"By the end he was known as the man who abused journalistic trust. He had gone from the people's champion of the thirties and forties, fighting for Roosevelt and courageously against the Nazis, to the cruel and spiteful rumormonger of the fifties, glorifying McCarthy."
Walter Winchell, a columnist, radio broadcaster, scene maker, and occasional movie star, was one of the first powerful press figures, a man who could make and break reputations and frequently used his influence to advocate for pet causes (and his girlfriends). Many know him as the inspiration for the vitriolic J.J. Hunsecker in "Sweet Smell of Success," but Neal Gabler uncovers the complicated and difficult man behind that somewhat mean-spirited, if accurate, caricature. There really should be two version of this book, one for the casual reader (maybe 300 pages) and one for the lover of all manner of minutiae and detail. Gabler is a dedicated researcher, bu this love of every scrap of fact gets in the way of his story and, while Winchell is a fascinating figure (or at least what he represented), the book gets bogged down and lacks focus. Gabler also wrote "Life: The Movie" and "An Empire of Their Own: How the Jews Invented Hollywood."
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