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A year in Hollywood

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In 1928, Olga Baclanova appeared in eight films.

 

 

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Richard Arlen was in five motion pictures.

 

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Meanwhile, three pictures featured actress Maria Alba.

 
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And at the beginning of his movie career, Frank Albertson appeared in two films.

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Someone private messaged me and said they were having trouble posting on this thread, because it kept timing out on their computer. I am creating this message right now to test it and see if I am allowed to post...

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Someone private messaged me and said they were having trouble posting on this thread, because it kept timing out on their computer. I am creating this message right now to test it and see if I am allowed to post...

Excuse me for quoting myself (which always seems odd, doesn't it)-- but obviously we are still allowed to add new posts to the thread. I thought maybe it was timing out, because I did have a few lengthy posts earlier...but that does not seem to be a problem.

 

By the way, during the first week of April, I am going to move on to 1929 and work on subsequent years in the 1930s. Those will be much briefer summaries but will still provide the basic gist (highlights) of what was happening in Hollywood and the American movie industry at the time.

 

My long-term goal is to cover the years up to 1959 at least, maybe go up to 1969-- though the sixties almost require a separate thread and much more extensive research due to the many changes surrounding the end of the production code. I will definitely go up to 1959 in this thread, that much is certain.

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     I was wondering if you know who the top 10 actors/actresses were in 1928? it would be interesting to see who had the top box appeal for this year and subsequent years covered in this thread.

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     I was wondering if you know who the top 10 actors/actresses were in 1928? it would be interesting to see who had the top box appeal for this year and subsequent years covered in this thread.

In one of the earlier posts I made about 1928, I provided a list of the stars that were voted most popular in a fan magazine. The reason I did so, was because I was not able to find any information which ranks them for the year in terms of biggest moneymakers. The industry was in such a state of flux, and there were now pictures with large casts in musical revues, even if something was a hit, it becomes a matter of which star actually brought in audiences (especially if the sound technology and early Technicolor was the real attraction).

 

If I find a more comprehensive source of individual moneymakers for '28, I will post the info later. We do know that Oscars for best acting went to Emil Jannings (who would not survive the transition to sound) and Janet Gaynor (who did)-- so those two would certainly be in any top ten list of stars with box office appeal during 1928. Also, Al Jolson was still riding high from the previous year's version of THE JAZZ SINGER. 

 

Incidentally, I did create a separate thread about the top moneymaking movies (the movies, not the stars), for the 30s, 40s & 50s. So when I reach 1930 in this thread, I will transfer some of that information over and re-post it here. If a star appears in two or three of the top movies for a given year, it's a logical assumption that he or she was one of the top stars for the year, bringing people up to the ticket window and into the movie theatres.

 

Incidentally, on wiki, there is a page which shows the top moneymaking stars by year according to Quigley (a research company that did various polls)-- but it starts with 1932. I can reference some of that information when I reach 1932, but again, these early years of sound in Hollywood (1928 to 1931) seems to not have data you are seeking.

 

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Top_Ten_Money_Making_Stars_Poll

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Tomorrow I will post a brief summary of 1929 with some photos. Then a day or two later, I will move on to 1930. As I stated previously, I will continue this up until at least 1959.

 

The thread title will change each time I move on to the next year. But don't freak out-- all the earlier stuff is still on this thread. So for instance, when I update it tomorrow as A year in Hollywood: 1-9-2-9, you will still be able to go back and find everything about 1928.

 

Got it? I knew you would...you're smart!

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A YEAR IN HOLLYWOOD: 1-9-2-9

 

Top stars:

According to Photoplay magazine

 

Lon Chaney
Clara Bow

 

Top grossing films:

According to Variety

 

1. GOLD DIGGERS OF BROADWAY..WB..$5.2 million

2. SUNNY SIDE UP..FOX..$3.2 million

3. THE COCKEYED WORLD..FOX..$2.7 million

4. WELCOME DANGER..PAR..$2.1 million

5. THE DESERT SONG..WB..$2 million

6. RIO RITA..RKO..$1.9 million

7. THE COCOANUTS..PAR..$1.8 million

8. IN OLD ARIZONA..FOX..$1.5 million

9. THE LOVE PARADE..PAR..$1.5 million

10. WHY BRING THAT UP?..PAR..$1.4 million

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Top events of 1929:


 


January


As the year begins, there are now 9,000 theatres fitted with sound. By 1931, there will be 13,000 sound cinemas in the U.S.


