‘Turn Every Page’ overview: A literary alliance of titans

“No passion in the world is equal to the passion to alter someone else’s draft,” grumbled H.G. Wells of the advanced and never at all times cordial creative collaboration that’s the relationship between author and editor.

Maybe Wells may not have been so defensive had he skilled the intensely symbiotic affiliation that has endured for the previous half-century between the best political author of his time and a legend within the e book modifying career.

Such is the compelling takeaway from “Turn Every Page: The Adventures of Robert Caro and Robert Gottlieb,” a spirited, revealing documentary that chronicles the profitable but essentially personal alliance between two literary titans as they methodically work towards the completion of Caro’s long-awaited fifth and last quantity of his definitive Lyndon Johnson biographies.

After encountering appreciable resistance from each people, director Lizzie Gottlieb (Robert Gottlieb’s daughter) was lastly allowed to shine gentle on their intently guarded course of, albeit with Caro’s rivalry that the 2 by no means be interviewed collectively in the identical room.

A former newspaper reporter who nonetheless bangs out pages on his trusty Smith Corona Electra 210 typewriter, Caro, now 87, has cast a popularity on his painstakingly exhaustive method to analysis that has earned the adjective “Caro-esque,” as represented by these first 4 “Years of Lyndon Johnson” volumes.

A lifelong voracious reader who contends that modifying is “an intelligent and sympathetic reaction to the text and what the author is trying to accomplish,” Gottlieb, now 91, has edited between 600 and 700 books, authored by the likes of Joseph Heller, John le Carré, Salman Rushdie, Toni Morrison and, extra just lately, Invoice Gates.

“He could see any blob of clay and imagine a sculpture,” praises former President Clinton, whose 2005 memoir, “My Life,” benefited from Gottlieb’s well-sharpened HB No.2 pencil.

The undertaking that first introduced Caro and Gottlieb collectively in 1973 was the manuscript for “The Power Broker,” a commanding evaluation of influential New York city planner Robert Moses, which required a 350,000-word pruning as a way to be contained in a single quantity with out actually bursting the backbone on the seams.

That e book, which might go on to win Caro the primary of his two Pulitzer Prizes, has endured, having fun with one thing of a resurgence in the course of the COVID lockdown, amounting to a 1,344-page badge of advantage.

Whereas the filmmaker properly retains the highlight on her two intriguing topics, she additionally mines eager insights from contemporaries and self-described followers, together with Barack Obama; Caro’s longtime agent, Lynn Nesbit; Conan O’Brien; and Ethan Hawke.

Most illuminating are the observations supplied by their wives, whose nuturing half-century-plus marriages to their work-obsessed husbands have seen Ina Caro agreeing to maneuver the household to rural Hill County in Texas for 3 years for all that LBJ analysis, and actor Maria Tucci reluctantly placing up with husband Gottlieb’s completist assortment of wierd plastic purses on show over their mattress.

On the finish of the day, it’s all about “making public your own enthusiasm,” Gottlieb says of the shared objective between editor and author.

Not that the 2 Bobs haven’t contentiously sparred through the years — Gottlieb contends {that a} semicolon is “worth fighting civil war” over — however the pair in the end appear to handle to land on the identical web page as a rule.

Too dangerous H.G. Wells isn’t round to take notes.

‘Turn Every Page: The Adventures of Robert Caro and Robert Gottlieb’

Rated: PG, for some language, temporary conflict photos and smoking

Operating time: 1 hour, 54 minutes

Taking part in: Begins Dec. 30, Laemmle Royal, West Los Angeles