Jump to content

 
Search In
  • More options...
Find results that contain...
Find results in...
TopBilled

A year in Hollywood

Recommended Posts

1935


 


This was the year Darryl Zanuck merged his fledgling independent movie company 20th Century Pictures with William Fox's larger studio. The creation that resulted was 20th Century Fox. Zanuck would oversee production for more than twenty years, until 1956. His Oscars for Best Picture at 20th Century Fox included HOW GREEN WAS MY VALLEY; GENTLEMAN'S AGREEMENT; and ALL ABOUT EVE.


darryl_f_zanuck_and_oscar_in_gentlemans_


Another key player in Hollywood, David Selznick, decided to start his own studio. Selznick was married to L.B. Mayer's daughter Irene, but he wished to leave MGM and be his own boss. In 1935, he formed Selznick International Pictures, the company that over the course of the next decade would be responsible for prestigious hits like GONE WITH THE WIND; REBECCA and SPELLBOUND. Selznick's new studio leased space from RKO in Culver City.


imgres3.jpg


 


Technical advances continued to occur in the motion picture industry in '35. The three-strip Technicolor process was being perfected, and in October, Paramount Pictures went on location in the San Bernardino Mountains to film THE TRAIL OF THE LONESOME PINE, a story that had been done two times before in black-and-white. In addition to color photography, camera operators had begun to use zoom lenses. The first Hollywood movies to use this technology was DANTE'S INFERNO at Fox, and PRIVATE WORLDS at Paramount.


 


Meanwhile, literary adaptations were all the rage with movie goers. Films like Warners' swashbuckler CAPTAIN BLOOD with Errol Flynn; Zanuck's LES MISERABLES starring Fredric March & Charles Laughton; and David Selznick's A TALE OF TWO CITIES with Ronald Colman were immensely popular with audiences.


images4.jpg


Selznick especially seemed to have the market cornered-- he had already adapted DAVID COPPERFIELD at MGM and would go on to make LITTLE LORD FAUNTLEROY and a version of TOM SAWYER for his own banner. 


 


Before the year concluded, two major moguls had sold their companies. William Fox's retirement was precipitated by the on-going court battles regarding his sound patents. In an upsetting Supreme Court decision, Fox was forced to hand over his patents to Western Electric. He decided to get out of the movie business by selling his stock for $18 million. Meanwhile, rival Carl Laemmle agreed it was time to quit, too. He sold his Universal stock for $5.5 million and tried not to look back.


  • Like 1

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

1936

 

 

screen-shot-2015-10-29-at-9-41-15-pm.png

During 1936 Walt Disney works on his first Technicolor feature. The road to SNOW WHITE AND THE SEVEN DWARFS has been gradual but steady. Back in 1933, Disney’s studio experimented with several short color cartoons. One was called Flowers and Trees; and another one was The Three Little Pigs.

screen-shot-2015-10-29-at-9-41-43-pm.png

Due to the success of films like BECKY SHARP and THE TRAIL OF THE LONESOME PINE the previous year, three-strip Technicolor is now the latest and most exciting technological advance in Hollywood. As a result, Herbert and Natalie Kalmus’ Technicolor Corporation immediately corners the market on this process. The monopoly will not end until the mid-1950s when Eastmancolor arrives on the scene. Eastman-Kodak will revolutionize the way color tones are controlled, something Technicolor is not fully able to do.

images6.jpg?w=300&h=65

Despite the growing demand for Technicolor product in 1936, three of the year’s biggest commercial hits are made in black-and-white. RKO’s SWING TIME reunites super dance duo Fred Astaire and Ginger Rogers. This time they are guided by one of the studio’s most important young directors, George Stevens.

screen-shot-2015-10-29-at-9-34-33-pm.png

Meanwhile, Paramount produces Lewis Milestone’s THE GENERAL DIED AT DAWN, with a script by Clifford Odets. Gary Cooper stars a tough guy with a conscience who falls for a lady adventurer played by Madeleine Carroll.

screen-shot-2015-10-29-at-9-36-03-pm.png

And over at Warners, Michael Curtiz directs Errol Flynn in the lavishly produced action story THE CHARGE OF THE LIGHT BRIGADE. The film has taken over a year to make, and the brigade’s exciting ‘charge’ displays the efforts of 150 stunt riders.

screen-shot-2015-10-29-at-9-37-30-pm.png

In addition to large budget A films, the major studios continue to turn out medium-budgeted programmers. There is an on-going need to provide product for theaters that prefer showing double features. So in order to satisfy theater owners and 80 million weekly movie goers, the studios sign actors and directors to ‘exclusive personal services’ contracts. These contracts mean everyone will work ungodly hours to make more movies than ever.

 

It goes without saying the contracts mostly benefit the moguls, and a few of the industry’s most important stars cry foul. At Warners, James Cagney locks horns with the brass when he is refused to make a film of his choosing for a rival studio; and Bette Davis is fed up with all the additional advertising that she is required to do for Western Electric as a ‘favor’ provided by the studio. Soon Bette hops on a plane and goes to London. In the English courts, she will try to fight the conditions of her contract, but Jack Warner has the upper hand.

