The Kid Stays in the Picture

Evans’ highly entertaining account of his colorful life includes quitting school after becoming a radio and stage actor, going into the clothing business (Evan-Picone) with his beloved older brother, and getting the star treatment in the late 1950’s after being picked to play MGM studio head Irving Thalberg in a film biography of Lon Chaney.

Evans’ up-and-down fortunes continue as his film acting career is short-lived, he returns to Evan-Picone, and he gets the opportunity of a lifetime when magnate Charles Bluhdorn chooses him to run Paramount. After such successes as ROSEMARY’S BABY (1968), LOVE STORY (1970), and THE GODFATHER (1972) turn around the company’s sagging fortunes, Evans claims he received insufficient credit and no raise in salary. The jealousy of other executives over the success of CHINATOWN (1974), which Evans produced, resulted in the loss of his power. When people important to the history of Paramount were assembled for a photograph to commemorate the studio’s seventy-fifth anniversary, Evans was not invited.

While Evans is brutally honest, blaming himself for the failures of his four marriages, including ones to Ali MacGraw and Phyllis George, he is even harder on those he considers have slighted him, writer-directors Francis Ford Coppola and Robert Towne in particular. One of the least modest people imaginable, Evans thinks, given the right breaks, he could have been a film star, exaggerates the impact LOVE STORY had on the world film market, and takes all the credit for the success of THE GODFATHER.

While Evans portrays himself as arrogant and insecure, he remains strangely likable. He writes in an economical, highly readable style, but his book is also full of typographical and factual errors.