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How the Classic Monsters Saved Universal


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Universal Studios wouldn't exist today if it weren't for the Classic Monsters. In my newest video, I explain why plus I talk about some of the reasons the films may have resonated with audiences so much. Curious to hear if you guys agree with my interpretations or if you think there are others I may have missed!

 

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Sorry, don't really agree with this premise. Deanna Durbin and W.C. Fields saved Universal in the late 30s. In the postwar period, a merger with International Pictures saved Universal. I think where the monsters come in is that they became a veritable franchise later, a money cow the studio could trot out during the lean periods. But to say the monsters saved Universal is a stretch. I also dislike the idea, which these threads suggest, that Laemmle's only glory was the monsters. How about those wonderful precodes he made like BAD SISTER (1931) which featured Bette Davis' motion picture debut...or the superb NIGHT WORLD (1932) that gets short shrift and deserves a bit of focus. 

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11 minutes ago, TopBilled said:

Sorry, don't really agree with this premise. Deanna Durbin and W.C. Fields saved Universal in the late 30s. In the postwar period, a merger with International Pictures saved Universal. I think where the monsters come in is that they became a veritable franchise later, a money cow the studio could trot out during the lean periods. But to say the monsters saved Universal is a stretch. I also dislike the idea, which these threads suggest, that Laemmle's only glory was the monsters. How about those wonderful precodes he made like BAD SISTER (1931) which featured Bette Davis' motion picture debut...or the superb NIGHT WORLD (1932) that gets short shrift and deserves a bit of focus. 

TB--I have a simple question. If the monsters saved Universal, why did the Laemmles lose the studio in 1936?  If the monsters had been that lucrative, then they wouldn't have lost it all. So I tend to agree with you, the premise of this thread is not logical.

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Just now, Princess of Tap said:

TB--I have a simple question. If the monsters saved Universal, why did the Laemmles lose the studio in 1936?

Exactly. I don't want to throw shade on the OP since I understand and respect her sense of family pride. But I am sure that Mr. Laemmle would also like to be remembered for the other genre films he made. Another excellent precode that he supervised is LITTLE MAN WHAT NOW? (1934). It would be nice if the OP could expand her range and go beyond the monsters and really discuss how wide-ranging her ancestor's legacy is. He should be remembered for more than the horror output. My sincere opinion.

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Just now, TopBilled said:

Exactly. I don't want to throw shade on the OP since I understand and respect her sense of family pride. But I am sure that Mr. Laemmle would also like to be remembered for the other genre films he made. Another excellent precode that he supervised is LITTLE MAN WHAT NOW? (1934). It would be nice if the OP could expand her range and go beyond the monsters and really discuss how wide-ranging her ancestor's legacy is. He should be remembered for more than the horror output. My sincere opinion.

Also Gregory La Cava's "My Man Godfrey", 1936, is one of the finest screwball comedies or any kind of romantic comedy in Hollywood history and was produced under the Laemmle regime.

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2 minutes ago, Princess of Tap said:

Also Gregory La Cava's "My Man Godfrey", 1936, is one of the finest screwball comedies or any kind of romantic comedy in Hollywood history and was produced under the Laemmle regime.

How about IMITATION OF LIFE (1934)...Laemmle supervised the original version starring Claudette Colbert and it was very groundbreaking in terms of race relations.

Yes...I get it, the monsters are well-known, but I feel the OP is doing her family a disservice by not branching out into discussion of the other genre films that Laemmle made.

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I've certainly never implied that my family's only glory was the monsters. I speak on many films and actors outside of the horror genre. I've made two videos in the past about Imitation of Life, in fact.  I made videos about Show Boat, The Hayes Code, a tour of Carl Laemmle's home, Oswald and Mickey, Black film history at Universal, Carl's activism, and the Universal Olympic Gold Medal Winning basketball team. One of my upcoming videos is about Mary Pickford. But the Monsters are certainly a major part of my family's legacy that I love honoring. 

Universal had many wonderful films in the early 1930s, and they were fortunate not to have invested too much in theaters, but I still think it's fair and accurate to say that the studio would not have survived the early 30s if not for the Monsters. Sure, later on other films and actors came to save the studio again and again. Universal may not have exist if it weren't for them too - but the Monsters were first. And as I mentioned in the video itself - it wasn't enough to save my family's ownership of the studio. I've made two films that cover that topic in depth: "How My Family Lost Universal" which gets into the financial aspect/Standard Capital, and another about Show Boat specifically (touching on Sutter's Gold and Magnificent Obsession as well) which over-extended Carl and Junior. 

