probably.


Any additional comments?

Appreciated the facts and some stories but too long and overwhelming with details.

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- sylvia mason

Book Details

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