At one point in the F. Scott Fitzgerald novel about Hollywood, “The Last Tycoon,” the producer’s daughter, Celia Brady, says, “Not half a dozen men have ever been able to keep the whole equation of pictures in their heads.”
She is talking about the genius mogul Monroe Stahr (modeled on MGM production chief Irving Thalberg), but one of those other “half a dozen men” might have been the powerful and sexually charged lawyer Greg Bautzer.
Bautzer was legendary as the lover of a “Who’s Who” of Golden Age stars, ranging from Lana Turner to Joan Crawford to Ginger Rogers to Jane Wyman. And on and on.
The man was equally seductive in his legal work, gaining the trust and highly remunerative fees of such studio heads as Joseph Schenck, Darryl Zanuck, and Charles Bludhorn, and countless stars, including Robert Mitchum, Laurence Olivier, Sophia Loren and Natalie Wood.
Hollywood lawyer James Gladstone — executive VP of business and legal affairs for Lionsgate Entertainment — tells Bautzer’s personal and public stories in a highly readable new biography, “The Man Who Seduced Hollywood,” just published by Chicago Review Press.
As an insider himself, Gladstone understands the achievement of Bautzer as a lawyer who snagged one of the greatest Hollywood figures of all time, industrialist turned moviemaker Howard Hughes. It was that “get,” in particular, that made other powerful men want to be part of Bautzer’s client list.
The book takes us through one of the lawyer’s highest profile cases, the divorce of Ingrid Bergman from Petter Lindstrom so that she could legalize her adulterous relationship with the Italian director Roberto Rossellini.
Bergman was a much admired figure in Hollywood, both for her unbroken string of box office hits and her down-to-earth good looks (she had a “natural” make-up free style that was revolutionary for Hollywood in the 1940s).
The affair and pregnancy turned her into a scandalous figure — denounced on the floor of Congress and virtually banned from Hollywood for the better part of a decade — and kept Bautzer’s name in the papers for weeks.
Gladstone interviewed the child at the center of the case — Bergman and Lindstrom’s daughter Pia — and gives us a fresh view of this often written about scandal.
“The Man Who Seduced Hollywood” deals with the links between the legitimate businessmen of Hollywood and the shady underworld figures like Bugsy Siegel and Sam Giancana who made their way to the center of the action. The glamour of gangsters in Hollywood is amusingly illustrated in the story of producer and studio head Robert Evans, who preferred telling people that he got his Paramount job through his friendship with a mob-conneccted lawyer rather than Bautzer suggesting to Charles Bludhorn that he take a chance on the young go-getter.
Gladstone covers Bautzer’s incredibly active sex life without ever becoming tawdry. The endless supply of star girlfriends was awesome but the book leaves what went on in those boudoirs to our imagination. Apparently, Bautzer had such a charismatic personality that his exes remained friends with him for decades afterward.
A major source for the book was the late actress Dana Wynter (the lovely star of the original “Invasion of the Body Snatchers” who died two years ago) who was the third of Bautzer’s four wives. Although she gave Gladstone a full accounting of the problems she had with Bautzer she also remained close to him until he died in 1987.
“The Man Who Seduced Hollywood” is the rare movie industry tome that combines juicy gossip with a look at the real business machinations of the dream factories in their prime.