1800
Before there was a Hollywood, Metro was a struggling film distribution company; Goldwyn was a glove salesman named Sam Goldfish; Mayer was a guy named Louis, who owned two small-town movie theaters: one known as the Garlic Box and one (a little nicer) with a big oil painting of a lion in the lobby; and none of them were anywhere near California. Hollywood East tells the story of how the movies evolved as a business - a business controlled from the Eastern seaboard. As Diana Altman notes, "Hollywood was a pretty face but New York was the heart and lungs". How did the business of movies grow? Who were the men who made it grow? Where did all the innovations - technical and business - come from? What innovative twists did mobsters Al Capone and Willie Bioff add? Most film historians concentrate on the Hollywood studios and treat the New York side as an unimportant annoyance to the creative geniuses of Hollywood. In fact, New York ran the whole show, and the geniuses were merely employees as far as New York was concerned. And artistic innovations weren't limited to the West Coast either. Many of the elements of film art and technology were developed in the East. The star system itself was an eastern innovation. James Stewart, Joan Crawford, Ava Gardner, Franchot Tone, Bob Hope, Henry Fonda, and many, many other stars got their start in a Fifty-fourth Street Manhattan studio where the screen test was invented. Hollywood East is the story of Louis B. Mayer from his days as a film exhibitor through his stewardship as studio head at Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer, through his bitter battles with Nicholas Schenck and Dore Schary, his dismissal from the company bearing his name, and the proxy fight to regaincontrol. It is the story of the individual men who created what was referred to in the forties as "the nation's fifth largest industry". It is the story of William Fox, who at one time had ambitions of controlling the entire film production industry and had a net worth of $100 million before the stock market crashed and he was sent to prison for bribing a judge in his bankruptcy proceedings. Fox died almost penniless. It is the story of Marcus Loew, the benevolent ruler of the country's largest theater chain as well as the Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer studios. It is the story of Adolph Zukor, Jesse Lasky, Samuel Goldwyn, Cecil B. DeMille, and the other giants of the twenties. When movies first took hold of the public imagination, the filmmakers believed that the story lines and the skill with which they were told were of paramount importance. But they soon discovered that star personalities were the attraction that enticed customers. Mary Pickford was the first major star, but others were quickly developed: Theda Bara, the v& Clara Kimball Young, the woman of the world; and Anita Stewart, the girl next door. Zukor attempted to finesse them all by making a feature with Sarah Bernhardt, the queen of stage drama. It's all here: how the stars emerged, how the public relations mills did their jobs. And the book explains how the moguls always put aside their rivalries when they were threatened by adverse publicity. Many of the photographs in the book are from the one-of-a-kind collection of the author's father.
Hollywood East: Louis B. Mayer and the Origins of the Studio System by Diana Altman
1800

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