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1. Peepshow Pioneers (1889-1907)

Audiences were watching projected images as early as the 18 th century. But the pictures were drawings, and they didn’t
move. That would come in the 1880s.

The first movie pioneers were self-taught engineers and tinkerers, itinerate entertainers and street-smart showmen. The first
film producer was probably the man known as “The Wizard of Menlo Park,” Thomas Edison. He perfected a machine that
created pictures that moved, although much of the credit belongs to his assistant, W.K.L. Dickson, the industry’s first

From the beginning, American movies were special, but they were influenced by breakthroughs overseas. From France, the
brothers Lumiere, owners of a family photography lab, brought scenes of everyday life to the screen, while an ingenious
magician, George Melies, created special visual effects that still have the power to amaze.

In America, early moviegoers were astonished and amused by almost anything that moved – from vaudeville acts and boxing
matches to three-minute gag reels. After a series of odd jobs, ambitious Edwin S. Porter found motion pictures in the early
1890s. While working for Edison, Porter was soon shooting and selling his own. Porter would create one of the first movies
with a story, The Great Train Robbery.

At the turn of the 19th century, while the movies were being born, America was experiencing a burst of technological
ingenuity. The country’s social fabric was being transformed by millions of new immigrants. The newcomers arrived with
dreams, and many came with the will and imagination to make those dreams come true. The first generation of American
moviemakers joined with other innovators and entrepreneurs to create a totally new kind of entertainment and an art form that
would transform the world.

Adolph Zukor, once a successful furrier, joined with Marcus Loew in 1905 to establish a string of “penny arcades.” Zukor
would eventually found Paramount Pictures, and Loew would create a major theater chain. Carl Laemmle, the future
founder of Universal Pictures, was another immigrant entrepreneur who saw promise in making a penny or nickel at a time.
The Warner family settled in Youngstown, Ohio. Four brothers – Harry, Albert, Sam and Jack – started their movie careers
as itinerate showmen, screening movies from town to town. From Hungary came William Fox, who was raised in poverty
but found movies a path to success. Louis B. Mayer was the son of an immigrant junk dealer who, like other founding
moguls, began as a theater owner.

New York quickly became a business and distribution center, but the first “Hollywood” was in Ft. Lee, N.J. Here, the first
great American film director, D.W. Griffith, learned his trade and began to develop the foundations of motion picture

The popularity of movies was unprecedented, and so was the profit potential. Realizing this, Edison joined a group of
investors and equipment manufacturers, including Eastman Kodak, to corner the market. They established the Motion
Picture Patents Company and demanded royalties from anyone who made movies. The pressures of the trust forced
independents to look elsewhere, to the far-reaches of Los Angeles, with the safety of the Mexican border a short distance
away. An unlikely southern California hamlet was about to become the world famous capital of motion pictures.

2. The Birth of Hollywood (1907-1920)

The U.S. Supreme Court eventually declared the motion picture trust an illegal monopoly but, by then, movie production was
firmly established in Los Angeles and the semi-rural suburb of Hollywood. The earliest studios emerged from sites as
diverse as a former downtown Chinese laundry to barns and open farmland.
Early movies were short, at 10 to 20 minutes, but Adolph Zukor saw the promise in longer films. Inspired by the theater, he
conceived of a company based on “Famous Players in Famous Plays” and made longer movies with higher ticket prices,
setting a new standard.

In 1913, Jesse Lasky, a musician and successful vaudeville producer, created a partnership with his brother-in-law Samuel
Goldfish (better known by the name he adopted later, Goldwyn), a glove-maker, and Cecil B. DeMille, an actor and theater
manager. The three formed a company and started making movies. In California, their first production was The Squaw Man,
a successful Broadway play. It became one of the movie-capital-to-be’s first, feature-length productions.

At the same time, the movies were developing distinctive kinds of stories. Animation was one of the earliest, led by
newspaper cartoonist Winsor McCay. Comedies were always popular. The streets of the city were regularly turned into
makeshift locations, where Mack Sennett’s Keystone Kops careened and damsels in distress awaited a last minute rescue.
Comely Mable Normand was the first great screen comedienne. Rotund Roscoe “Fatty” Arbuckle was another pioneering
comedy star. In 1913, Sennett made his most famous discovery: a minor English music hall performer, Charlie Chaplin. In
a few short years, Chaplin was the most famous and highest paid actor in the world.

The long-lasting appeal of westerns was established by 1910 with the adventures of G.M. “Broncho Billy” Anderson,
square-jawed William S. Hart and dashing Tom Mix, who captivated a growing movie audience that was eager for fresh

While the motion picture business was being born, so was a new kind of model for industrial production: the assembly line.
The pioneering moguls took the mass production model to heart and built facilities to handle all aspects of movie production.
They called them studios, but they were really factories for manufacturing dreams. Producer Thomas Ince built one of the
earliest dream factories near the beach at Santa Monica. In 1915, Carl Laemmle topped Ince by constructing an entire town
in the San Fernando Valley dedicated to motion picture production. It was called Universal City.

