We get an up-close look at the working relationship as well as the friendship between Pulitzer Prize-winning author Robert Caro and his editor, literary legend Robert Gottlieb, in the totally absorbing documentary Turn Every Page - The Adventures of Robert Caro and Robert Gottlieb.
Caro is the well known author of The Power Broker: Robert Moses and the Fall of New York, a biography of New York urban planner Robert Moses, which is considered one of the best biographies of the 20th century. Caro has also written four of a planned five volume series of The Years of Lyndon Johnson, a biography of former U.S. President Lyndon B. Johnson.
Gottlieb has edited between 600 and 700 hundred books, and is also a gifted writer in his own right. On the subject of editing, Gottlieb says, "Editing is intelligent and sympathetic reaction to the text, and to what the author is trying to accomplish."
This documentary is propelled by the writing and editing of the fifth and final Lyndon Johnson book. During the actual filming, both men were in their 80s, with Gottlieb about to turn 90, so they were well aware that time wasn't on their side.
The fascination Caro has for Johnson runs deep. He actually lived in the Texas Hill Country for three years to get an understanding of LBJ's upbringing. In his LBJ books, Caro examines Johnson's use of power - for both good and, well, not so good.
Turn Every Page is directed by Gottlieb's daughter, Lizzie, and even she had a hard time getting the two men into a room together, since the author and his editor sometimes have an adversarial relationship. At one point in the film, there is a hilarious battle about the use of semicolons. We also learn that Gottlieb collects women's vintage plastic pocketbooks and handbags. These little asides are surprising and funny.
The documentary also has interviews with former president Bill Clinton and late night talk show host Conan O'Brien, and Caro fan Ethan Hawke, who recites passages from Caro's books.
Turn Every Page is engrossing from start to finish.