‘Hail Caesar’ and E.J. Fleming’s ‘The Fixers’

Josh Brolin 'Hail Caesar'

Josh Brolin as Eddie Mannix in “Hail, Caesar!” the Coen brothers’ fanciful tale about MGM’s purported “fixer.”

We’re reluctant to write too much about the upcoming film “Hail, Caesar!” the Coen brothers’ comedy scheduled for release Feb. 4. It is a fantasy, after all. Not a documentary.

However, a distressing number of news articles (that would be you, Michael Cieply in the New York Times) casually refer to E.J. Fleming’s “The Fixers: Eddie Mannix, Howard Strickling and the MGM Publicity Machine” as if it were some sort of authoritative book on Hollywood. It is not. And simply because one goes through the motions learned in middle school of properly citing material has no effect on whether it’s the least bit accurate.

Fact-checking all of E.J. Fleming’s “The Fixers” would be a life’s work, but we devoted a great amount of time to debunking the “Wallace Beery beat Ted Healy to death” yarn, and based on what we found in “The Fixers,” we would have to deem the book no more dependable than “Hollywood Babylon.”

I encourage anyone to peruse the following posts before entering the nonsensical world of “The Fixers.”

Wikipedia: Murder and Myth: Part 1 | Part 2 | Part 3 | Part 4 | Part 5 | Part 6 | Part 7 | Part 8 | Part 9 | Part 10 | Part 11 | Part 12 | Part 13 | Part 14 | Part 15 | Part 16 | Part 17| Part 18


The Death of Ted Healy: Part 1 | Part 2 | Part 3 | Part 4 | Part 5 | Part 6 | Part 7 | Part 8 | Part 9 | Part 10 | Part 11 | Part 12 | Part 13 | Part 14 | Part 15

About lmharnisch

I am retired from the Los Angeles Times
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1 Response to ‘Hail Caesar’ and E.J. Fleming’s ‘The Fixers’

  1. Michael Cieply
    The New York Times

    Dear Mr. Cieply:

    I was saddened to see you quoting E.J. Fleming’s book The Fixers as regards the actress Norma Shearer and the Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer executives Irving Thalberg and Louis B. Mayer. There was no affair between Miss Shearer and Mr. Mayer.

    I have written well regarded biographies of Thalberg, and histories of their contemporaries (see below). I accomplished this work with the assistance of the Thalberg and Mayer families, Thalberg executives such as Samuel Marx, and with research in the archives at the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences. I can state with authority that no affair took place between Miss Shearer and Mr. Mayer at any time.

    I understand that the film Hail, Caesar is a fanciful look at the era, but there are many more accurate and responsible books than The Fixer from which you might have drawn character profiles for Miss Shearer, Mr. Mayer, and Mr. Thalberg.


    Mark A. Vieira
    672 South La Fayette Park Place
    Los Angeles CA 90057

    George Hurrell’s Hollywood: Glamour Portraits, 1925-1992. Philadelphia: Running Press, 2013.
    Harlow in Hollywood. (With Darrell Rooney) Santa Monica: Angel City Press, 2011.
    Irving Thalberg: Boy Wonder to Producer Prince. Berkeley: University of California Press, 2009.
    Hollywood Dreams Made Real: Irving Thalberg and the Rise of M-G-M. New York: Abrams, 2008.
    Greta Garbo: A Cinematic Legacy. New York: Harry N. Abrams, 2005.


    “Hi, Mark, I’ve read and enjoyed your work in the past. And I think you’ll understand that our aim, all we could accomplish, in that brief piece was to color in the legend, not plumb the absolute truth of Eddie Mannix and those around him. The particular reference to Shearer and Mayer was deliberately structured to caution the reader–that’s why I said, ‘or so says Mr. Fleming.’ It’s a way of saying, let the reader beware, and enjoy the movie.”


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