Although Hollywood was emerging as a movie capital, Ft. Lee, N.J., was still churning out pictures, many of them low-
budget serials shot on the cliffs of the Palisades, overlooking the Hudson River. Literally “cliffhangers,” these episodic
adventures often featured female stars like Pearl White. They were an inspiration to a new generation of women looking for
freedom and independence.

Behind the cameras, women also played major roles during the early days of movie making. French-born Alice Guy-Blache
was directing as early as 1896, and she owned a Ft. Lee studio in the early teens. Lois Weber was a successful director at
Universal, and Frances Marion was one of Hollywood’s most prolific and influential screenwriters.

When Francis Marion joined with Mary Pickford, motion picture history was made, and the foundations of the star system
were laid. With the help of Marion’s scripts, Pickford became one of the most famous women in the world. Soon, stars were
demanding fortunes for their work. Charlie Chaplin commanded $125,000 a picture during a time when the average
American schoolteacher took home $1,000 a year.

Like all the founding moguls, Samuel Goldfish was tough and determined, and he knew an opportunity when he saw it. But
he wasn’t a man who worked well with others. He formed a partnership with two producers from the theater, the Selwyn
brothers, and created a company that combined syllables from their names – Goldwyn Productions. Goldfish also took the
name for himself, becoming Samuel Goldwyn.

As the early movie moguls were building the movie business, D.W. Griffith was leading the way in refining and expanding
motion picture storytelling. The Birth of a Nation was a major landmark and a startling indication of the power of the new
medium. Its racist imagery resulted in protests but, for the vast majority of Americans, the movie was an enormous hit.
President Woodrow Wilson called it “history written with lightning.”

As a New England theater owner, the profits from showing The Birth of a Nation allowed Louis B. Mayer to move from
exhibition to production. He set up his new company on the site of a former zoo on the east side of Los Angeles. He joined
other fledgling companies, all eager to profit from the motion picture boom.

Theater owners like Marcus Loew were building the first picture palaces, and D.W. Griffith challenged audiences with
complex epics like Intolerance. But audiences were looking more for entertainment and new stars. William Fox turned the
daughter of a Cincinnati tailor into exotic Theda Bara, the Vamp, and one of Hollywood’s first sex symbols. Less
mysterious, Douglas Fairbanks represented a generation ready for action and eager to climb the ladder of success.
Although most in the industry preferred to project positive images, there were filmmakers in the teens that didn’t hesitate to
deal in controversy to push social reform or to sell tickets. Such “message movies” would be a small but persistent staple of
motion pictures for decades to come. Thomas Ince tried to sell a peace message as World War I raged in Europe. When the
United States entered the conflict, Hollywood joined, and often led, the patriotic parade. Movie stars raised billions in war
bonds, and the moguls hoped their efforts would stave off criticism of their business and threats of government censorship.

With the end of the war, America and its allies emerged victorious. With the European economy and film production in
shambles, it was also a victory for Hollywood. American movies soon dominated national and international markets, and the
nation’s moguls and movie stars were poised for a golden era of art and profit.

3. The Dream Merchants (1920-1928)

By the 1920s, making movies was the fifth biggest business in America and about to become bigger. In 1921, Hollywood
studios enjoyed a record year, producing 854 features. By 1922, nearly 40 percent of Americans went to a picture show
every week.

The 1920s saw the first flowering of the major studios that would dominate the business for decades. Each was headed by
strong-willed leaders, many of whom were little more than small-time entrepreneurs just years before.

One early movie mogul came from a very different background. William Randolph Hearst inherited a mining fortune and
turned his profits into a newspaper empire. By the 1920s, he’d added movies to his media portfolio and mixed business with
pleasure with a lifelong love affair with actress Marion Davies. Hearst’s studios produced movies, while his newspapers
provided the publicity that Hollywood needed. The moguls were careful to keep on his good side.

The 1920s also marked the first great era of mass-market fame, with movie stars at the heart of a celebrity-infused society.
One of the greatest stars of the period was Rudolph Valentino. Valentino tangoed his way to the top of Hollywood in The
Four Horseman of the Apocalypse. As a male sex symbol, he was the center of an industry that was pushing boundaries of
propriety, a heritage of Hollywood’s peepshow past.

Despite their humble beginnings, it was clear that Hollywood movies were more than simple entertainment. They were
setting standards in fashion and everyday attitudes and behavior. If the era was called the Roaring ’20s, it was also a time of
moral backlash. Prohibition attempted to bring sobriety to the party, and morality watchdogs were angered and concerned by
what they saw on screen. Their worst fears seemed to be confirmed when comedian Roscoe “Fatty” Arbuckle was accused of
raping a young starlet during a boozy San Francisco party. The press, led by William Randolph Hearst, convicted Arbuckle
well before the jury in a third trial pronounced him innocent.

Another scandal surrounding the unsolved murder of director William Desmond Taylor tarnished the images of fun-loving
Mabel Normand and virginal-looking Mary Miles Minter. Hollywood responded to growing calls for censorship by
establishing their own arbiter of good taste, Will Hays. Hays established a list of do’s and don’ts. Hollywood filmmakers,
especially Cecil B. DeMille with his biblical epics, promised to be good, even though they found ways to mix sin and
salvation to keep audiences interested, with a minimum of offense to high moral standards.