  • Like 3

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

1937


 


In England Bette Davis' attempts to break her contract with Warner Brothers are legally unsuccessful. She is ordered to return to the U.S. and report back to work at the studio. But taking a stand against unfavorable conditions leads to a new understanding between her and boss Jack Warner. Consequently, she will be awarded better roles. 


screen-shot-2015-11-07-at-2-51-15-pm.png


At 20th Century Fox, there is another actress fighting with her boss about roles. Loretta Young believes most of the parts that Darryl Zanuck and his writers are handing her are beneath her talents. As she struggles to get better scripts, she reaches an impasse with Zanuck about the terms of a new contract they have been negotiating. In frustration, Loretta decides not to renew her contract and plans to leave the studio. But Zanuck promises retaliation if the leading lady does not change her mind. Loretta eventually walks, and after not getting any movie work at other studios, she comes to realize that Zanuck means what he says and that she is now being blacklisted across the industry. 


imgres3.jpg


The industry as a whole is doing brisk business. Weekly admissions average 80 million ticket sales. Emboldened by the expanding market, independent producer David Selznick shells out $50,000 to author Margaret Mitchell for the rights to film her bestselling book 'Gone with the Wind.' However, he will not be able to make the picture for two more years, because Mitchell insists on Clark Gable for the lead-- and the actor is not yet available to play Rhett Butler. L.B. Mayer won't consent to a loanout until some of Gable's other commitments at MGM have been met. This gives Selznick plenty of time to find just the right actress to play Scarlett O'Hara.


imgres-1.jpg


Hit movies of 1937 include one of Selznick's other projects, a big screen adaptation of THE PRISONER OF ZENDA. Ronald Colman headlines the film, and it is a winner with audiences. Another successful motion picture is Columbia's LOST HORIZON, also starring Ronald Colman. Across town at MGM, Robert Taylor and Jean Harlow are getting raves for the romantic tale PERSONAL PROPERTY. Harlow's next assignment, though, will be her last.


newspaper-headline.jpg


In June, with SARATOGA unfinished, the actress collapses on set. She is rushed to Good Samaritan Hospital in downtown Los Angeles...but it is too late. With her trademark platinum hair above an oxygen mask, she takes her last breaths before dying from kidney disease. Back at the studio, Mayer decides to finish the film with a double and to conceal Harlow's absence in the remaining scenes with clever editing. The film will be released later in the year, and it becomes one of the top money-makers of 1937.


screen-shot-2015-11-07-at-2-54-31-pm.png


  • Like 1

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

I will be posting 1938 this weekend...I am going to work on it tonight while I re-watch DRUMS IN THE DEEP SOUTH on Amazon Prime...so check back.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

I will be posting 1938 this weekend...

I finished writing it last night. Look for it later today. Like nearly every other year in Hollywood, 1938 has some significant developments.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

1938

 

By TopBilled

 

*******

 

screen-shot-2015-11-13-at-7-30-15-pm.png

The year proved to be a trying one for Hollywood, as the film industry underwent significant changes in the way movies were made and brought to the screen. One of these changes involved how stories were purchased by studios. Up until this point, story analysts either prepared short written synopses or else gave verbal recommendations to producers about material that had reached their desks. But this practice was revised, when lawsuits were brought against studios with writers alleging that their stories had been falsely represented, and in some cases, stolen.

 

screen-shot-2015-11-13-at-7-30-34-pm.png

Another practice that was modified was the process in which independent films were exhibited. Producers who did not have major studio backing had complained to government officials that their films were denied exhibition in theaters, because the studios were illegally controlling distribution of finished films. The smaller producers also alleged the studios attempted to buy their films in order to prevent them from competing with the studios' own product. These complaints would lead to long-term investigations. Eventually the government would force studios to sell the movie houses they owned, as they were found in violation of anti-trust laws. 

 

screen-shot-2015-11-13-at-7-32-29-pm.png

In addition to these issues, the industry was also dealing with outside groups that were exerting influence on writers and actors in search of a cause. A wave of anti-fascism swept Hollywood as well as a wave of anti-Nazi sentiment. This was understandable, given the political climate in Europe. But some of the groups that were formed were of the leftist variety, meaning some Hollywood notables had joined the Communist party.

screen-shot-2015-11-13-at-7-09-01-pm.png

An early film that reflected social resistance was BLOCKADE, made by independent producer Walter Wanger. It would, of course, not be the last of its type. As more of these stories were filmed, the participants involved would come to find themselves under scrutiny by right-wing conservative groups who wielded power in Congress.

 

screen-shot-2015-11-13-at-7-32-11-pm.png

The films of 1938 were quite diverse in terms of subject matter. Warner Brothers, attempting to get the jump on Selznick's GONE WITH THE WIND, rushed their own tale of southern plantation dysfunction into production with Bette Davis. The resulting picture, JEZEBEL, was a hit and earned Davis an Oscar. Across town, RKO and director Howard Hawks turned out the screwball farce BRINGING UP BABY. The film was a flop with audiences and extended Katharine Hepburn's losing streak at the box office.

