Born in London, Michael Korda is the son of English actress Gertrude Musgrove, and the Hungarian Jewish artist and film production designer Vincent Korda. He is the nephew of film magnate Sir Alexander Korda and brother Zoltan Korda, both film directors. Korda grew up in England but received part of his education in France where his father had worked with film director Marcel Pagnol. As a child, Korda also lived in the United States from 1941 to 1946. He was schooled at the private Institut Le Rosey in Switzerland and read History at Magdalen College, Oxford. He served in the Royal Air Force doing intelligence work in Germany.
The novelist Graham Greene was a lifelong friend. Korda met him on his Uncle Alex Korda's yacht.
Korda moved to New York City in 1957 where he worked for playwright Sidney Kingsley as a research assistant and then later as a freelance reader in the CBS story department. In 1958 he joined the book publishing firm, Simon & Schuster, beginning as an assistant editor, which included the task of reading slush pile manuscripts for Henry Simon.
Many editors stick to one area of interest, but early on Korda demonstrated an ability and interest in editing both fiction and non-fiction. He states in his memoir that he edited books on everything from mathematics and philosophy, memoirs, fiction, translations from French, politics, anthropology and science history among others. One of the first books Korda bought was The Forest People by Colin Turnbull--a memoir of Turnbull's time living with the Mbuti Pygmies in the then Belgian Congo.
After Robert Gottlieb left Simon & Schuster for Alfred E. Knopf, Korda became Editor-in-Chief of Simon & Schuster. Korda was a major figure in the book industry, publishing numerous works by high-profile writers and personalities such as William L. Shirer, Will and Ariel Durant, Harold Robbins, Irving Wallace, Richard Nixon, Richard Rhodes and Ronald Reagan. Korda was a major part of Simon & Schuster for more than forty years. In the autumn of 1994, he was diagnosed as having prostate cancer. In 1997 he wrote Man to Man, which recounted his medical experience. In 2000, he published Another Life: A Memoir of Other People, about the world of publishing.
In addition to being an editor, Korda was also a writer. In the mid-sixties Korda began to write freelance articles for Glamour magazine and eventually wrote their film review column for almost ten years. Korda also wrote for Clay Felker's New York magazine including a piece that eventually became his first book, Male Chauvinism and How it Works at Home and in the Office. Korda's second book, Power!, reached the number one spot on The New York Times Bestseller list in 1975. Korda the writer was represented by agent Lynn Nesbit.
Among Korda's other books are Charmed Lives, which the story of his father and his two uncles, and the novel Queenie, which is a roman à clef about his aunt, actress Merle Oberon, which was later adapted into a television miniseries. Korda said he felt that Charmed Lives was the book he was born to write, "as if I had been observing and storing up memories with just that purpose in mind for years."
Beginning in the 2000s, Korda wrote a number of history and biography books on the Hungarian Revolution, Dwight Eisenhower, T.E. Lawrence and Robert E. Lee. On writing histories Korda said, "I've always wanted to write history, and it was only the accident of going to work for a book publisher in 1958 (and the need to earn a regular paycheck) that slowed me down".
Michael Korda is Editor-in-Chief Emeritus for Simon & Schuster.
Michael Korda married first wife Carolyn Keese in 1958, and had one child, Chris. Chris became the leader of the Church of Euthanasia.
Korda later married Margaret Mogford, a former fashion model and also former wife of photographer Burt Glinn. The two often co-authored books together.
Korda has written about his personal life and his hobbies. Korda is also an avid horseman and fox hunter and he authored Horse People and Horse Housekeeping. Korda met his second wife, Margaret, while riding in Central Park. In 2001, Korda released Country Matters which chronicled his life at his second home, Stonegate Farm.The Forest People by Colin Turnbull
The Love Machine (1969) by Jacqueline Susann
The Story of Civilization VII: The Age of Reason Begins by Will Durant and Ariel Durant
The Fifth Horseman by Larry Collins and Dominique LaPierre