Tom Carson reviews the late Jack Valenti’s memoir, “This Time, This Place: My Life in War, the White House in Hollywood,” in the latest issue of Los Angeles and devotes much of the space to irresistible Valenti prose.
Valenti’s book, which he finished shortly before his death last month, will be published in June, and like many autobiographies, Valenti is diplomatic, praiseworthy (and reverential to Lyndon Johnson) and offers a Zelig like odyssey through post-World War II politics and culture.
Valenti calls Lew Wasserman “the most solidly outfitted executive in the history of the film industry.”
Carson writes, “Peculiar even by Valenti’s standards, the choice of adjective — ‘the Outfit’ was the nickname of the Chicago syndicate to which Wasserman was notoriously linked — leaves you wondering how much of the rest of the book is conscious sham. But Fox boss Darryl F. Zanuck, ‘his little mustache twitching in a face that I swear made him look like a squirrel about to leap on an acorn nestled somewhere in my jacket,’ is the exec who make Valenti’s prose twinkle with atypical sharpness. Covering his bets, he notes that Zanuck’s son Richard ‘proved that nepotism can indeed serve a company’s best interests.'”
Also detailed: Valenti’s creation of the ratings system — which forestalled outside censorship, as well as Nov. 22, 1963. Valenti was in the motorcade, six cars back, but wasn’t aware that shots rang out when he saw the cars in front of him speeding ahead. “I think the president is late to his speech at the Dallas TradeMart,” he said. “Let’s get over there as quickly as we can.”
Valenti, of course, soon got the news, and is in the famous photograph aboard Air Force One as Johnson is sworn in.
The new issue is not yet posted online.