 

screen-shot-2015-11-13-at-7-31-57-pm.png

At risk of being labeled 'poison' by exhibitors, RKO tried to pressure Hepburn into a cutesy role in the heartwarming comedy-drama MOTHER CAREY'S CHICKENS. Sensing the material and RKO's campaign to save her movie career was not right for her, the actress scraped up the necessary funds to buy out the rest of her contract with the studio. She headed back to the east coast and her first love, the theater. Soon, she was in rehearsal for a play by Phillip Barry, which would turn things around for her.

philstoryplay.jpg

 
 
  • Like 1

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

I am going to work on writing about 1939 this weekend...but since it is such an eventful year, it will probably require more time to research...and may not be something I post until the following weekend.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

1939


 


By TopBilled


 


Screen%2Bshot%2B2015-11-28%2Bat%2B4.33.2


 


*******


 


 


Screen%2Bshot%2B2015-11-28%2Bat%2B4.18.5


This was the year that GONE WITH THE WIND premiered. David Selznick had made a mountain out of a molehill, when he couldn't immediately get Clark Gable to play Rhett back in 1937 after securing the rights to the story from author Margaret Mitchell. Gable was Mitchell's only choice for the role, but the actor's boss L.B. Mayer (who was also Selznick's father-in-law) would only agree to the loan-out at a substantial fee and a delay of more than a year (Mayer needed Gable to do some other pictures for his studio first). Before Gable would be ready for filming, Selznick saw that a lot more interest in the film could be generated if he carried out a lengthy P.R. campaign in casting the role of Scarlett. 


Screen%2Bshot%2B2015-11-28%2Bat%2B4.23.0


Much has been written about how Vivien Leigh nabbed the part. Some say she was spotted by David's brother, the agent Myron Selznick who also represented Leigh's then-boyfriend Laurence Olivier. It is also said that Paulette Goddard was the frontrunner. But Selznick only co-owned her contract (the other half was owned by her paramour Charlie Chaplin), and Paulette was needed for Chaplin's latest production THE GREAT DICTATOR. So Selznick wound up selling his share in Goddard's contract to Paramount, and he gave the role of Scarlett to the British actress who would make the character what she became on screen.


Screen%2Bshot%2B2015-11-28%2Bat%2B4.20.0


When GONE WITH THE WIND premiered on December 15th in Atlanta, it was not the first film to be presented in glorious Technicolor. But Herbert and Natalie Kalmus had been perfecting the process, and this motion picture was the first one that used improved high speed color stock. George Cukor and Victor Fleming, who succeeded him as director, dealt with the painstaking efforts that Selznick insisted upon to make sure the cinematography fully exploited the latest advances in Technicolor. Selznick for his part had many battles with Natalie Kalmus. But they made a true masterpiece.


Screen%2Bshot%2B2015-11-28%2Bat%2B4.19.2


Other technical advances swept through the motion picture industry at the close of the 1930s. An engineer named Fred Waller had developed a panoramic screen process that was complemented by stereophonic sound. However, with war breaking out in Europe and studio budgets tighter than ever, these new advances did not become fully implemented until well after the war. But Waller's labors were the beginning of what later became CinemaScope. 


Screen%2Bshot%2B2015-11-28%2Bat%2B4.15.2


Speaking of war in Europe, Italian dictator Benito Mussolini kicked the American film industry out of Italy in '39. This hurt the Hollywood studios significantly in terms of their overseas operations. Another blow came when Britain was suddenly plunged into war, and it limited American filmmaking in London. 


Screen%2Bshot%2B2015-11-28%2Bat%2B4.18.1


Back at home in the U.S., a war of a different type was brewing. The various workers at the studios had been unionized a few years earlier, but they often did not have much clout when bargaining with the studio bosses about contracts. In 1939, the unions gained a great deal of power with director Frank Capra having become the president of the Academy of Motion Picture Arts & Sciences. Obviously assisted by King Vidor who was the president of the Directors Guild, Capra threatened to cancel the Academy Awards that year if the studios did not enter into new negotiations that favored the unions. Joining Capra and Vidor in this strategy were Ronald Reagan as the president of the Actors' Guild, and John Howard Lawson as head of the Writers Guild. Because the studios could not afford to lose all the publicity that comes with the Academy Awards, the moguls caved to the pressure. 


  • Like 1

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Okay, yesterday I posted 1939. So the thirties are completed. My goal is to go up to 1959, the end of the golden age of Hollywood. 

 

I think what I will do is take the posts from 1930 to 1939, and perhaps with some slight edits for flow, I will create a special little blog for them. Once I have done that in the week or so ahead, I will gladly post the link to it, so readers can see all the information together for that decade.

 

I will then start writing 1940 onward, but I probably won't post any of the stuff for the 40s in this thread until the beginning of the new year. 

 

These take a substantial amount of time to write, because I have to locate and verify the information. So thanks for sticking with me and for being patient...! :)

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Okay, yesterday I posted 1939. So the thirties are completed. My goal is to go up to 1959, the end of the golden age of Hollywood. 

 

I think what I will do is take the posts from 1930 to 1939, and perhaps with some slight edits for flow, I will create a special little blog for them. Once I have done that in the week or so ahead, I will gladly post the link to it, so readers can see all the information together for that decade.

 

I will then start writing 1940 onward, but I probably won't post any of the stuff for the 40s in this thread until the beginning of the new year. 