I always love to discuss and debate, and I continue to welcome it, but I'm a little disappointed it seems like the premise of my video (and channel?) was shut down without actually watching the video or seeing what other videos I have on my page. 

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2 hours ago, Princess of Tap said:

Also Gregory La Cava's "My Man Godfrey", 1936, is one of the finest screwball comedies or any kind of romantic comedy in Hollywood history and was produced under the Laemmle regime.

My Man Godfrey is one of my favorite films, and while it produced by my family, it wasn't released until after they lost the studio. That's sort of the reason I haven't yet made a video about it yet, but I will at some point! 

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9 hours ago, TopBilled said:

Sorry, don't really agree with this premise. Deanna Durbin and W.C. Fields saved Universal in the late 30s. In the postwar period, a merger with International Pictures saved Universal. I think where the monsters come in is that they became a veritable franchise later, a money cow the studio could trot out during the lean periods. But to say the monsters saved Universal is a stretch. I also dislike the idea, which these threads suggest, that Laemmle's only glory was the monsters. How about those wonderful precodes he made like BAD SISTER (1931) which featured Bette Davis' motion picture debut...or the superb NIGHT WORLD (1932) that gets short shrift and deserves a bit of focus. 

I disagree with your disagreement.

I daresay that Universal's most famous and durable legacy is its horror films. The "wonderful precodes" that you cite are, by comparison and outside of this forum in particular and TCM in general, little seen and less remembered. Bad Sister might be notable as Bette Davis' debut but I suspect that it would not be celebrated as much as Universal's chillers, even if it did get more exposure.

Just because the horror film might not be your favorite genre, TopBilled, is no reason to wee-we all over AntoniaCarlotta's promotion of her family's, IMO, major contribution to American cinema: The American Horror Film.

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9 hours ago, Princess of Tap said:

TB--I have a simple question. If the monsters saved Universal, why did the Laemmles lose the studio in 1936?  If the monsters had been that lucrative, then they wouldn't have lost it all. So I tend to agree with you, the premise of this thread is not logical.

Learn some history. During 1936, there was a ban on horror films, sparked by The British Board of Film Censors.

The Horror Film Hiatus of 1936-1938

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The Universal Monsters have returned to Peacock!

I celebrated by watching Son of Frankenstein, which I own on home video and which I've seen probably a dozen times*. This time around I focused on Bela Lugosi's performance as the wily, broken-necked blacksmith (and grave-robber) Ygor. According to reports, director Rowland V. Lee -- annoyed at Universal for financially taking advantage of Lugosi (who in 1938 was in dire financial straits) by hiring him at a relatively cheap price ($500 per week) -- deliberately beefed up the role of Ygor to keep Lugosi longer on the payroll. Not only did Lugosi earn a decent salary, he also earned plaudits for his performance and "stole the show" from his higher-paid co-stars Basil Rathbone and Boris Karloff.

Son of Frankenstein was born after the financial success of a triple-bill of Dracula, Frankenstein, and Son of Kong, which played to a packed house for several weeks at the Regina Theatre in Los Angeles, California. After this third entry in the Frankenstein saga also scored big at the box office, Universal Pictures decided to get back into the Monster Biz after a two-year hiatus -- and the "Second Golden Age of Horror" was born.

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* A particularly memorable viewing was at the Los Angeles County Museum of Art many years ago. I attended a screening, which was part of celebration of "The Greatest Year in Movies": 1939. An added thrill to seeing Son of Frankenstein on The Big Screen: I sat directly behind  Peter Falk, in attendance with a Sweet Young Thing.

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On 9/15/2022 at 3:25 PM, antoniacarlotta said:

I always love to discuss and debate, and I continue to welcome it, but I'm a little disappointed it seems like the premise of my video (and channel?) was shut down without actually watching the video or seeing what other videos I have on my page. 

Well I'ma subscriber so I watch them usually within a couple of hours after publication, usually a day before mentioned here.

I think the "monsters" have kept the Universal name alive, after all most call them the "Classic Universal Monsters/Movies."

While I love "the Monsters" I did really enjoy the IMITATION OF LIFE video Antonia Carlotta  made previously and am looking forward to her modern take of early films made at Universal Studios.

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