Hollywood Studio System Hollywood not just a location but a set of industrial and artistic practices that have dominated film production. Not only in North America but globally.
Why Hollywood? Climate and natural light? - Yes but also the relatively short distance from Mexican border, handy for escaping Edison’s agents. Primitive cinema marked by patent wars, litigation. Main players: Thomas Edison and The Biograph Company
France was leading film producer in early years; Germany, Italy, UK also important. But World War One changed that – from 1916 USA became the world leader in film production and has remained that way until present.
India has more films produced and bigger audience: USA greatest value
Pioneers (1) Thomas Ince • 1911 – Introduces assembly line production • Separation of planning and Production. • A minute division of labour in film making factories – departments with separate functions. • Bureaucratic pyramid – “central producer system”. Producers supervised everything – gave jobs out etc.
Pioneers (2) D.W Griffiths • Worked with Biograph Pictures • Famous for huge extravaganzas • Required large sets, casts, costumes etc • Management Labour Division • Team work and specialist areas • Studio Factories. Biograph first company to make film in Hollywood “In Old California” (1910)
Pioneers (3) Max Sennet Ince and Griffiths partnered with Sennet in 1915 to form Triangle Motion Picture Company. (Griffiths parted from Biograph as they had little faith in the future of feature film) Sennet “the King of Comedy” The innovator of slapstick.
Pioneers cont In 1915 Griffiths produced and directed “The Clansman” (later called “The Birth of a Nation”) which was one of the most innovative of American films. Set during and after the American Civil War, noted for its innovative technical and narrative achievements, its status as the first Hollywood “blockbuster”. However, provoked great controversy for its treatment of white supremacy and sympathetic account of the rise of the Ku Klux Klan.
In 1919, founded United Artists (one of the “Little Three” studios) together with: Douglas Fairbanks Mary Pickford Charles Chaplin But Griffith’s association with UA didn’t last long.
The Studio System In the 1920s ‘motion pictures’ became the most popular form of entertainment and leisure activity in America. As Wall Street invested heavily in film, five major Hollywood studios and three smaller ones consolidated power to dominate the world market.
The Three Elements • Production – The making of the films • Distribution – The network that brought the films to the public – promotion, run times • Exhibition – The “Big Five” initially owned their own theatres
The Development – 1920s • The main film companies move from East Coast to Hollywood • Self-Regulation and Production Codes • “industrialisation” of production
Introduction of Sound Al Jolson The Jazz Singer, 1927 The consolidation of sound ushered in “classic” period (aka “Golden Age”) of Hollywood Roughly 1930-1950
Financing Hollywood during its Golden Age between the years of 1927 – 1948 operated a mode of production called the studio system. The studio system was an early form of “vertical integration” i.e. All stages of production including screenplays, financing, production, post production, distribution and exhibition were owned and controlled by the studios to maximise their profits.
Distribution & Exhibition Affiliated cinema chains ranged from 200- to 1500 “theatres” in size – accounting for 20% of total US cinemas. However – these cinemas accounted for 80% of 1st run houses and the most profitable subsequent run houses (generally located in major metropolitan areas). Thus – these cinemas accounted for 50% – 80% of the Box Office in any given market
Distribution & Exhibition The only means of distribution and exhibiting a film was through theatrical release (cinema exhibition) The Big Five showcased their best films in studio-owned picture palaces To gain access to the most popular films, small local cinemas had to buy exclusive-run deals from the studio This block booking meant studios could push out the competition
Exhibition Only in largest cities did majors’ theatres compete directly. Elsewhere they pooled their product for nationwide distribution. Thus one company’s hit benefited all theatres. Production and distribution were only important to the extent they enabled the majors to maintain favoured status in exhibition
Distribution & Exhibition The Majors owned substantial theatre (cinema) chains The Majors raised the cash to acquire these chains through the public sale of bonds and stocks pre 1929 taking on long term debt This is reflected in presence of investment bankers, businessmen etc. on Motion Picture Company
Distribution & Exhibition Therefore: “…The production of films, essentially fluid and experimental as a process, is harnessed to a form of organisation which can rarely afford to be either experimental or speculative because of the regularity with which heavy fixed changes (debt) must be made.” Economic Control of the Motion Picture Industry”, Moe Huettig (1944)