 

These take a substantial amount of time to write, because I have to locate and verify the information. So thanks for sticking with me and for being patient...! :)

Just curious why you mark 1959 as the end of the golden age. It's your thing, so you make the rules, or course. I've just usually seen the demarcation line closer to 1965, or about when they started putting nudity, objectionable language and bloodier violence in mainstream films.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Just curious why you mark 1959 as the end of the golden age. It's your thing, so you make the rules, or course. I've just usually seen the demarcation line closer to 1965, or about when they started putting nudity, objectionable language and bloodier violence in mainstream films.

First, Lawrence, thanks for taking the time to ask. It's probably a rather subjective thing. FredCDobbs and I have discussed this in other threads, and we feel that it's really the end of the Eisenhower era when things change. The Kennedy administration and Castro, then Kennedy's death a short time later sort of marks the end of the innocence. But the seeds of the countercultural movement seem to have been planted in the late 1950s, during the beginning stages of the Vietnam conflict.

 

Also, I think that by the time we reach 1960, television has taken over as the dominant form of entertainment (it is certainly no coincidence that radio drama all but evaporates around this time). And in the words of one of my old film professors, that is also when Hollywood movies start to become retrograde.

 

For purposes of this thread, I began with the year 1927, when the talkies came in-- so I was trying to move from one point of transition (revolution?) to the next. And to me the Kennedy era is the next major period of transition. Does that make sense? 

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

First, Lawrence, thanks for taking the time to ask. It's probably a rather subjective thing. FredCDobbs and I have discussed this in other threads, and we feel that it's really the end of the Eisenhower era when things change. The Kennedy administration and Castro, then Kennedy's death a short time later sort of marks the end of the innocence. But the seeds of the countercultural movement seem to have been planted in the late 1950s, during the beginning stages of the Vietnam conflict.

 

Also, I think that by the time we reach 1960, television has taken over as the dominant form of entertainment (it is certainly no coincidence that radio drama all but evaporates around this time). And in the words of one of my old film professors, that is also when Hollywood movies start to become retrograde.

 

For purposes of this thread, I began with the year 1927, when the talkies came in-- so I was trying to move from one point of transition (revolution?) to the next. And to me the Kennedy era is the next major period of transition. Does that make sense?

Yes, it does. I'm enjoying your work so far, and am looking forward to what comes next. I'm always happy to see someone writing on film outside of the usual trite, glib stuff you find on most film sites or magazines. In an age where the reduction of ideas into easily digestible tweets is applauded, I'm thrilled to see when someone puts more thought into things.

  • Like 2

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Yes, it does. I'm enjoying your work so far, and am looking forward to what comes next. I'm always happy to see someone writing on film outside of the usual trite, glib stuff you find on most film sites or magazines. In an age where the reduction of ideas into easily digestible tweets is applauded, I'm thrilled to see when someone puts more thought into things.

Thanks. I appreciate that!

 

By the way, I can understand where others may see the cut-off point regarding the golden age of Hollywood a bit differently. There is always going to be slight overlap in these cultural-historical periods.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

I just read the post on Capra, Vidor and Reagan unionizing the industry.  I immediately remembered Reagan's opening comment at that 1964 speech for Goldwater "I have spent most of my life as a Democrat.  I have recently seen fit to follow another course".   I guess he did. 

 

All of this history is what I really want to read about Hollywood, not who slept with who-unless that has a direct bearing on something else that's important in that history.  Thanks a lot. 

 

Drums in the Deep South?  Is that ever a clunker !  Guy Madison and James Craig were pretty good actors but they couldn't save this mess.  And you see why Barbara Payton was better known on police blotters than on screen.  It's in color but that's about all I can say about it that's good.  I know it played  a lot in the drive-ins around Jacksonville when it came out which is another hint as to its quality.    

 

After what happened to Claudette Colbert with It Happened One Night you'd think the ladies would have learned but as Sally Field told us a few weeks ago when Norma Rae was on she only got the role-and her first Oscar-after three other stars turned it down.  They would all be her competitors for that Oscar.   

 

I'm a bit under the weather and this thread is proving a great pick-me-up.  Thanks!

  • Like 3

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

OK... before TopBilled continues with A YEAR IN HOLLYWOOD: 1940, we will take a scenic side-tour... just for fun.

 

Hope you don't mind. :)

 

Just curious why you mark 1959 as the end of the golden age. It's your thing, so you make the rules, or course. I've just usually seen the demarcation line closer to 1965, or about when they started putting nudity, objectionable language and bloodier violence in mainstream films.

 

 

This is always a fun topic... there have been ssssooooooo many discussions throughout this forum about the end of the "Golden Age". Everybody has their own opinions.

I have to disagree a little with the popular choices of 1959 and 1965 (which Leonard Maltin uses as a cut off point in his Classic Movie Guide) although I do agree that Hollywood was definitely "retrograde" by the time MGM brought BEN HUR out of the mothballs. Of course, MGM was simply repeating Paramount's "retrograding" of THE TEN COMMANDMENTS, which despite VistaVision and an all-star cast, was much more agonizing to sit through than DeMille's 1923 original.

I prefer using any of these back to back dates myself.

1948: The Beginning of the End... or was it?

Paramount was the first of the majors to be forced to divest their theater holdings.

