Story Teller by Marv Gold


Story Teller by Marv GoldGeneral Fiction  A Hundred and One Hollywood Tales

When a fire destroys the library where she works, Cindy Sulcer isn’t sure she can find another job. One of the patrons, a writer at MGM, offers her a job creating a new library for the young film studio. She never dreams where the job will take her. Within the first week, Louie B. Mayer asks her to read Ben Hur, then tell him the story. MGM is trying to save the movie from failure. She does what he asks, then gives her ideas about the story. Mayer likes it and passes on the suggestions (OK, orders) to Irving Thalberg. Thalberg also likes the ideas, but approaches Cindy. He makes a deal with her as well so that he knows what Mayer knows. Cindy’s first librarian paycheck from MGM is small – but there are two checks in her envelope. Her check for the job of story teller pays more than that of the librarian.

From there, Cindy becomes imbedded in MGM’s culture. She reads books, tells the story to Mayer or Thalberg, and makes suggestions. She also is a librarian. She starts the library and goes around to offices to add what she can. She collects rejected scripts, script rewrites, notes, research books, etc, around MGM. She becomes an archivist for the studio. Yet she also is the Story Teller for the studio. In time, actors also approach her hoping she can suggest good movie stories to fit their style. Many years later, Cindy’s talents help influence some of MGM’s greatest hits.

That’s the story line that is given as the subject of this book. There is a second title in my head – The MGM Wars In the Beginning. Cindy is a constant thread. But much of Story Teller is a fictionalized version of Louie B. Mayer’s and Irving Thalberg’s stories as they build the huge movie studio. It tells gossipy stories about John Gilbert, Greta Garbo, and other early MGM stars. Marv Gold especially highlights the enmity/respect between Thalberg and Mayer.

There was a real Cindy Sulcer, although her name was Kate Corbaley. She worked for MGM for 30 years, starting the library there in the 1920’s. Gold calls her a remarkable woman. I don’t know how much of her story telling influence is true, but this book is based on fact even if it is fictionalized. Gold worked in the movie business for over 50 years.

Unfortunately, Story Teller is very uneven. Much of the book is devoted to Mayer and Thalberg trying to get each other. Thalberg’s touch on movies was often golden. Mayer hated him. In the book, Mayer even plots ways to use Thalberg’s health against him so he would die young. There are a lot of politics around movie studios. Everyone is jockeying for a position that benefits them. All too often the book drags in these sections. There were times I just wanted Gold to get on with the story of Cindy. I believe the story would have been much better if he’d stuck to his original intent and told Cindy’s story from her viewpoint.

The premise of Story Teller is fascinating. Unfortunately, despite some brightness here and there in it, the book falls flat.

Notice:  Strong sexual content

Link to Books

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *