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Help Me Organize


Gerb
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Okay, I see there's a lot of smarties on here, so maybe ya'll can offer me some advice or steer me in the right direction. Bear with me, this may be a bit lengthy. I'm trying to organize my film collection by production company and distribution company in an Excel file with seperate worksheets for each company. That way I can have a check list for each studio for which films I have and which ones I'm missing. To my dismay, this has become a Herculean labor. I've used countless written sources and websites, but there's always discrepancies. This leads me to question how much of the info. is actually correct. So far, the TCM Database (of course) has been by far the best tool for getting both production and distribution company names as well as release dates (which is also of the essence), but there are still minor glitches (i.e. no mention of William Randolph Hearst's Cosmopolitan Productions, which had a hand in several MGM and Warners releases). Also, and this is my biggest problem, where do I divide Warner Bros. and First National releases. Even though Warners took full control of the company in 1929, many films were still produced and distributed as First National films (i.e. Fog Over Frisco (1934) and Happiness Ahead (1934)) with no sign of a WB logo. Instead, they bear the First National logo (North America icon). It would be historically inaccurate for me to label them as simply WB. And, it gets worse! Take While the Patient Slept (1935) and The Goose and the Gander (1935) for example. Both, open with the WB logo and then cut to the title card which states: Warner Bros. Pictures and the Vitaphone Corp. Present...MOVIE TITLE...A First National Picture. Now, to me, that would be a First National produced/Warner Bros. distributed movie, but TCM lists the former as solely First National and the latter as solely WB. Can anyone straighten me out on this or point me to alternative sources? I know this is a minor detail, but if you're a perfectionist, as I am, it would bug you to. Thanks for making it to the bottom of this message, and thanks in advance for any advice or help ya'll might offer.

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Wow! You do like to make things complicated, but welcome to the forum anyway. Once First National became part of Warner Bros. it no longer existed as a distributor or a production company so Warner Bros. would be correct. Vitaphone was the company that made the sound equipment that Warners used to make the early talkies and since they didn't produce the films, again Warner Bros. would be correct. It would be the same thing with CinemaScope which was just the name of the process a film was shot in. So, for example, Fox's "The Robe" would be filed under 20th Century-Fox and not CinemaScope. Yes, 20th Century and Fox merged to become 20th Century-Fox so it's just like the Warner deal.

 

You'll find another instance like this with Universal. They bought out International Pictures and thus became Universal-International. U-I continued that way for many years and I believe it was the late 1960s or early 1970s that they went back to just calling themselves Universal.

 

Well, if you really want organize you're collection in this way, more power to you. As for me I go strictly by title in alphabetical order. Have fun.

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Warner's continued to assign identification of various films to "Warner Bros.," "Vitaphone" and "First National" depending, in general, on what kind of movie it was, and how important it was for years after they acquired the First National Studio facility in Burbank in 1929 and moved most of their filmmaking activities there. The First National imprint ("A Warner Bros.-First National Picture") lasted well into the 1940s.

 

Warner's actually sold off the First National name in 2002. The company that purchased it in turn sold it to a production company that plans to resurrect the name as a going concern.

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Thanks for the help! As I originally intended, I'll probably just lob them all under Warner Bros. It was the many sources I consulted that stirred me into the split. The Warner Bros. Story (a book) makes the distinction between the two, but never with complete accuracy. Nor is the filmography 100% complete. A really handy site (and one worth a look if you haven't already discovered it) is vitaphone.org. It breaks down each studio and lists the films as either silent, synchronized sound, part-talkie or talkie. He even labels which films are lost and which ones he owns the only surviving copy of! The problem is, he only covers pre-1936. So, it was from these two sources that I became anxious to learn more about the difference. And, it's never a chore researching (even if it does become frustrating at times) because I always learn something new. That's what matters most. I want to learn all I can about old movies, and a challenge like this really helps me learn a lot.

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Thanks to you as well! I read somewhere that Warners continued to use First National as a separate releasing identity because of the big monopoly battles at the end of the 20s. I don't remember all the details, but it was something about Paramount's quest to buy everything and Fox's secret attempt to buy Loews (MGM). Does any of that ring a bell to you or can you confirm it? I read it on someone's website (and I don't remember the one), but it is never mentioned in any of my Warners books.

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In 1929 William Fox (real name: Wilhelm F?chs) made a secret pact with Nicholas Schenck, chairman of Loew's, to buy controlling interest in Loew's and its subsidiary, MGM. When Louis B. Mayer got wind of what he saw as a total betrayal of him by Schenck (whom he despised in any case), he appealed to his friend, Pres. Herbert Hoover, to ask that the Justice Dept. derail the takeover.

 

Shortly after Fox had acquired the Loew's shares, the Stock Market suffered its infamous Black Tuesday crash (10/29/1929). Fox had bought most of the stock on margin, meaning that he'd only put up a small percentage of the stock's value in cash, and had his margins called, which required additional cash payments to Loew's shareholders to keep the shares he controlled from being repossessed. While scrambling to borrow enough money to prevent loss of the stock, Fox was involved in a serious car accident, which laid him up for months.

 

He was unable to meet the margin call, and lost everything, dying relatively poor and in obscurity.

 

He was only able to get as far as he did because there was no federal Securities and Exchange Commission, whoch would never let anyone or company try to consolodate an industry to the extent that Fox would have, had he succeeded. Warner's and Paramount weren't involved in any of these machinations, but they would've had a very difficult time competing in an industry so heavily dominated by a Fox-Loew's combine.

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