 

However... how bad was this event, really? Although this impacted a couple studios (RKO, Warner and Fox before 1952 and MGM/Loew's in 1959), it really didn't impact Columbia, Universal, Republic and United Artists much except open the market more for their films getting into first run theaters. Heck, even Walt Disney got to start his Buena Vista instead of being tied to RKO thanks to this. It did hurt the production of theatrical shorts though. You notice that the end of "block-booking" indirectly caused the animation of Bugs Bunny and Popeye to decline in the fifties because the "trickling down" of studio money lessened. The multi chapter serial went bye -bye by 1955 and the newsreel (although TV news impacted it more) suffered a really agonizing death stretching from 1956 (bye bye Warner-Pathé) to 1967 (bye bye Universal).

 

Also in 1948... Hal Roach was among the first, if not the first, Hollywood big-wigs to begin consistent weekly TV production... although his half hour sitcoms were not a huge leap from the 1930s Laurel & Hardy 2-reelers. Since TV was such a No-No to a couple studios, Harry Cohn had to be sneaky in starting his company under the "Screen Gems" banner instead of Columbia's, while Universal allowed Revue Studios to borrow its facilities as an "independent" (before the owners got the studio to merge with MCA). Then Uncle Walt launched DISNEYLAND in 1954 and the great "domino effect" took place, mostly on the ABC network: "Warner Brothers Presents", "MGM Presents" and whatever that show 20th Century Fox backed. Although the early shows were not successful and Paramount only dabbled a little before they had Lucile Ball's ex-RKO facilities in 1966, you pretty much saw Hollywood remain prolific, but making more product for the small screen rather than the large one. Today, each studio is even tied to a network as part of a conglomerate: Disney/ABC, Universal/NBC, Paramount/CBS, Fox... with Sony and Warner producing the most TV shows overall for many, many networks and cable TV.

 

And the connection between TV affiliates and Hollywood already stretched back to the '30s, when NBC and CBS (and Mutual... and the future ABC, known before 1943 as NBC's Blue Network) were producing radio shows borrowing big name stars. It was just that Hollywood was trying to stay "faithful" to theater owners in the struggling 1950s and this is what caused a delay in Hollywood TV production.

Maybe October 1966?...

 

This is when Gulf & Western swallowed up Paramount, since MCA was at least an entertainment company taking over Universal and does not "count" officially. However, Paramount actually made its best movies AFTER this take-over thanks to wunderkind Robert Evans in charge. So was it that much of a change?

1968-1972: The Avalanche...

 

April through October 1968... uh oh!

While FUNNY GIRL, FINIAN'S RAINBOW, CHITTY CHITTY BANG BANG, STAR! (all filmed in '67) and OLIVER! (which wrapped this January in Merry Ol' England) are in their preview stages, a flood of new elephantine musicals are busy filming both in California and cloudy Sussex: SWEET CHARITY, DARLING LILI, PAINT YOUR WAGON, OH, WHAT A LOVELY WAR!, HELLO, DOLLY! and GOODBYE MR. CHIPS! Certainly the crowd that loves Lawrence Welk and Rowan & Martin's Laugh In will be willing to get off of their easy chairs for more roadshow productions... shouldn't they?

 

Autumn 1968: Washington gets involved with both sex and movies.

President LBJ starts a "committee" to investigate if nudity in cinema (not that you had much apart from Joe Dellasandro and Russ Meyer's VIXEN during this period) was "dangerous" to the American public. THEIR conclusion: No!  However... Richard Nixon entered the White House in January 1969 as a total prude and needed a second opinion. He added that nut-job Charles Keating to the panel of "experts" so that the Federal Government could continue fussing about it for several more years... until they finally gave up since Watergate and Vietnam were so much a worse issue than sex on screen.

 

November 1, 1968: Hollywood nonetheless gets nervous since they had scrapped the ol' Code

The new MPAA ratings takes affect...

G for "general audience": OLIVER! got this rating despite teaching the kiddies how to steal from adults' pockets, a prostitute remaining faithful to her abusive lover and Oliver Reed hanging by the neck as Bull's Eye barks.
M for "mature", but changed later to the confusing G-P and P-G and even more ridiculous PG-13 by the 1980s, when M would have been satisfactory enough.
R for "restricted" without a parent there to cover a tyke's virginal eyes. Obviously the shot of bare **** or behind... or two people of the same gender kissing each other... was sssooooo much worse for "concerned" parents than car crashes, gunfights and murders on screen.

X was initially for just those under 17 since the only porn films were shown on Time Square at that time. What exactly, apart from a lady's ta-ta's, got GREETINGS that rating? This is why XXX was started around 1970 to differentiate "how much" was shown on screen.

 

March 1969: the US customs ban on I AM CURIOUS, YELLOW is officially over

... and this Swedish import becomes the first "adult" (but still sporting just ONE "X") film to be seen in theaters across the country and not just middle aged men in rain coats.

 

May 25, 1969: Midnight Cowboy's release

An actual X-rated film would later win Best Picture. Imagine that! Amusingly Bob Baliban has a small role as a desperate gay teenager getting some action... in a movie theater... and his real daddy ran a TON of movie theaters way back when (and boasting plenty of action in the dark, no doubt).