Production Practice • The Hollywood studio system of film-making to type as genres with stars in the leading roles standardised the filmmaking process • All film personnel from director to creative, technical crew to actors were employees of the studio • e.g. actors had a standard 7 year contract; could be fined for refusing a part; could be loaned out to another studio without their consent
Production Practice Each studio had a uniform style and specialised in a particular genre Exceptions to the rules were directors such as Alfred Hitchcock, John Ford and Orson Welles who fought to work within the system and establish their own styles
The studios “The Big Five” + “Little Three” = “The Majors”
Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer (MGM) Established in 1924 from parent company Loew’s Inc (owner of many cinemas) Leader in stars and glamour - Gone with the Wind and The Wizard of Oz (both 1939) Hired top talent directors such as King Vidor, Clarence Brown, Erich von Stroheim, Tod Browning. Stars included Clark Gable, Jean Harlow, Robert Montgomery, Myrna Loy, Jeanette MacDonald, Nelson Eddy, Judy Garland and Spencer Tracey
Paramount Established as distribution company in 1914; acquired by Zukor in 1917, who merges it with his production company First “vertically integrated” company Stars included: Marlene Dietrich, Mary Pickford, Bing Cosby, Mae West, Gary Cooper, Claudette Colbert, the Marx Brothers, Dorothy Lamour, Carole Lombard, Bob Hope, Alan Ladd, Veronica Lake, Paulette Goddard
Fox (Later 20th Century Fox) • Established in 1913 by William Fox • Known for musicals, westerns and bipics • During WW2, was third most profitable studio • Directors included John Ford • Stars included: Shirley Temple, Marlon Brando, Marilyn Monroe, Spencer Tracy, Betty Grable
Warner Brothers Established in 1924 by Harry, Jack and Albert Warner 1st Sound film – The Jazz Singer (1927) – profits allowed WB to acquire theatre chain and graduate from poverty row to major status Musicals, gangster films Stars included: Bette Davis, James Cagney, Joan Blondell, Edward G Robinson, Warner William and Barbara Stanwyck
RKO Unit production – contracting to directors. Gave Orson Welles – then a man of the theatre and radio, never having made a film – complete control- unprecedented for Hollywood Studios – to direct and star in Citizen Kane (1941) Born from merger in 1928 Stars included: Lucille Ball, Fay Wray, Cary Grant and Katherine Hepburn King Kong, Bringing Up Baby
The Little Three The Big Five dominated the market but how do we account for the success of the “Little Three” – Universal, Columbia and UA – with very few cinemas? Answer – No one studio had the capacity to produce sufficient films to hill its subsequent run theatres which needed up to 300 films per annum. The little three filled this gap. Columbia and Universal also made many B-pics for the low end of the market. UA was purely a distributor for small groups of elite independent producers.
United Artists Founded by silent film stars Mary Pickford and Douglas Fairbanks in 1919 – married in 1920 and produced films at their studio on Santa Monica Boulevard in Hollywood. Charles Chaplin and DW Griffiths (briefly) became involved, each of 4 owning 20% state Functioned primarily as a backer-distributor, loaning money to independent producers and releasing their films Now part of MGM
Columbia Founded in 1919 by brothers Jack and Harry Cohn and Joe Brandt Released its first feature film in August 1922. it adopted the Columbia Pictures name in 1924 and went public two years later. Columbia began to grow in the late 1920s, spurred by a successful association with director Frank Capra. Became one of the primary homes of the “screwball comedy”. Major contract stars: Jean Arthur and Cary Grant (shared with RKO Pictures). In the 1940s Rosalind Russell, Rita Hayworth, Glenn Ford and William Holden Now part of Columbia Tri-Star (owned by Sony)
Universal Founded by, Carl Laemmle, second oldest Hollywood studio. In 30s/40s, largely run by Irving Thalberg but lured to MGM, leading to downturn in Universal’s fortunes Sought an audience mostly in small towns, producing mostly inexpensive melodramas, westerns and serials Films include All Quiet on the Western Front and Imitation of Life. Created a successful niche with long-running series of monster films, inc. Frankenstein, Dracula, and The Mummy.
The Star System • Essential element of studio system • The star system allowed the Hollywood studios to “manufacture” the success of young actors and new films. One of the key means studio used to attract audiences • Studios would select promising young actors and create personas for them, often inventing new names and even new backgrounds. • Studios and stars began to specialise in particular styles, genres and roles.
The Star System • In early years of the cinema, performers not identified in films. Two main reasons: • Stage performers embarrassed to be in film. Silent film was only considered pantomime, only a step above carnivals and freak shows, and actors afraid that appearing in films would ruin their reputation. • Producers feared that actors would gain more prestige and power and demand more money.
