Cort, Robert (William) 1946-
CORT, Robert (William) 1946-
Born July 2, 1946, in New York, NY; son of Mackie and Mildred Cort; married to Rosalie Swedlin (manager of writers and directors). Education: University of Pennsylvania, B.A. (magna cum laude), 1968, M.A., 1970; Wharton School, M.B.A., 1974.
Motion picture producer. McKinsey and Company, managing consultant in consumer marketing, 1974-76; Columbia Pictures Industries, Inc., vice president of advertising, publicity, and promotion, 1976-80; Twentieth Century-Fox Film Corp., executive vice president of marketing, 1980-81, senior vice president of production, 1981-83, executive vice president of production, 1983-85; Interscope Communications, partner and president, 1985; Cort/Madden Company, managing partner, 1996-2001; Robert Cort Productions, founder, 2001—. Has produced films including Outrageous Fortune, Three Men and a Baby, The Hand That Rocks the Cradle, Cocktail, Bill and Ted's Excellent Adventure, Jumanji, Runaway Bride, Mr. Holland's Opus, Save the Last Dance, and Against the Ropes. Has produced television programs including In the Company of Spies, Showtime; Harlan County War, Showtime; and A Mother's Courage: The Mary Thomas Story, Walt Disney Productions. Worked for the Central Intelligence Agency for two years.
Emmy Award, Academy of Television Arts and Sciences, 1989-1990, for A Mother's Courage: The Mary Thomas Story, Walt Disney Productions.
Action! A Novel, Random House (New York, NY), 2003.
Movie producer Robert Cort already had fifty-two film credits, including the hits Mr. Holland's Opus and Bill & Ted's Excellent Adventure, when he published his first novel, Action! Cort had started to write a history of post-1948 Hollywood, calling it "The Second Act," but became concerned that it would only appeal to Hollywood insiders. Instead he fashioned his material into the multigenerational story of a fictional Hollywood family, put these characters in regular contact with famous people, and thereby fashioned a scathing picture of what it takes to succeed in the film industry. According to Tad Friend in the New Yorker, the central character, A. J. Jastrow, is a "slightly older, bolder, and sexier version of the author." A number of elements in the novel are based on real events, but only a few happened to Cort himself. When it came time to promote his novel, Cort showed his prior experience as a publicity executive; he decided to purchase and circulate 1,000 additional advance review copies on his own.
In the book, Jastrow decides to quit law school and follow in his deceased father's footsteps as a movie producer. His father, before his death, had tried but failed to break up the distribution monopoly held by the largest studios. Jastrow starts in television production, a new threat to the Hollywood monoliths, and then becomes Steve McQueen's agent with William Morris. He evolves into a film producer, first working for a big studio and then building his own production company. Focusing on career-building instead of his personal life proves to be a destructive path, however. His son Ricky becomes a ruthless Hollywood executive with the will and power to ruin his father. Throughout the book, the plot involves Hollywood stars: Bing Crosby converses at a golf tournament, Jastrow has an affair with actress Romy Schneider, and agent Michael Ovitz is cast as the novel's biggest villain.
Reviews for Action! often hinged on whether the critic liked the strong behind-the-scenes emphasis of the novel. A Publishers Weekly writer commented, "This avalanche of anecdotal scenery is so far-ranging, it can barely support its own weight." Susan Clifford Braun remarked in Library Journal that "Cort clearly knows a great deal about the history of the film industry" but concluded, "the reader is left wishing for more plot and less name-dropping." A contrasting opinion came from Time's Michele Orecklin, who characterized the work as "utterly earnest, almost scolding."
The story's entertainment factor pleased several other reviewers. Booklist's Carol Haggas advised that the author "dishes gossip with glee, offering both the titillating and the trivial." In a review for People, Sean Daly applauded Cort as "the right guy to deliver the goods.… The real fun comes when Cort's make-believe hero mingles with real celebs." Daly described the novel as "up-all-night entertaining." Similarly, StarTelegram.com writer Paul Moore called Action! "an engaging, authentic saga" that features "a family whose dynamics resemble Shakespearean treachery mixed with Corleone allegiance."
BIOGRAPHICAL AND CRITICAL SOURCES:
Booklist, June 1, 2003, Carol Haggas, review of Action! A Novel, p. 1739.
Library Journal, July, 2003, Susan Clifford Braun, review of Action!, p. 120.
New Yorker, May 26, 2003, Tad Friend, review of Action!, p. 38.
People, June 9, 2003, Sean Daly, review of Action!, p. 43.
Publishers Weekly, April 21, 2003, review of Action!, p. 35.
Time, June 16, 2003, Michele Orecklin, review of Action!, p. 64.