Harvey Weinstein: Why Did He Bring Those Books to His Arrest?

Harvey Weinstein
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Weinstein appeared relaxed as he stepped out of the black SUV that transported him to the police station, getting more serious as he approached the precinct steps. 

The disgraced mogul carried biographies of Broadway masters Rodgers and Hammerstein and the controversial director Elia Kazan.

Presumably, Harvey Weinstein — or, as he’s now routinely called, disgraced mogul Harvey Weinstein — didn’t have much time for reading this morning between his arrival at the NYPD 1st Precinct, where he surrendered, was arrested and booked on charges of rape and a criminal sex act, and his transfer to the Manhattan Criminal Court, where he posted a $1 million cashier’s check on $10 million bail and surrendered his passport.

And with his producing career on hold, Weinstein isn’t likely to be looking at any books with an eye toward mounting film adaptations, either.

So the fact that he was carrying at least two highly visible books as he arrived at the police station — one about Broadway's heyday, the other about a controversial film director — appeared to be designed to send a message, but what message exactly?

The more visible of the two books was Todd Purdum’s newly published Something Wonderful: Rodgers and Hammerstein’s Broadway Revolution, a dual biography of composer Richard Rodgers and lyricist-dramatist Oscar Hammerstein II, who redefined the musical with such now-classic shows as OklahomaCarouselSouth PacificThe King and I and The Sound of Music.

Perhaps Weinstein — who’s served as a producer on such Broadway shows as 2001’s The Producers, 2005’s The Color Purple and 2014’s The Elephant Man — was simply escaping into a nostalgic visit to the fable Broadway of days past. Or maybe he was taking solace in one or two of Rodgers and Hammerstein’s upbeat tunes like The King and I’s “I Whistle a Happy Tune” (“Whenever I feel afraid / I hold my head erect / And whistle a happy tune so no one will suspect I’m afraid”) or Carousel’s “You’ll Never Walk Alone” (“When you walk through a storm / Hold your head up high / And don’t be afraid of the dark”). 

But advertising his connection to the Great White Way may not have been Weinstein’s shrewdest move, given his role as producer of the 2015 Broadway musical Finding Neverland, since the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the Southern District of New York is conducting a separate investigation into possible fraud involving Weinstein’s amfAR fundraising, which allegedly channeled some donations to the American Repertory Theater in Cambridge, Mass. in order to pay back that theater for the costs of mounting a pre-Broadway production of that show.

The second volume, Richard Schickel’s Elia Kazan: A Biography, was even more provocative. 

A celebrated theater and film director, Kazan was a seven-time Oscar nominee for his films Gentleman’s AgreementA Streetcar Named DesireOn the Waterfront, East of Eden and America America, winning the best director Oscar in 1955 for Waterfront.

But late, in the Hollywood blacklist era, he was called before the House Committee on Un-American Activities in 1952 and became a cooperative witness by naming names, he also became a pariah in liberal circles.

Now, Weinstein may be currently identifying with Kazan’s outcast status. Additionally, Kazan, who was married three times, also confessed to affairs with actresses like Marilyn Monroe. But could the former Weinstein Co. head also be sending a subtle threat? Since Kazan named names to save his own career, is Weinstein signaling, as he prepares for the court battles ahead, that he won’t go down without a fight and is prepared to take others down with him as well?

On the other hand, there may be a simpler explanation. Weinstein may be fantasizing about a future in which he’s welcomed back to Hollywood, as in 1999, Kazan — after first being lionized, and then scorned — was re-embraced by the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences when it awarded him an honorary Oscar. The decision was controversial, and as the 89-year-old Kazan walked onto the stage at the 71st Academy Awards, some like Warren Beatty and Meryl Streep stood and applauded. Yet others like Steven Spielberg remained seated but applauded, where others like Nick Nolte and Ed Harris remained seated and refused to applaud.

But if Weinstein is imagining an eventual day of reckoning when he is treated to some sort of similar rapprochement, the Academy has already taken a stand by expelling him from its ranks forever. However Weinstein’s story ends, it’s not fated to have even the qualified happy ending that Kazan eventually enjoyed.