The Star System Main catalyst for change – public’s desire to know the actors’ names. Film audiences repeatedly recognised certain performers that they liked. Not knowing performers’ names they gave them nicknames (such as “the Biography Girl”, Florence Lawrence, who was featured in Biography films). Florence Lawrence (1886-1938)
The Star System Relatively unknown actors would be groomed for stardom, given new names, personas and lifestyles that would create positive publicity for the industry. In return, actors were subject to restrictive contracts of up to seven years, with relatively small salaries and few holidays between films James Stewart and Cary Grant were two of the very few to be independent of studios Star system part of the process which allowed each studio to put out more than 500 films a year.
The Star System Humphrey Bogart (1889-1956) Trade Mark Typically played smart, playful, courageous, tough, occasionally reckless characters who lived in a corrupt world, anchored by a hidden moral code. Almost always played a hard-boiled cynic who ultimately shows his noble side. Low-key, distinctive nasal voice. Often wore bow ties. Roles in film noirs. Made 77 films from 1928- 1956
The Star System Fred Astaire (1899-1987) Trade Mark Top Hat and Tails. His dancing 49 films from 1933-1981 Birth Name Frederic Austerlitz Jr.
The Star System Birth Name James Francis Cagney Trade Mark Famous for his gangster roles he played in the 1930s and 1940s (which made his only Oscar win as the musical composer/dancer/actor George M.Cohan most ironic). Made 66 films from 1930-1984 James Cagney (1899-1986)
The Star System His family moved to Hollywood in 1931, and Tracy made 16 films in three years. In 1935 he signed with MGM. He became the first actor to win back-to-back Oscars. A few weeks after completion of Guess Who’s Coming to Dinner (1967), during which he suffered from lung congestion, he died of a heart attack. Made 78 films from 1930 - 1967 Spencer Tracy (1900-1967)
The Star System Birth Name William Clark Gable Trade Mark Pencil thin moustache that hugged his upper lip Often played a virile, lovable rogue whose gruff facade only thinly masked a natural charm and goodness. Distinctive, powerful voice. 81 films from 1923-1961 Clark Gable (1901-1960)
The Star System Cary Grant 1904-1986 Birth Name Archibald Alexander Leach Trade Mark Mid-Atlantic accent. Often played a handsome bachelor. Roles in romantic comedies. Once told by an interviewer, "Everybody would like to be Cary Grant," Grant is said to have replied, "So would I." Made 73 films from 1932 -1966
The Star System Joan Crawford 1905-1977 Birth Name Lucille Fay LeSueur She was so dedicated to her fans that she always personally responded to her fan mail by typing them responses on blue paper and autographing it. A great deal of her spare time and weekends were spent doing this. After her friend Steven Spielberg hit it big, Joan sent him periodic notes of congratulations. The last one came two weeks before her death. Made 102 films or TV appearances from 1925-1972
The Star System Rita Hayworth (1918-1987) Birth Name Margarita Carmen Cansino Ranked #98 in Empire (UK) magazine's "The Top 100 Movie Stars of All Time" list. [October 1997] Made 66 films from 1926 - 1972
The Star System John Wayne 1907-1979 Birth Name Marion Robert Morrison Trade Mark Westerns. Slow talk and deep voice. War movies. Made 171 films from 1926 -1976
The Star System Katherine Hepburn 1907-2003 Birth Name Katharine Houghton Hepburn Trade Mark Playing strong independent women with minds of their own. Often wore slacks instead of dresses, decades before it became fashionable for women to do so Distinctive way of speaking, with what many say is a "Bryn Mawr" accent. Made 52 films from 1932-1994
The Star System James “Jimmy” Stewart 1908-1997 Birth Name James Maitland Stewart Trade Mark Soft-spoken, extremely polite and shy manner, with a very recognizable drawl in his voice. Often played honest, average middle class individuals who are unwittingly drawn into some kind of crisis. Roles in westerns. After 1950 he often played tough, cynical and frequently ruthless characters. Made 99 films from 1934-1991
The Star System Bette Davis 1908-1989 Birth Name Ruth Elizabeth Davis Salary Wicked Stepmother $250,000 Right of Way (1983) $250,000 Hush...Hush, Sweet Charlotte (1964)$200,000 Where Love Has Gone $125,000 What Ever Happened to Baby Jane? (1962)$60,000 + 5% of the net profits. All About Eve (1950)$130,000 Juarez (1939)$4,000/week Dark Victory (1939)$3,500/week Made 121 films from 1931-1989
The Star System Birth Name Virginia Katherine McMath Made 89 film and television appearances from 1929 - 1987 Trade Mark Often starred with Fred Astaire Ginger Rogers (1911-1995)
The Star System Gene Kelly (1912-1996) Birth Name Eugene Curran Kelly Trade Mark Known for his innovative, athletic style of dancing “If Fred Astaire is the Cary Grant of dance, I'm the Marlon Brando.” Made 49 films from 1942-1987