As moguls and their all-inclusive studio system grew more powerful, their control over all aspects of the business – from
story creation, production, distribution and exhibition – increased. Of all the great studios of the 1920s, MGM was known as
“the class act,” under the leadership of Louis B. Mayer and “boy wonder” producer Irving Thalberg. Even in his 20s,
Thalberg’s taste, story sense and executive skills made him widely admired. Though plagued by poor health, that didn’t stop
the young studio chief from taking on independent and imperious director Erich von Stroheim – and firmly putting himself,
the producer, in charge.

Audiences went to see stars, not studios. But without studios, there could be no stars. It was a source of a conflict that runs
through the history of Hollywood. To maintain control over their work – and the profits from their pictures – Charlie Chaplin,
Mary Pickford, Douglas Fairbanks and D.W. Griffith formed a new distribution company, United Artists, in 1919. But the
moguls and their studio monopolies were hard to break.

Even so, stars like Chaplin thrived, and a new generation of comic icons emerged with individual styles and audience appeal.
If Mack Sennett started the laughter, Hal Roach, a former faro dealer and Yukon gold prospector, kept it going when he
established a studio and hired his friend Harold Lloyd as his first star. Unlike the exaggerated humor of the Sennett studios,
Lloyd was an everyman with a pair of glasses as his trademark. An expressionless face personified Buster Keaton’s
intricate brand of physical humor. The silent comedy of Chaplin, Lloyd and Keaton set standards that are still emulated, and
rarely topped, today.
By the 1920s, motion pictures had created a world of their own in the imaginations of millions of theatergoers. Movie
fantasy and real life came together with the unexpected death of Rudolph Valentino in 1926. The outpouring of public grief
was greater than that for the passing of U.S. President Warren G. Harding three years before.

The pervasive power and influence of the movies began to attract financiers as well as showmen. One of the most successful
was Joseph P. Kennedy, father of a future president and two distinguished U.S. senators. Joe Kennedy helped forge the
future of the movie business with mergers, focusing Hollywood power and East Coast money. With radio magnate David
Sarnoff and other investors, he formed RKO from a consortium of theater, radio and motion picture interests. An affair with
superstar Gloria Swanson also gave him a more intimate view of the business, but not enough savvy to avoid a chastening
experience as a producer of Queen Kelley, a disastrous Swanson film, directed by ever over-reaching Erich von Stroheim.

The founding moguls may not have been sophisticated financiers like Joseph Kennedy, but they had the gut instincts of
showmen. One of Louis B. Mayer’s most successful finds was Greta Garbo, perhaps the most luminous star of the 1920s
and ’30s. Clara Bow was another studio discovery who captured the spirit of the 1920s with her energy and unapologetic

Not all Hollywood discoveries were actors. Like Irving Thalberg, Darryl F. Zanuck came from a humble background. Fter
starting as a screenwriter for canine movie star Rin Tin Tin, Zanuck’s drive and story sense took him to the top at Warner

By 1927, the moguls and movies stars celebrated their success and influence with a new organization, The Academy of
Motion Picture Arts and Sciences. Publically dedicated to honoring Hollywood excellence, the Academy was also an
effort to stave off a growing union movement by providing an in-house organization to deal with disputes over credit and

The first Academy Awards was a modest affair. There were two Best Picture winners, the lyrical Sunrise and William
Wellman’s air combat adventure Wings. Wellman’s struggles with his studio bosses would be rerun with other directors in
the years to come, but Sunrise and Wings also showed how silent films had matured, reaching toward a new kind of visual
language. Then, at its height of expressive power and profits, the silent era came to an unexpected end.

4. Brother, Can You Spare a Dream? (1929-1941)

There had been sound movies as early as Thomas Edison’s experiments in the 1890s. But, in 1927 synchronized sound films
like The Jazz Singer loudly declared an end to an era that was truly larger than life. William Fox and Sam Warner and
others envisioned the era of sound, even as almost every other movie chieftain hoped the talkies would simply go away. In
the end, what went away were thousands of silent films, lost or discarded in the rush into a new era.

An international economic depression compounded the confusion during the first years of the talkies. Burdened by debt and
theater mortgages, the Hollywood moguls were not immune. William Fox was the first to fall. Despite a string of
memorable horror films such as Frankenstein and Dracula, Carl Laemmle was forced to sell Universal Studios in 1935.

The movie business was hit hard, but Depression-era America needed escape and entertainment more than ever. With major
investments from Wall Street and far-sighted bankers like the Italian immigrants the Giannini brothers, founders of Bank of
America, Hollywood staged a comeback.

Radio, however, had also become an important source of entertainment. Radio was free and, during the hard times of the
1930s, broadcasts offered a low-cost alternative to Hollywood movies, producing a new generation of stars who talked. At
first, movie moguls tried to ignore the challenge of radio. In the end, they absorbed it, adding new faces and recognizable
voices like Bing Crosby to the new age of sound.

Perhaps the most prominent victims of the era of sound were great silent comics like Buster Keaton and Harold Lloyd.
Only Charlie Chaplin maintained the creative and financial control over his work that allowed him to survive. The talkies
introduced a new generation of comedians, notably the Marx Brothers, whose anarchic humor was perfect for the turmoil of
the 1930s.

