Big news: A new edition of my Random House book The Campaign of the Century – winner of the Goldsmith Book Prize and one of five finalists for the L.A. Times Book Award -- will be coming out soon. As many may know, it tells the wild story of how famed leftwing writer Upton Sinclair nearly won his 1934 race for governor of California after sweeping the Democratic primary, and was stopped only because his opponents--including the Hollywood moguls-- invented the political campaign as we know it today, dominated by dirty money and “spin doctors.”
Hollywood also made its first real plunge into politics, as the studios threatened to move to Florida, forced all of their actors and workers to contribute to the GOP candidate – and Irving Thalberg, of all people, created the first “attack ads” for the screen. This, in turn, sparked the outrage that led to the seemingly permanent leftward tilt in Hollywood.
But the uproarious campaign, which took part in the depths of the Depression, was much more than that. The cast of characters who played roles reads like a who’s who of the era: FDR and Eleanor, Louis B. Mayer, W.R. Hearst, Will Rogers, Charlie Chaplin, H.L. Mencken, Billy Wilder, Katharine Hepburn, Jimmy Cagney and on and on. You can click on this Amazon link to read much more. My email is: email@example.com
The book has so many fun and wacky elements it inspired a serious attempt at a Broadway musical. It was hailed by leading magazines and newspapers, excerpted in Newsweek and The New York Times and got a full page in Vanity Fair. And Leonard Maltin on Entertainment Tonight raved, "Fascinating -- I can't recommend it more highly. A great story well worth reading." (He showed the Thalberg "attacks ads" that I uncovered on TV for the first time.) But it has special relevance today, of course, during the worst economic period since then – and there’s even a governor’s race in California this year as the state faces a crisis similar in some way to what it had to deal with in 1934 when Sinclair led his End Poverty in California (EPIC) movement.
I was chief adviser to a wonderful PBS documentary that was largely based on the campaign back in 1993, and there have been a number of feelers from Hollywood over the years but now may be the time for a feature or HBO film, with the film industry angle a good commercial angle. Anyone interested in the book or film rights can contact me at: firstname.lastname@example.org