April 24, 2019

ROB LONG: The Moguls Who Couldn’t Deliver the Goods.

This is not at all like the old-timey ways of, say, Harry Cohn of Columbia Studios. It is part of Hollywood lore—unconfirmed Hollywood lore, but still—that Cohn would often demand sexual favors from actresses in exchange for movie roles. You’re shocked, I know. But here’s the crucial difference: Harry Cohn could deliver. When Harry Cohn whispered promises to an actress on the sofa with many cushions, you can bet he kept them. It is part of Hollywood lore—again, unconfirmed Hollywood lore—that one time Harry Cohn pressed the button under his desk, and a few days later Kim Novak was a movie star.

Sure, Moonves could have called someone up and asked for a favor. Trust me as someone who had many television series on CBS in the intervening years between Moonves’s pressing the button on Bobbie Phillips in 1996 and the publication of Ronan Farrow’s New Yorker articles in 2018. If he had given me a jingle and asked me for a favor, I absolutely 100 percent without question would have done it.

But then he would have owed me a favor back. And as someone who had many television series on CBS between 1996 and 2018—all of which were cancelled—that was probably something he wanted to avoid.

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The modern Hollywood mogul—like the modern executive in pretty much every other business—has just enough power to get into serious trouble, but not enough to make it go away. He can press the button, but he cannot deliver the goods. One strange by-product of the #MeToo scandal is how it revealed that two of the most powerful men in Hollywood were actually impotent.

Read the whole thing.

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