While silent stars such as Greta Garbo survived the transition to talk, others like Clara Bow faded and new ones rose,
including Katharine Hepburn, Bette Davis, James Cagney and Edward G. Robinson. To supply words, the moguls,
many of them semi-literate, needed writers. Playwrights, novelists and hard-boiled newspapermen like Herman
Mankiewicz and Ben Hecht were drafted to deliver punchy dialogue.
The arrival of sound also led to a flood of musicals. The films of Busby Berkeley were filled with energy and visual dazzle,
while Fred Astaire introduced a kind of song and dance that focused on head-to-toe virtuosity, rather than Berkeley’s
kaleidoscopic spectacles.

Shirley Temple was another 1930s singing and dancing movie superstar. Her charm and talent was a tonic for Depression
times. For floundering Fox studios, she was a godsend. Her films were relatively inexpensive to make and enormously

Paramount was struggling during the 1930s, but a quite different actress sashayed to the rescue. Mae West was known for
overblown sex appeal and double entendres that pushed the boundaries of a new Production Code. In 1935, West was the
highest paid woman in America but, as Hollywood self-censors clamped down, West’s career began to fade, another example
that fame could be fleeting.

Former jeweler Lewis J. Selznick learned about the perils of fame when he entered the motion picture business in the 1910s.
It wasn’t long before tough competitors like Adolph Zukor and Louis B. Mayer forced him into bankruptcy. But his sons,
David and Myron, were not so easily defeated. David O. Selznick would go on to lead a new generation of Hollywood
moguls, and Myron Selznick would become a powerful and influential agent.

Movie power extended far beyond studio walls. Washington politicians coveted Hollywood money and on screen influence.
The moguls courted elected representatives to keep the government out of their business. When novelist and avowed
socialist Upton Sinclair looked like he might win the race for California governor in 1934, the conservative studio chiefs
launched a political counterattack. MGM, led by Irving Thalberg, produced a series of fake newsreels, giving the
impression that a Sinclair victory would lead to a flood of freeloaders that would bankrupt the state.

Sinclair was defeated. It was the kind of surreptitious power play well-known among the moguls, as Thalberg would
experience first hand. Hollywood’s “boy wonder” was widely admired for the quality of his work, but his delicate health and
growing power were a source of concern for Louis B. Mayer and his New York bosses. After Thalberg experienced a serious
heart attack in 1932, they took the opportunity to limit his influence while he was recuperating in Europe. It was a coup that
Thalberg couldn’t fight. Even so, when he died at age 37, the MGM producer was honored and mourned as an industry icon,
a rare example of the meeting of art and commerce that was the ideal, if not the reality, of Hollywood success.

Breaking into the ranks of Hollywood power wasn’t easy, but the heir of a Texas oilman had enough money to make it easier.
Howard Hughes arrived in the movie capital in the 1920s and spent four million dollars on his 1930 aerial epic Hells Angels.
From the beginning, Hughes understood that action was important, but sex could sell even more tickets. He featured slinky
Jean Harlow, who became a major star of the 1930s at MGM.

Harlow was a reminder that movie fame was based on illusion. On-screen, she was the epitome of playful sexiness. Off-
screen, Harlow enjoyed cooking, hemstitching and looked forward to being a mother. But Louis B. Mayer was master of
manipulating imagery. He paired Harlow with a star with male sex appeal. Unpretentious and manly Clark Gable was a
star who appealed to both men and women.

While most Hollywood moguls emphasized glamour and good times, Darryl Zanuck at Warner Bros. was convinced that
controversy could sell tickets. I Am a Fugitive from a Chain Gang was a devastating indictment of the Southern penal
system and led to prison reform, proving the power of motion pictures beyond simple entertainment.

From the beginning, moviemaking was a gambler’s game, and it attracted the tough and driven. For independent Samuel
Goldwyn, a former glove salesman, it was usually “my way or no way.” Unlike other moguls who surrounded themselves
with huge staffs and vast studio facilities, Goldywn was virtually a one-man band. He often mortgaged his house to raise
money to make his movies. But that didn’t stop him from being an important Hollywood player.

Harry Cohn was another studio chief who demanded total control. Columbia Pictures started as a low-budget enterprise in a
Hollywood neighborhood known as Poverty Row. Foul-mouthed and abusive, Cohn cursed and fought with everyone, but
director Frank Capra could talk back. It Happened One Night took Columbia and Harry Cohn to the respectability of the
Academy Awards, and the populist comedy-dramas of Frank Capra were emblematic of Depression-era America.

Even at the peak of power and influence, the movies still allowed room for ambitious entrepreneurs who worked at the
margins of the business. One of the most notable was Oscar Micheaux, an African-American who thrived in the world of
“race” pictures, films made for an often stereotyped or ignored black audience. Like women and Jewish immigrant moguls,
Micheaux projected his image of the American dream.
A far more famous independent moviemaker, who shaped and reflected the American Dream of the 1930s, was a former
Kansas City commercial artist. Walt Disney’s ink and paint hero, Mickey Mouse, quickly became world famous. His
cartoon short, The Three Little Pigs, provided a cheeky anthem for the era – “Who’s Afraid of the Big Bad Wolf?” Disney
was the first animation producer to win an Academy Award, and his feature-length Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs was
one of the most profitable films of all time. He is considered a true visionary, more comparable to Thomas Edison than to
Louis B. Mayer or Adolph Zukor.