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Fox releases the first major motion picture filmed outdoors. IN OLD ARIZONA, starring Edmund Lowe and Warner Baxter, hits screens on January 20th.


 


But the use of sound on location is still difficult for movie makers. As a result, the technique of ‘synthetic sound’ is being used by directors like Rouben Mamoulian to create moods, instead of accurate location recording.


 


February


There are 110 million movie tickets being sold every week.


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On the 1st, MGM releases its first major musical film of the sound era, THE BROADWAY MELODY. It will inspire copycat productions at other studios, and spawn a series of sequels at MGM that will run into the early 1940s. The film will earn the first Academy Award for best picture, made with sound.


 


March


The use of sound in movies is ruining the reputations of many technicians who are unable to adapt to the changes.


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Meanwhile, it is learned that Fox is overextended financially after its failed takeover of MGM in 1928. Owner William Fox may be forced to sell his studio.


 


Across town, budget-conscious Harry Cohn is hiring top name stars for a few days only at Columbia Pictures. He is shooting scenes for two or three films at the same time, then after the expensive star is finished, a cheaper supporting cast is used to fill in the rest of the movies.


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April


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Columnist Louella Parsons is holding informal gatherings of female journalists. Some work for newspapers and others for fan magazines. But all of them cover Hollywood goings-on, and they meet each Wednesday at noon at the Brown Derby restaurant on Vine Street. Louella calls the group the Hollywood Women’s Press Club.


 


Up along the coast, Malibu is beginning to become a popular residence for movie stars. Among those living there are actress Lilyan Tashman and her husband Edmund Lowe.


 


May


On the 16th, the first Academy Awards are handed out. The ceremony is held at the Roosevelt Hotel, hosted by Douglas Fairbanks and William deMille. Honorees enjoy a nice meal at tables with replicas of the newly designed statuette, illuminated by Chinese lanterns.


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Before the evening is over, WINGS is named best picture, though it was made back in 1927. Emil Jannings and Janet Gaynor are the best performers for the past two years.


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June


On the 3rd, Douglas Fairbanks Jr. marries Joan Crawford—but not without complications. Fairbanks is on the outs with his parents and has been disowned. Virtually penniless, he needs Joan to pay for everything. Joan’s boss, Louis B. Mayer, agrees to help by loaning his popular actress money for the wedding as well as some cash for a new home in Brentwood, where the couple will live.


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Meanwhile, there are problems down at the studio. Mayer and Irving Thalberg have recently released Norma Shearer’s latest film, THE TRIAL OF MARY DUGAN. But it has been banned by the Chicago Board of Censors. MGM will successfully lobby to have the bluenoses reverse the ban, by drumming up support from open-minded critics and moviegoers.


 


On June 30th, Alfred Hitchcock’s first hit sound film, BLACKMAIL, premieres in London.


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July


Recent Oscar winner Emil Jannings is having trouble transitioning to sound film. He goes back to his native Germany when his Hollywood contract is cancelled. He will soon make THE BLUE ANGEL with German actress Marlene Dietrich, under director Josef von Sternberg.


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On the 13th, the first Technicolor talkie ON WITH THE SHOW is released by Warners. A new color revolution begins.


 


Reverend William Sheafe Chase is organizing the Federal Motion Picture Council of America. His goal? Stricter censorship. Hollywood responds by promising voluntary control of its content.


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August


Believing Hollywood executives are not doing enough to control the content of their films, Reverend Chase and other high-ranking clergy draft a 4,000 word production code document. It covers language, costuming and societal attitudes.


