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I think I told you about him--who had now worked his way up
into a vice-presidency at MGM in charge of all publicity and
advertising. Dietz wrote all the pieces for the director,
the producer, Norma Shearer and every other contributor but
Shakespeare. Of course the whole project was ridiculous, but
it was very profitable and enabled me to meet Irving Thalberg,
who was a giant in those days. He died very young, unfortunately,
but everybody loved and respected him. Well, when we
brought the book out we ran two full-page ads in the New York
Times Book Review for the fool thing. People thought I'd gone
stark raving mad because they thought it was my own money I
was squandering. This was one of the first times that a motion
picture company had ever given money to a publisher to help advertise
a book. It became quite commonplace later on--it is
today. When you bring out a book now that the movies have
already bought for a lot of money, they will very often give
you a considerable sum to help make it a best seller.
Of course, nobody bought the great MGM “Romeo.” Those
full-page ads were completely wasted, absolutely wasted.
Did the movie become a success?
No. Of course, it had been given the full MGM treatment,
which in those days was something, but people laughed at it.
Norma Shearer was too old to play Juliet. Juliet should be
played by a 15-year-old girl. She was about 30, gloriously
beautiful, and a good actress--but not Juliet. The whole project
was kind of a joke. But MGM did get credit for a good try.
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