 

December 1969: Two more studios get a changeover

Warner Brothers/Seven Arts sells out to the Kinney Corporation... at least partly because Jack Warner, who announced his retirement in 1966, never officially "retired" and was still trying to "muscle in" on the operation.

Kirk Kerkorian takes over MGM and he is quite the character himself, eventually turning the movie studio into a real estate agency...

 

1969-1970 season = 1932-1933 season

Paramount loses $22 million

MGM loses $35 million

United Artists loses $50 million

Warner loses $59 million

20th Century Fox loses $100 million and, oh boy, the Zanucks are in trooooouble...

Universal basically breaks even, while Columbia earns a profit... but will pay for it within two years.

 

August 6, 1970: Sunny San Francisco marks the dawn of a New Age...

MONA: THE VIRGIN NYMPH, released by Bill Osco with pracictally no screen credits to avoid troubles with the law, is different than the "nudie cutie" films of Russ Meyer & company before it... and those artsy experiments from Andy Warhol's "factory". We now have actual... uh hmmm... action on screen that goes beyond just showing off the body. Prior to this time, "stag films", "smokers" and "blue movies" were mostly seen in city arcades and bachelor parties and rarely "feature length" (let alone with a plot). This marks the start of the "Golden Age of Porn".

 

December 1970: Daddy cans Sonny Boy

Darryl Zanuck assembles a meeting at 20th Century Fox headquarters to fire his son Richard. Richard to daddy: "You're next".

 

May 1971: The last mogul to go...

Darryl is forced into retirement and he ain't a happy camper.

 

October 1971: BEDKNOBS AND BROOMSTICKS flops and Walt Disney World creates a massive traffic jam in Orlando, Florida.

By the time Roy Disney passes away two months later, it is obvious where The Mouse Factory's revenue will be directed. Not to promoting NAPOLEON AND SAMANTHA next year.

 

December 29, 1971: Porno "chic" begins

Gays expect more "art" in their porn, so BOYS IN THE SAND is the first triple X-er that many high brow celebrities like BEDKNOBS' Angela Lansbury actually admit to viewing and enjoying the pretty cinematography and double exposures at least.

 

March 15, 1972: THE GODFATHER is released

This is pretty much (in my opinion) the great "transitional" box office hit. It boasts an epic length and slushy music score not unlike DR ZHIVAGO and other "roadshow blockbusters" of the sixties, but has the "new Hollywood" violence and profanity of this swinging seventies.

 

April 1972: Richard Zanuck and David Brown approach some young kid to make a feature for their new company

However Steven Spielberg's SUGARLAND EXPRESS (completed in 1973) would be a bomb. Then again, another attempt involving a shark named Bruce just... might... work...

Meanwhile Zanuck-Brown's THE STING (also filmed in 1973) would keep them buoyant.

May 1972: Universal ceases releasing theatrical shorts.

... although the 16mm school film is at its peak during this period. Bottom line, movie shorties were more likely shown in the classroom rather than before the main feature at your first run theater. Walter Lantz, who didn't do as much TV animation as Hanna-Barbera and DePatie Freleng (who still kept the Pink Panther going through the middle seventies), closed his studio this month and put Woody Woodpecker into retirement.

June 12, 1972: DEEP THROAT starring Linda Lovelace and Harry Reams 

... and, while it isn't as "classy" as BOYS IN THE SAND, it at least shows Hollywood what a real "money shot" is. Every late night comic jokes about waiting in long lines to seeing it.
 

August-October 1972: THE END

-Columbia, which loses $50 million by year-end, is officially out of Gower Street (home since the twenties) after a gradual move (taking over three years) to operate alongside its "new roomie" Warner Brothers in Burbank. Down comes the "WB" shield (although it will be back up later) as the facilities become "The Burbank Studios", marking The End to "distinct" movie studio identification

-Marlon Brando shows off his (bare) "The End" in the New York Film Festival's THE LAST TANGO IN PARIS

-AMERICAN GRAFFITI and THE EXORCIST are busy in production now but nobody has any idea how popular they will be... or how they will influence the rest of the industry.

 

  • Like 4

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Thanks Jlewis for your detailed notes.

 

I am on a month-long hiatus with this thread (because I want to collect all the essays on the 30s and put them on a separate blog.

 

When I resume with the 40s in January, I will definitely be going over how the studios were forced to sell off their theater holdings. As well as the early days of live television and how that cut into movie attendance. But of course, there's a little thing called World War II that needs to be discussed first. :)

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

***

1940

 

Screen%2Bshot%2B2016-01-09%2Bat%2B3.20.5

War was raging in Europe, but Hollywood continued to provide movies to the world. American films would earn studios over $100 million dollars this year. U.S. audiences, not yet plunged into battle, still went to the movies in droves. A total of 85 million tickets were sold in 1940. 

Screen%2Bshot%2B2016-01-09%2Bat%2B3.17.5

Hollywood celebrities, however, were embroiled in a battle of another type. A congressman known as Martin Dies had begun to investigate suspected Communist activity in the film capital. An ex-member of the American Communist Party named John Leech informed the politician of motion picture actors that supposedly had involvement with the party or at least had exhibited Communist sympathies. Among the movie stars that were targeted: Humphrey Bogart; Fredric March; James Cagney; Melvyn Douglas; and Franchot Tone. Also accused were non-actors, such as director Fritz Lang as well as writers Philip Dunne and Budd Schulberg. Eventually, the allegations were withdrawn, because as the country was about to become more involved in the war, Hollywood liberals insisted their stance was not in support of Communism but instead anti-Fascist and anti-Nazi.