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On the 20th, HALLELUJAH!, the first Hollywood film with an all-black cast, premieres. Director King Vidor’s idea: to exploit popular stage revues featuring Negro singers and dancers. Specifically, he uses performers who appeared on the New York stage in Blackbirds of 1928.


 


September


Universal is producing a screen version of Erich Maria Remarque’s novel ‘All Quiet on the Western Front.’ Lewis Milestone, interested in the story’s pacifist themes, has been assigned to direct.


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On the 28th, Winston Churchill arrives in Hollywood. He speaks at an MGM luncheon.


 


October


Publisher Martin Quigley and Father Daniel Lord meet with Joseph Breen to go over the production code document that has been written. Like Reverend Chase and his council, the men believe the motion picture industry needs specific guidelines in order to self-regulate movie content.


 


Rudy Vallee debuts on NBC radio on October 24th in The Fleischmann’s Yeast Hour. This is also Black Tuesday, the day the U.S. stock market crashes.


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I will wrap up 1929 tomorrow, then head into 1930 later in the week...so stay tuned for more.

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I was surprised to hear that Douglas Fairbanks Jr. was virtually penniless when he married Joan

Crawford. He had already been in some silent films and was appearing in several movies that very year for not only Warner Bros/First National but Universal and Columbia. I know that one of the problems with their marriage was the fact that she earned a hell of a lot more at MGM than he did at WB but I still wouldn't have thought him so destitute.

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I was surprised to hear that Douglas Fairbanks Jr. was virtually penniless when he married Joan

Crawford. He had already been in some silent films and was appearing in several movies that very year for not only Warner Bros/First National but Universal and Columbia. I know that one of the problems with their marriage was the fact that she earned a hell of a lot more at MGM than he did at WB but I still wouldn't have thought him so destitute.

It's possible he had other debts. I am sure there were several factors in his being cut off by his family. Poor Joan did not have luck in love. Most gals marrying into a family like that would have it made, but not her. 

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November

On the 15th, MGM releases Greta Garbo’s last silent film, THE KISS. Her costar Lew Ayres, has been cast in Universal’s upcoming film version of ‘All Quiet on the Western Front.’

 

And speaking of Universal, Carl Laemmle Jr.’s position as production manager at the studio is over. His brief tenure following in his famous father’s footsteps did not last long.

 

December

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One of Hollywood’s first gay bars opens this month, in time for New Year’s Eve celebrations. On the 31st, Jimmy’s Backyard bar attracts several notable guests. Among them are one of MGM’s top stars, William Haines; as well as actor Lowell Sherman. Also, director Edmund Lowe turns up with his wife, actress Lilyan Tashman. All the men are wearing tuxes.

 

And before closing out 1929, here’s a look at stars that had their screen debuts this year:

 

Paulette Goddard in BERTH MARKS.
Betty Grable in HAPPY DAYS.
Paul Muni in THE VALIANT.
Sylvia Sidney in THRU DIFFERENT EYES.
Jeanette MacDonald in THE LOVE PARADE.
Ginger Rogers in A DAY OF A MAN OF AFFAIRS.
Johnny Weissmuller in GLORIFYING THE AMERICAN GIRL.

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I'm also ready to read about 1930 and 1931 whenever you're ready to post it.

I love reading about the years from 1926-1936 in film.

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I'm also ready to read about 1930 and 1931 whenever you're ready to post it.

I love reading about the years from 1926-1936 in film.

Thanks. Can't make any definite promises, but I will try to work on typing it up and maybe get it posted this weekend, on this thread. Check back. But don't hold me to it! :)

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I honestly hated this part of Hollywood,the whole transition period. Just when film making got to a point of greatness,they ruin it all,and have to start all over from scratch again. All these people getting fired,and idiots getting hired,just to make what amounted to....bad canned theater. Now don't get me wrong,there are some great movies in 1928,and at some point talking pictures had to start...it's just I know what's going on with the coming storm,where some incredibly talented people had their careers cut far too short. I believe Mary Pickford said,that films should have started off with sound first,

then moved into the silent medium after...or something to that effect. But it's right on point and makes much more sense.

