BOOKS: It's A Wonderful Life

A biography details Steve Ross's rise from undertaker to mogul

( WHEN STEVE ROSS, NEAR death with cancer, checked into a Los Angeles hospital in late 1992, he registered as George Bailey, the self-sacrificing common-man hero of Frank Capra's It's a Wonderful Life. No doubt that was how the man who masterminded the merger of Time Inc. (which owns TIME) and Warner Communications wished to be perceived. But the Steve Ross who emerges in Master of the Game (Simon & Schuster; 395 pages; $25), New Yorker staff writer Connie Bruck's intelligent and fascinating biography, is composed equally of George Bailey, Don Corleone, Felix Krull and Oskar Schindler -- Steven Spielberg has...

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