Sunday, December 11, 2005

Getting to know Hollywood Studio System

Some have compared the Hollywood studio system to a factory, and it is useful to remember that studios were out to make money first and art second.... During the Golden Age, the studios were remarkably consistent and stable enterprises, due in large part to long-term management heads--the infamous "movie moguls" who ruled their kingdoms with iron fists.

...Actors and actresses were contract players bound up in seven-year contracts to a single studio, and the studio generally held all the options.... Studios could also force bad roles on actors, and control the minutiae of stars' images with their mammoth in-house publicity departments.

Some of the immigrants' names are almost as familiar as the great studios they created: William Fox (Wilhelm Fuchs), Samuel Goldwyn, Carl Laemmle, Marcus Loew, Louis B.... Of the so-called original “Big Five” studios (Paramount, MGM, Twentieth Century-Fox, Warner Brothers, and RKO), all but one (RKO) were founded by “foreigners” or first-generation Americans. Of the “Little Three” (Columbia, United Artists, and Universal), Columbia was founded by two immigrant sons, and it was a spin-off of Universal, founded by a German native (Laemmle). Today, most of the great American film studios have been bought up by huge global corporations (Sony) or absorbed by giant American corporate entities (Disney, AOL Time-Warner). But the studios' origins are classic examples of the American dream and private enterprise, not to mention the contribution of German Jews to the growth of Hollywood.

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