Inventing David Geffen: The Hollywood Reporter TIFF Review

From The Hollywood Reporter:

A lively account of one of the most influential careers in modern showbiz, Susan Lacy’s Inventing David Geffen works within a familiar format to sing the praises of a man who never did. An upcoming airing on PBS’s American Masters series (Nov. 20) will please home auds; on home vid, the story should inspire would-be moguls for years.

“I’m completely without gift,” David Geffen recalls telling a casting agent who asked, decades ago, about the nature of his gifts. “You should become an agent,” she replied.

Instead of waiting around for the rim-shot punctuating that zinger, Geffen not only lied his way into a William Morris Agency gig but spent months sorting mail to intercept the proof he was lying: One quick alteration to the damning letter from UCLA, and his career was on track.

Lacy draws an easy-to-follow line whose twisting trajectory looked crazy at the time: how being awestruck by songwriter Laura Nyro’s talent led the up-and-coming agent to quit WMA and become her manager; how that led quickly to a partnership (with Elliot Roberts) handling acts including Crosby, Stills and Nash; how his failed attempt to get Jackson Browne a record deal led him to co-found the legendary Asylum label.

We get glimpses of the famously aggressive, and inspired, dealmaking that enabled Geffen’s quick rise. Audiotape of a call with Columbia Records head Clive Davis (accompanied by appealing animation) catches him getting the best of a music industry giant while proposing a Byrds reunion; stories about how his entrepreneurial mother used to haggle with Bloomingdale’s clerks suggest this chutzpah was in his blood.

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