I come from a family that was very strong, very successful, very bizarre, and terrifically exciting. Being a Korda is something I regard as special - not wonderful, or worthy of a national monument, but special.
Indeed, it is measure of how little we know about Cleopatra that the only images of her are either the coins she struck, bearing very unflattering official portraits of her, or some doubtful busts, which may be of other women imitating her coiffure.
I'm always astonished when I go into Barnes & Noble at the number of people buying books, of course, but also at the variety of books they do buy and the extent to which they are not the big bestsellers.
About once a decade, it becomes necessary to remind Americans again that Ulysses S. Grant was a great man, indeed a giant figure. The usual way to try to do this is by publishing a thumping big biography, and let me say that there is nothing wrong with this, although it still hasn't worked.
When my elders mentioned 'The War,' they invariably meant that of 1914-1918, even after 1939, for the Second World War was merely the continuation of the first, 'an armistice of 20 years,' as Marshal Foch had accurately predicted at the Versailles Peace Conference, with some changes of side.
The rich and famous expect to get a lot for their story, whether they are writing it themselves or not. It's not that they need the money, of course; it's a question of ego, like catching the biggest fish.
It used to be that the highest ambition of American novelists was to write 'the Great American Novel,' that great white whale of American fiction that would encompass all the American experience in one great book.
In my experience, with very few exceptions - I am, as it happens, one of the exceptions - the one thing that most editors don't want to do is edit. It's not nearly as conducive to a successful career as having lunch out with important agents or going to meetings where you get noticed.
Ronald Reagan had a kind of shallow movie-star charisma - a combination of makeup and the skill of a good actor - but it wasn't the real thing, and was something that he could turn off when the cameras weren't running.
'Il faut vivre' might almost be the French national motto from 1940 to June 1944, but who is to say ours would have been any different if the Germans had paraded victoriously through London and Generalfeldmarschall Von Runstedt made his headquarters at Claridge's?
FDR had a certain charisma, at least in his first term, with the big grin, the cigarette holder at a jaunty angle, and the battered hat on his imposing head, but no other American president since then has had it except JFK - indeed, some of them have been positively anti-charismatic, like Gerald Ford, Carter, and the Bushes.
Patton's personality was a complex one - he was obsessed with glory, but behind the ivory-hilted pistols, the egomania, the forbidding scowl, and the rows of ribbons, there was a much more ambiguous figure.
Surrounded by high-paid publicity people and professional ego massagers, movie stars, like politicians, almost invariably come to believe that they are nicer, more charming, and more beloved than they appear to be to a casual observer, and that their stories about their careers are universally fascinating.
The first thing to be said about 'Prague Winter,' former Secretary of State Madeleine Albright's new book, is that she very wisely chooses to confront early on in it her apparent surprise at learning late in life that she was born Jewish.
I once attended a birthday party where Danny Kaye dropped in to entertain the birthday boy and his guests; I was sometimes taken for lunch on Saturdays by my father to The Brown Derby; and my favorite meal is still the Cobb salad in the Polo Lounge of the Beverly Hills Hotel.
Success was always critical to me. What it meant was winning enough praise and external admiration that I could feel myself to be a logical extension of my Uncle Alex, Uncle Zoli, and my father, in that order.
Prime ministers come and go, but so long as he or she lives, the sovereign remains, receiving and reading all state papers and meeting once a week with the prime minister to advise, enquire, and comment - sometimes sharply, as was the case with Queen Elizabeth II and Mrs. Thatcher - on affairs of state.