In 1939, Hollywood enjoyed a peak year, with great pictures and great profits. The Wizard of Oz was not an immediate hit,
but its growing fame represented the creative power of the Hollywood studio system and the persistence of movie magic.
David O. Selznick’s Gone with the Wind was the most successful movie of its time. Even though it was set in the Civil War,
the trials of Scarlett O’Hara mirrored the dislocations and uncertainty of the Depression for 1930s audiences. It was an
unsettling time for the mostly Jewish movie moguls. With the rise of Nazism and anti-Semitism, they hesitated to speak out,
fearing the loss of European markets and calling attention to their Jewish roots in an America with anti-Semitism of its own.
In the end, history decided. A war in Europe overtook the United States, and America and the movie business would never
be the same.

5. Warriors and Peacemakers (1941-1950)

In 1940, America was poised on the edge of war, but the Depression refused to release its grip on the country. The Grapes of
Wrath, based on the novel by John Steinbeck, directed by John Ford and starring Henry Fonda, captured the time with
powerful imagery as movies had done before and would do again in the decades to come.

With the Hollywood studio system at its peak, a young outsider arrived to shake things up. In his early 20s, Orson Welles
was already a legendary theater actor, director and radio innovator. Given unprecedented independence at RKO, Welles
produced Citizen Kane, a motion picture landmark. A thinly veiled biography of magnate William Randolph Hearst, Citizen
Kane created a backlash from Hollywood’s elite, especially Louis B. Mayer, who feared offending Hearst and his influential

In a staunchly anti-war America, Charlie Chaplin was independent and brave enough to ridicule Hitler and Mussolini in The
Great Dictator. But all hesitancies in Hollywood and America ended on Dec. 7, 1941. The attack on Pearl Harbor thrust the
United States into a world war, and moguls and movie stars joined the fight. Warner Bros.’ Casablanca debuted, even
though the picture might not have been made months before, when anti-war spirit was high. Humphrey Bogart’s change of
heart from cynicism to idealism reflected a new mood in America.

Jack Warner and other movie moguls paraded around their studios in tailor-made uniforms as Hollywood Colonels.
Popular stars such as Jimmy Stewart, Tyrone Power and Clark Gable volunteered for the war for real, while other actors,
such as Ronald Reagan, made training films. Some of Hollywood’s most distinguished directors, including John Ford,
George Stevens, William Wyler, John Huston, and especially Frank Capra, made propaganda films and documentaries.

Led by Bette Davis and John Garfield, many actors participated in the war effort by supporting the Hollywood Canteen,
where off-duty servicemen could meet and dance with their on-screen idols.

The Hollywood moguls offered versions of combat and life in the military. John Wayne, a civilian who rarely participated
in war-support efforts, exemplified the American fighting man – brave, honest and devoted to his combat buddies.

On the home front, Louis B. Mayer envisioned the ideal America in the MGM Andy Hardy series, starring talented and
versatile Mickey Rooney. The team of Rooney and young Judy Garland created an inspiring vision of young America,
singing and dancing their hearts out on behalf of the American Way. In Meet Me in St. Louis, starring Garland, MGM
celebrated family and home, offering hope for a post-war America.

Movie stars like Garland not only entertained, they were familiar icons during uncertain times. Cary Grant was one of the
most versatile actors of 1930s and 40s Hollywood, equally adept at comedy, drama and romance. On-screen, Grant was the
very image of suave self-confidence but, in fact, had come from humble roots, born Archie Leach in
Bristol, England. Hollywood gave him an image that even he envied. “I wish I was Cary Grant,” he once said.

With a rising death toll featured in newspaper headlines, wartime audiences looked for laughs. They were provided by the
irreverent writer/director Preston Sturges. In films like Hail, the Conquering Hero, Sturges enjoyed tweaking overblown
patriotism and, in The Miracle of Morgan’s Creek, slipped past the censors with the comic dilemma of young girl who finds
herself pregnant after a patriot party with no idea of who is her husband. Sullivan’s Travels mocked Hollywood pretensions
to deal with serious issues rather than popular entertainment.
With the end of World War II, America celebrated the sacrifices and successes of the past four years. Samuel Goldwyn’s
The Best Years of Our Lives captured the poignancy and complexity of the new, post-war nation. The 40s were a decade of
major changes. The transformation of Humphrey Bogart from a tough hood in High Sierra to romantic hero in To Have
and To Have Not represented the power of possibilities that had driven America from its earliest days.

In 1946, a peak year for the Hollywood box office, the moguls were confident they had mastered the movie business. But
audiences had changed. Film Noir represented a darker vision that was born during the Depression and war. At the same
time, women had tasted independence as defense workers while men were away. Joan Crawford had once been a carefree
flapper; in the 1940s, she portrayed a conflicted but strong willed career woman.