Screen%2Bshot%2B2016-01-10%2Bat%2B9.20.5

Still, the damage had been done, and concern would continue to grow during the decade about just how subversive powerful people in Hollywood might be. Of course, several stars recanted, assuring the public they were not Communist, which is what Humphrey Bogart eventually did. And James Cagney's response was to make the ultra-patriotic musical YANKEE DOODLE DANDY, something he had been opposed to doing (since he was not a fan of George M. Cohan) until Leech and Dies had gone after him.

41KHjWhOxdL._SX300_.jpg

Meanwhile, the government announced that Hollywood's monopoly on film exhibition had to be curtailed. Studios were given two years to stop a practice known as 'block-booking.' Exhibitors were relieved that their complaints were at last being heard, and something was finally being done about it. On the surface, the larger studios (with the deepest pockets) seemed to be willing to go along with the upcoming regulations. But the smaller studios, like Columbia and United Artists, knew such a ruling would prevent their businesses from growing as rapidly as they hoped. As a result, Columbia and United Artists appealed the latest government decisions, and they recruited Universal to assist in their legal fight. 

Screen%2Bshot%2B2016-01-09%2Bat%2B3.16.3

On the east coast, Broadway was experiencing a sluggish year. It seemed like there may not be anyone that motion picture companies could entice out west to sign movie contracts. So in the search for new talent to cast in upcoming cinematic productions, moguls began to look elsewhere. Instead of hiring stage performers, the studios began looking to modeling and advertising agencies for faces that might become stars. Glamour pusses like Lauren Bacall and Gene Tierney, who at this point, had very little or no acting experience, were suddenly in the right position to entertain tempting offers. Hollywood talent scouts introduced the pretty girls (and boys), who appeared in newspaper and magazine layouts, to bosses that were eager to meet them. The bosses promised to take the sexy models and help them become household names.

Screen%2Bshot%2B2016-01-09%2Bat%2B3.16.0

In addition to Bacall and Tierney, another person who came to Hollywood this way was handsome Sterling Hayden. He had been causing a sensation as a print model when he was signed by Paramount in 1940. A few months later, as advance publicity for his very first screen role, the studio proudly proclaimed him 'The Most Beautiful Man in the Movies.' Paramount's publicists also called Hayden 'The Beautiful Blond Viking God.' An important new star was born.

Screen%2Bshot%2B2016-01-09%2Bat%2B3.15.0

  • Like 1

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

1941

Screen%2Bshot%2B2016-01-17%2Bat%2B10.21.

It was the year that Hollywood gave us Orson Welles' layered portrait of William Randolph Hearst. Of course, Hearst didn't take too kindly to it, but critics loved CITIZEN KANE and lauded its theme of a warped American capitalist dream. The subject matter had been covered before in social message dramas of the 1930s. Among them-- Warner Brothers' UPPER WORLD which starred Warren William as a married tycoon involved with a showgirl; and Fox's THE POWER AND THE GLORY, with Spencer Tracy in the lead role. All were thickly disguised biopics about Hearst and his relationship with Marion Davies. In some ways, they're sympathetic portrayals of an all-too-human man...but in other more serious ways, they're damning indictments about a monster who runs the country. At any rate, the material hit too close to home for Hearst and he unsuccessfully tried to block KANE's release. 

Screen%2Bshot%2B2016-01-17%2Bat%2B10.23.

Some of the men who ran Hollywood were mired in corruption. William Fox, who several years earlier had sold off his controlling interest in the studio bearing his name, was entangled in a mess of legal trouble. By the early 1940s, he claimed he was penniless and filed bankruptcy. But in order to make sure the bankruptcy hearing didn't go against him, he bribed a judge but was caught. Fox was given a small fine and sentenced to a year in prison. Of course, the former mogul appealed, but until the sentence was overturned, he served six months in a penitentiary. When he got out, he was finished in Hollywood. 

Screen%2Bshot%2B2016-01-17%2Bat%2B10.19.

Fox wasn't the only one. Another executive at his former studio was charged with perjury in a different case involving extortion. Joseph Schenck had supposedly agreed to pay off union representatives to prevent strikes and then Schenck lied about it before a grand jury. Schenck was also cited with tax evasion. He received a one year sentence, serving four months.  A few years later, President Truman would issue Schenck a pardon, and Schenck went back to work at the studio. But his career in large part was over.

Screen%2Bshot%2B2016-01-17%2Bat%2B10.19.

Another career was ending around this time. Greta Garbo's last film, TWO-FACED WOMEN, had weathered a storm of controversy due to the Legion of Decency's objections about its content. MGM withdrew the title and made some edits to appease censors, then reissued it. But the damage had been done. Bad word of mouth destroyed its chances at the box office, and Garbo-- distressed by the whole ordeal-- decided she was done making movies. Though MGM and other studios tried to entice her back before the cameras in subsequent years, she declined all offers of a comeback. She tried to live the rest of her life in relative obscurity, though she was not always able to maintain a low profile due to the nature of her celebrity. The abruptness of her departure from screens only added to the mystery that surrounded her.