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I honestly hated this part of Hollywood,the whole transition period. Just when film making got to a point of greatness,they ruin it all,and have to start all over from scratch again. All these people getting fired,and idiots getting hired,just to make what amounted to....bad canned theater. Now don't get me wrong,there are some great movies in 1928,and at some point talking pictures had to start...it's just I know what's going on with the coming storm,where some incredibly talented people had their careers cut far too short. I believe Mary Pickford said,that films should have started off with sound,then moved into the silent medium after...or something to that effect. But it's right on point and makes much more sense.

Chris,

 

That's a very revealing comment from Pickford. I think it is 'on point' as well. In a way, it is shame that both silents and sound films couldn't continue simultaneously as viable commercial art forms. Sound did not have to replace silent cinema, did it?

 

One good thing that comes from the transition in the late 20s is all the experimentation by directors new to Hollywood from Broadway.

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Chris,

 

That's a very revealing comment from Pickford. I think it is 'on point' as well. In a way, it is shame that both silents and sound films couldn't continue simultaneously as viable commercial art forms. Sound did not have to replace silent cinema, did it?

She's really right about that. Had sound films evolved first,then they both could have coexisted at the same time. The one thing I love about the silent medium...is it's a world language anyone can understand,no matter where you live on the planet. It really was something the whole world could share together in,in a very seamless way.
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She's really right about that. Had sound films evolved first,then they both could have coexisted at the same time. The one thing I love about the silent medium...is it's a world language anyone can understand,no matter where you live on the planet. It really was something the whole world could share together in,in a very seamless way.

That's a nice idea.

 

Sadly, it's all about the bottom line. Greed wins out, all the time.

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That's a nice idea.

 

Sadly, it's all about the bottom line. Greed wins out, all the time.

Well yes,money is the bottom line in the industry. However,they just couldn't find a way quick enough to make sound work right in retrospect,and I'm not sure the public was ready to accept it. Moving pictures,sound recordings,and all the other inventions of the world really upset some people,and it took awhile for folks to warm up to things. I can understand that. I still think she is right,

and it would have been better for the art form as a whole,had things gone vice versa,as opposed to versa vice.

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Well yes,money is the bottom line in the industry. However,they just couldn't find a way quick enough to make sound work right in retrospect,and I'm not sure the public was ready to accept it. Moving pictures,sound recordings,and all the other inventions of the world really upset some people,and it took awhile for folks to warm up to things. I can understand that. I still think she is right,

and it would have been better for the art form as a whole,had things gone vice versa,as opposed to versa vice.

But the visionaries in the studio knew sound was the way to go. They knew, as Madison Avenue knows now, that all was needed was PR hammering (no internet then, and more than an impressionable audience) and they would swallow anything.

 

So it was easy for them. Ditch the silents, pour all the money into sound, and reap the rewards. The likes of Jack Warner would have bust a gut at the idea of double the trouble for silent and sound.

 

Remember, it's not REALLY art for the sake of art, it's art for the sake of money. True then, even more true now.

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But the visionaries in the studio knew sound was the way to go. They knew, as Madison Avenue knows now, that all was needed was PR hammering (no internet then, and more than an impressionable audience) and they would swallow anything.

 

So it was easy for them. Ditch the silents, pour all the money into sound, and reap the rewards. The likes of Jack Warner would have bust a gut at the idea of double the trouble for silent and sound.

 

Remember, it's not REALLY art for the sake of art, it's art for the sake of money. True then, even more true now.

I wonder how commercially successful CITY LIGHTS was...because remember that came out in 1931 and was totally a silent picture-- well after everyone else had abandoned silent features and turned entirely to sound.

 

But even if CITY LIGHTS was a hit, it doesn't mean studios were interested in silent films that would make money. The trend was towards sound, it was a novelty, a craze.

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