In the movies, women may have been exploring new roles in American life. Behind the cameras, it was very much a man’s
world. As stars, women were pampered, but they were prized property. The moguls borrowed and traded studio stars like
valuable playing cards. Contracts were ironclad. If a star balked on taking a role, the lost time was added to their seven-year
commitment. One actress, Olivia de Havilland, was brave enough to challenge the system in court, and she won. It was a
major victory for Hollywood stars and the beginning of the end of unchallenged mogul power.

Agents like Myron Selznick and Charles Feldman also took on the moguls, but the greatest threat was centered in a new
player, Music Corporation of America, MCA, led by Jules Stein and Lew Wasserman. A former optometrist, Stein entered
the entertainment business by representing dance bands in mob-ruled Chicago. His Cleveland-born protégé, Wasserman,
impressed the entrenched movie moguls with his cool manner and quick intelligence. Through mergers and buyouts of other
agencies, Stein and Wasserman began to build a new kind of Hollywood power base, built on talent, not production or

The United States and its allies were victorious during World War II and “saved the world for democracy,” but there was a
lot of unfinished business in American life. As they searched for new audiences, moviemakers began to explore plotlines
that reflected continuing injustices in “the land of the free.” Home of the Brave exposed racial prejudice, and Gentleman’s
Agreement faced the realities of anti-Semitism in the United States. In Gentleman’s Agreement, Gregory Peck represented a
new generation of politically active and principled leading men and a new spirit that would bring conflict to Hollywood and

In the late 1940s, a growing labor movement added to the threats to mogul power, while the fear of Communism was
spreading. The House Committee on Un-America Activities was formed and turned its attention to the powerful image-
makers of Hollywood. Investigators were convinced that Communists were poisoning American movies with Red
propaganda. When 10 writers, most notably Dalton Trumbo, refused to cooperate with the committee, they were sent to jail.
Again, concerned about their image and government interference in their business, the moguls promised to rid the movies of

The Black List had begun to haunt Hollywood. But there was an even greater threat coming from the U.S. Supreme Court.
In 1948, in a decision known as the Paramount Decree, the court declared studio control of production and exhibition through
theaters an illegal monopoly. The moguls would have to divest themselves of their highly profitable theaters. The days of
guaranteed screenings were a thing of the past.

Then, if that wasn’t enough, a blinking little box began to appear in American households. Television had arrived, and
Hollywood was staring at a small-screen giant killer.

6. Attack of the Small Screens (1950-1960)

During the 1950s, with war behind and prosperity all around, moguls and movie stars should have felt confident and secure,
but the ground was already shifting beneath their studio empires. The Paramount Decree had stripped them of their lucrative
theater chains, while audiences were on the move to the suburbs, leaving big-city theaters behind.

Despite this, moguls were convinced that business as usual could see them through. Hollywood was a close-knit society that
had changed little since the 1920s. Old-fashioned entertainment like Singin’ In The Rain was an example of American movie
entertainment at its best. But it also featured a new star, dancer/director Gene Kelly. Unlike elegant Fred Astaire, Kelly was
an everyman hero, a product of the war years and a suggestion that audience tastes were changing.

Even though Hollywood moguls refused to see television as a serious threat, the movie business wasn’t standing still. In
1951, to his stunned surprise, Louis B. Mayer learned that his regular contract as MGM’s production chief would not be
renewed by his New York boss. Once the highest paid executive in America and one of Hollywood’s most powerful men,
Mayer was out of a job. He was the first of the founding moguls to feel the impact of a newly emerging entertainment era.
Others would follow.

“Bigger is better” had long been a mantra in Hollywood. To counterattack the popularity of TV, moviemakers produced
widescreen epics, enhanced with stereo sound. They turned to technical tricks like 3-D to sell tickets, though audiences soon
tired of their glasses and were still glued to their TVs.

While former studio contract players like Lucille Ball were triumphing on television, Hollywood’s moguls were still
convinced that only the big screen could produce a major star like Judy Garland. Ironically, Garland’s career was on a
downward slide when she made A Star is Born in 1954. By then, television was producing a new generation of talent that
would begin to transform movie making.

With talent from TV and the Broadway stage, New York was re-emerging as a motion picture creative center, a position it
hadn’t held since the rise of Hollywood in the 1920s. Writer Paddy Chayefsky wrote a television drama called Marty that
became an Academy Award-winning film. Starring Ernest Borgnine and Betsy Blair, Marty was far from glamorous, but
audiences responded to the black-and-white movie’s simplicity and romantic realism.

Stars like Elizabeth Taylor and newcomer Montgomery Clift had old-fashioned, big-screen appeal, but the arrival of
Marlon Brando was a game-changer. His raw energy and emotional intensity peeled the veneer off traditional Hollywood
glamour. A Streetcar Named Desire and On the Waterfront were tough and gritty. The screenwriter for On the Waterfront
was Budd Schulberg, son of Paramount studio chief B.P. Schulberg. The younger Schulberg was a rebel. His 1941 novel,
What Makes Sammy Run?, was the unapologetic story of an amoral, backstabbing screenwriter. For the moguls, Schulberg
was a traitor whose fiction was too close to fact. Schulberg also cast a jaundiced eye on the growing power and manipulative
influence of television in A Face in the Crowd.