Screen%2Bshot%2B2016-01-17%2Bat%2B10.24.

Meanwhile, the movies rolled on, but the industry was changing. One of these changes was the fact studios were now restricted by the government to control theatre chains. Also, as war approached American shores, overseas markets had begun to close, preventing the international distribution of Hollywood product. One outside market that still remained open was the South American one, and in order to maintain profitability in Brazil and other South American countries, studios concocted Latin-themed musical comedies. This meant that someone like Carmen Miranda, who had proven successful on Broadway and was incredibly popular in Brazil, was offered a contract by 20th Century Fox. And when war was declared in December, the flamboyant actress and her brand of entertainment proved a welcome diversion from violent unpleasantness that now engulfed America.

  • Like 2

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

1942

A discussion about this year in cinematic history would be severely compromised if no mention were made of 1942’s timeless classic CASABLANCA. The film went through various stages to wind up as it did. Initially, the roles played by Humphrey Bogart and Ingrid Bergman were intended for Ronald Reagan and Ann Sheridan, who had just scored a hit for Warners with KINGS ROW. The part eventually played by Paul Henreid was to have been cast with Dennis Morgan. So that gives an idea of how much different the film could have turned out.

Screen%2Bshot%2B2016-01-23%2Bat%2B3.54.3

The principle casting of the film had changed, because the country was now at war. Specifically, this meant Ronald Reagan and other leading men would soon be going off to military service. And so when Michael Curtiz was assigned to direct, he went ahead and cast Bogart who was physically unfit for the armed services. Curtiz also peopled the cast with foreign actors. Script revisions occurred until the last days of filming, but a masterpiece was made. It also had the good fortune of being released just as American forces captured Casablanca.

Screen%2Bshot%2B2016-01-23%2Bat%2B3.56.4

At first, studio moguls tried to ensure that members of the film industry be classified as exempt from military duty. However, when rumblings got out about this, public resistance started to grow. The Screen Actors became involved in the ensuing controversy and insisted that Hollywood face its responsibility. Members of SAG were advised to drop the glamour image they usually projected, and to show the public they were in support of the war effort and rationing.  Stars who were medically prevented from serving were encouraged to get involved with volunteer work that would show guild members as still being supportive. These activities included assisting the Red Cross, participating at bond rallies, and boosting morale by appearing at service personnel clubs, which became the basis for the various stage and film-sponsored canteens.

imgres.jpg

Some Hollywood stars lost their lives as a result of their direct involvement in the war. Actress Carole Lombard was killed in mid-January when a plane she took crashed in Nevada. She had just raised around $2 million dollars for the war effort at a fundraising event in her home state, Indiana. There were 15 servicemen on the plane, along with a press agent and Lombard’s mother; unfortunately, all of them perished. Lombard’s last film, TO BE OR NOT TO BE, was released a month later. What would have been her next film role in Columbia’s THEY ALL KISSED THE BRIDE, was taken over by Joan Crawford. And Crawford donated the salary to the Red Cross in Lombard’s memory.

imgres-1.jpg

Meanwhile, Phillips Holmes, who starred in AN AMERICAN TRAGEDY ten years earlier, had been one of the first actors to join the military when war broke out. He was killed flying a plane in Canada as part of the Royal Canadian Air Force. It went down in August.

Screen%2Bshot%2B2016-01-23%2Bat%2B4.15.3

During 1942, the content of movies changed to reflect the war effort. The usual escapist entertainment was turned into films that were designed to reinforce morale. More importantly, anti-Nazi and anti-Fascist stories were being rushed into production. One important example was MGM's KEEPER OF THE FLAME. In the story, Katharine Hepburn plays the wife of a murdered civic leader who was a Fascist.

images.jpg

As movie production continued in Hollywood, the reality of war affected screenings at home town theaters across America. Some showings were now interrupted by blackouts and air raid practices.

  • Like 1

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Then again, Ronnie Reagan had an eyesight issue that kept him close to home like Bogie (although he still "served" to a degree). Of course, we all question if CASABLANCA would be viewed the same if HE was in it.

 

That film is what would later be termed a "sleeper". Although shown in New York in November, it wasn't widely released until January and I often wonder if the studio purposely didn't enter it in the Oscar race because they had enough other candidates such like KINGS ROW, YANKEE DOODLE DANDY and NOW VOYAGER in the mix. 1943 was a lesser year than '42, so that may be why this one was "held over" for Best Picture... and they really pumped up the "acclaim" for WATCH ON THE RHINE that year... perhaps too much so.

  • Like 1

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Join the conversation

You can post now and register later. If you have an account, sign in now to post with your account.

Guest
Reply to this topic...

×   Pasted as rich text.   Paste as plain text instead

  Only 75 emoji are allowed.

×   Your link has been automatically embedded.   Display as a link instead

×   Your previous content has been restored.   Clear editor

×   You cannot paste images directly. Upload or insert images from URL.


© 2020 Turner Classic Movies Inc. A Time Warner Company. All Rights Reserved Terms of Use | Privacy Policy
×
×
  • Create New...