Chasing the Panther

Adventures and Misadventures of a Cinematic Life

by Carolyn Pfeiffer, Gregory Collins

On Sale: 2023-06-06

Price: $29.99

Book Summary

Chasing the Panther is the coming-of-age story of a young American woman who jets off to the passionate, turbulent world of 1960s Europe. There, she works with some of the era’s most influential artists, cinematographers, and tastemakers, experiencing a series of joyful, tragic, and ultimately life-defining events.

About the Book

A cinematic and vibrant coming-of-age memoir, Chasing the Panther captures the thrilling and, at times, heartbreaking early years of Carolyn Pfeiffer, a pioneering film producer and one of Hollywood's first female executives—a “mini-mogul” in the words of the Wall Street Journal.  

For a moment in the 1980s, Carolyn Pfeiffer was the only woman in Hollywood who could greenlight a movie. Working with directors like Sam Shepard and Wes Craven, and with actors like River Phoenix and Bette Davis, she had a hand in producing or distributing many landmark films, among them Ridley Scott's The Duellists, Alan Rudolph's Choose Me, and the Academy Award-winning Kiss of the Spider Woman. However, long before establishing herself as a player in the world of film, Carolyn was a horseback-riding tomboy who dreamed of exploring the world beyond her small hometown. Her journey turned out to be a tale fit for the movies.

As a young girl jumping from rock to rock in a rural North Carolina town, Carolyn felt a calling she couldn’t articulate but that she nonetheless understood: it was a tug on her heart, a yearning for something more. When she could, she set out for New York City, a refuge for young women exercising their independence and resisting the pressures of marriage and motherhood. There, swept up in the glamorous world of beat poets and millionaires, Carolyn brushed shoulders with a young Burt Reynolds and became fast friends with an English journalist named Penny. 

As the turbulent 1960s dawned, Carolyn booked a one-way passage to Europe. Her plan was to visit Penny and to travel around Europe for the summer but, instead, the world opened up to her in ways she never could have imagined. She found herself on set with Italy’s great filmmakers, in the couture houses of Paris’ fashion icons, and swept up in the youthful energy flooding London. She learned about film and found work on iconic movies like Federico Fellini’s 8 ½, Luchino Visconti’s The Leopard, and David Lean's Doctor Zhivago, and she came to befriend and work alongside luminaries like the Beatles, Tennessee Williams, Francoise Truffaut, and Barbra Streisand. Amid these adventures and misadventures, Carolyn fell in and out of love, and was beset by tragedies and triumphs that resoundingly affirmed what she'd known since girlhood—that she was always destined for something more.

Set against the dazzling backdrop of Fellini's Rome, the Paris of the French New Wave, and Swinging London, Chasing the Panther reads like a true-to-life novel revealing Carolyn’s unforgettable journey to find her place in the world.


'The young southern girl who stepped through the looking glass at the right time may be the one to explain the magic hold of movies. Immensely pleasurable, vivid, and precise, Carolyn Pfeiffer's beautifully written and acutely felt memoir brings you into her life and puts you in her skin as she discovers the seductions of Europe and the glamour of show business. And she writes so well about what love affairs are made of and how they go'.

'Chasing the Panther is the feminist serial you always longed for, dropping you right into the middle of the explosive European film world of the fifties and sixties, where Carolyn Pfeiffer not only is in the right place at the right time but is the right person: she makes her own way, meets everyone, falls in love a lot, works hard on and off the set with directors and actors, and by the seventies, winds up being the only female producer in Hollywood able to green-light a film. And she has wisdom. This book is such a beautiful read.'

'A terrific read. The education of a pioneering indie studio executive as a young woman whose film school was European art cinema at its heyday, and also an intimate memoir of a life in the fast lane during the Swinging Sixties, careening from Rome to Paris to London, working and partying with the likes of Visconti, Truffaut, and the Beatles.'

'Carolyn has experienced firsthand what it's like to be part of the glamour and guts of greatness while still feeling her cheeks blush and heart soar. Those same sensations become ours. This book should be required reading for anyone with a dream.'

'Carolyn Pfeiffer fearlessly joined an international cultural revolution where she gracefully embraced opportunities in fashion, the film industry, and single motherhood. Achievement, glorious highs, and tragic lows . . . her life reads like a novel.'

'Carolyn Pfeiffer's adventures in her most unusual and adventurous life have included associations with rogues and royalty, creative changers of culture and wayward souls looking for redemption. She has, in the process, built companies, created media moguls, built schools, produced Academy-recognized films, and crashed through more glass ceilings than imaginable, all with grace and wit and charm. If there was cutting-edge of action of the cultural front, Carolyn was there: brave, confronting, and unbowed. And on top of all of that, her men have generally been famous, good looking, literate rascals, and she always gave them the run of their lives.'

'Carolyn was there at virtually every defining juncture of modern entertainment culture--from the French New Wave to the London music scene through the rise of the American independent film movement.'

'This book is a gem. Carolyn's dazzlingly bold and marvelous souvenirs knock one out from page one. Her prose is powerful and graceful, her life fascinating: she worked for the likes of Visconti, Claudia Cardinale, and Alain Delon (to drop a few names) and is always gracious and generous about them. I love her and love her book. So will you.'

Product Details

  • ISBN: 9780785255185
  • ISBN 10: 0785255184
  • Imprint: Harper Horizon
  • On Sale: 2023-06-06
  • Pages: 336
  • List Price: $29.99
  • Publisher: Harper Horizon
  • Publication Date: 2023-06-06
  • Category 1 : BIOGRAPHY & AUTOBIOGRAPHY / Entertainment & Performing Arts
  • Category 2 : PERFORMING ARTS / Film & Video / History & Criticism
  • Category 3 : BIOGRAPHY & AUTOBIOGRAPHY / Women
  • Category 4 : BIOGRAPHY & AUTOBIOGRAPHY / Personal Memoirs