The younger, post-war generation was more independent and demanding than their parents. And they had money to spend.
During the ’50s, with films such as Blackboard Jungle, a powerful youth audience emerged. Moody and mercurial James
Dean expressed their sense of alienation and idealistic frustration. Dean’s untimely death in 1955 brought a budding career
to an end, but the young audience would only grow in power and influence.

Despite a persistent image of innocence and conformity, the 1950s were a time of turmoil and uncertainty. On-screen, this
was reflected in a breakdown of old censorship rules, but there was a continuing ambiguity about sex. Eccentric Howard
Hughes was unabashed in promoting Jane Russell’s bosom in 3-D, but the appeal of Marilyn Monroe was more complex.
Her child-like persona was sexy but unthreatening to men, and she had a voluptuousness that real women found hard to
compete with.

Like before, Hollywood tried to have it both ways with sex – featuring flesh and risqué behavior whenever possible but
professing to travel the moral high road. In fact, studio “casting couches” were common, and many aspiring young actresses
had to pay a personal price to get a chance in Hollywood. At the same time, The Moon Is Blue was banned in many cities
when a character used the word “virgin.” The ban was overturned in court, a sign that heavy-handed censorship was on the

If Hollywood treated sex with an unsettling mix of public moralizing and private hypocrisy, in the 1950s there were even
scarier things to worry about. With the Hollywood blacklist still in full force, there was the shadow of the atomic bomb and a
new Cold War with the Soviet Union that produced an atmosphere ripe for fear and recrimination.

Politically outspoken Charlie Chaplin was a surprising victim of a moral and political backlash. Challenged in a nasty
paternity suit and criticized for avoiding American taxes by never becoming a citizen, Chaplin was barred from returning to
the United States during a trip to Europe. Outraged, he decided to live in exile in Switzerland.

Chaplin had first come to the United States as an ambitious immigrant. Many of the founding movie moguls were
immigrants, and transplants from Europe provided a regular infusion of new talent in Hollywood. There were stars such as
Greta Garbo, Marlene Dietrich and Peter Lorre and director Ernst Lubitsch and writer/director Billy Wilder.

Wilder’s insider/outsider point of view gave his films a rare mix of cynicism and sentiment. In Sunset Blvd., he took an
unvarnished look at Hollywood fame. Starring silent-era legend Gloria Swanson, Wilder’s film also featured former
director Erich von Stroheim and former comic great Buster Keaton, who were living reminders of the often abrupt rise and
fall of Hollywood success.

Alfred Hitchcock was another immigrant success story. Mixing suspense, the macabre and sublimated sex, Hitchcock’s
films had a distinct personality. Many featured cool blond heroines like Grace Kelly, but his demure wife Alma was the
English director’s off-camera anchor and an important influence on his work. An acknowledged master producer/director by
the 1940s, during the 1950s Hitchcock was more widely known as the host and producer of a successful television series.

Another movie mogul, Walt Disney, was even more influential on the small screen and a major visionary for the future of
American entertainment. While he was realizing his dream of Disneyland, Disney made a deal with ABC for a television
series that promoted the theme park as it recycled old Disney movies.

Movie audiences in the 1950s were still unwilling to give up old stories and stars, but they demanded something new.
Established Hollywood icon Gary Cooper appeared in High Noon, an example of one of the oldest movie genres, the
Western, but with a new twist that reflected contemporary issues and uncertainties. No longer a fearless hero, Cooper played
a sheriff with doubts and anxieties that matched 1950s sensibilities.

High Noon was produced by Stanley Kramer, an independent movie maker attracted to social and political issues. In the
late ’50s, a new civil rights movement was rising. Kramer responded with The Defiant Ones, starring Tony Curtis and
Sidney Poitier as escaped prisoners who were handcuffed together. The Defiant Ones was a dramatic appeal for a bond
between the races, and Poitier stood for a proud, new generation of African-Americans.

More than a message movie about racial equality, The Defiant Ones also represented a shift in Hollywood’s producing power.
It was released by United Artists, an old company founded in 1919 by Mary Pickford, D.W. Griffith, Charlie Chaplin and
Douglas Fairbanks, but reborn in 1951 under new leadership and a vision that challenged the old monopolies. UA was
known as “the studio without walls,” a company that provided funding and distribution to independent producers and then
split the profits.

As old studio dominance in Hollywood weakened, actors like John Wayne and Burt Lancaster started their own production
companies, eager to make the movies they wanted and play the parts that appealed to them. Lancaster’s Sweet Smell of
Success was a dark view of the power of newspaper columnists, and the life-and-death role of publicity in the often-cutthroat
world of American entertainment.

If the success of UA suggested the end of the old studio system, the fate of RKO was a confirmation. By 1957, RKO – the
former home of Katharine Hepburn, Astaire, Rogers and King Kong – was sold to General Tire and Rubber Company, which
was eager to acquire the studio’s films to sell to television.

During the 1950s, a new source of Hollywood power and a new mogul were changing the course of motion-picture history.
Battles for control between stars and studios were well established, but agency MCA and super-agent Lew Wasserman
added an influential new victory by convincing Universal to pay Jimmy Stewart a lower acting fee in exchange for half of the
profits from the Western Winchester ’73. It marked a redistribution of income of a major kind in Hollywood.

Wasserman and MCA had even greater ambitions to transform the movie business. Working with one of their early clients,
Ronald Reagan, who was the president of the Screen Actors Guild, the agency got a waver that allowed them to represent
talent and also produce television programs. In 1962, when MCA bought Universal Studios outright, the agency was the
most powerful force in Hollywood.

By the late 1950s, Lew Wasserman was at the top of his game, just as the old founding moguls began to pass from the scene.
William Fox died in 1952. Louis B. Mayer followed in 1957. The next to go was Paramount co-founder Jesse Lasky. A
surprisingly large crowd showed up for the funeral of Harry Cohn in 1958. Harry Warner, the brother who controlled the
purse strings at Warner Bros., also passed away the same year as Cohn.

Jack Warner, Sam Goldwyn, Darryl Zanuck and David O. Selznick survived, but a scrappy new generation of low budget
independent producers was leading the way to a new future for Hollywood. The movies of Roger Corman were made cheap
and fast, featured up-and-coming stars, writers and directors and had huge appeal for the youth market. More important for
the standards of motion picture success, they made money at the box office.

With the 1960s looming, movie insiders surveyed the Hollywood landscape and wondered: Would Hollywood have a sequel
and, if so, who would make it?

7. Fade Out, Fade In (1960-1969)

During the 1960s, America experienced jarring changes not seen since the 1930s. In many ways, the movies were caught in a
social, political and artistic crossfire. It was a time of the last of the old and the first of the new.
President John F. Kennedy was as handsome as a movie star and natural in the powerful new medium of television. He also
knew Hollywood power firsthand. His father, Joseph, was a co-founder of RKO Pictures in 1928. The mix of politics and
movie making was decades old, an uneasy legacy of self-interest and influence.

In 1960, another political legacy still shadowed Hollywood – the anti-Communist Black List. To survive, black-listed writers
were forced to work undercover, using pseudonyms and “fronts.” This tragic charade reached an absurd peak when an
unknown writer named Robert Rich received an Academy Award for the story of The Brave One. In fact, Robert Rich was
Dalton Trumbo. It finally took the courage of actor/producer Kirk Douglas and others to publically acknowledge the sham.
When Douglas credited Dalton Trumbo as the writer of Spartacus, the death grip of the Black List was broken.

The gradual end of the Black List didn’t mean the end of the importance of politics in Hollywood and of movies in
Washington, D.C. Agent Lew Wasserman and his astute wife, Edie, were major power brokers between the movie capital
and Pennsylvania Avenue. Wasserman may have been a progressively minded Democrat, but he was coolly pragmatic, never
allowing political preferences to affect an important deal. Wasserman realized that the new world of entertainment being
born in the 1960s was more than movies. He envisioned a modern, multimedia empire. When MCA tried to purchase
Universal Studios in 1962 and combine talent representation and production, U.S. Attorney General Robert Kennedy saw a
monopoly in the making and issued a cease-and-desist order. Faced with legal action, Wasserman chose the production
business. It was a shrewd move, and Wasserman began to rebuild Universal as a movie and television powerhouse.

One of Wasserman’s most famous clients was director Alfred Hitchcock. The low-budget films of the 1950s that pushed the
borders of sex and violence attracted Hitchcock, and his success in television had given experience in economical production
methods. The result was Psycho.

Another early 60s film with edgy violence was Whatever Happened to Baby Jane? Veteran actors Bette Davis and Joan
Crawford were known for their daring, and they weren’t afraid to take risks to stay in the spotlight. A violent and gleefully
grotesque film, Whatever Happened to Baby Jane? was an indication that the search for success in 1950s Hollywood could
sometimes look desperate.

Tragedy continued to haunt the history of motion picture fame. In 1962, Marilyn Monroe was found dead, an empty bottle
of sedatives nearby. Hearing the news, half-forgotten 1920s sex symbol Clara Bow said, “A sex symbol is a heavy burden
when one is tired, hurt and bewildered.”

While Monroe was dead, in the 1960s, star power still seemed immortal. While struggling 20 th Century Fox was looking for
a hit, they turned to one of the biggest stars of the day, Elizabeth Taylor. The project was Cleopatra, and Taylor’s star power
didn’t come cheap. Neither did a lavish historical drama. Soon, the budget was almost out of control, and Fox was teetering
on the edge of insolvency. Semi-retired Darryl Zanuck, the studio’s largest stockholder, was called in. He pushed aside
longtime president Spyros Skouras, another immigrant mogul who started as a theater owner, and took charge. One of his
first decisions was to install his 27-year-old son, Richard, as studio production chief. Slowly, young Zanuck backed Fox
away from the precipice – a corporate cliff-hanger worthy of a Pearl White serial.

The world was hanging on a cliff of its own in the 1960s with the growing threat of nuclear war. One young filmmaker,
Stanley Kubrick, turned the situation into a black-humored farce, Dr. Strangelove, that captured a new irreverence in 1960s
Hollywood. Kubrick was fiercely independent and moved to England as his fame and power grew.

At the corporate level, the revival of United Artists, led by brothers Harold, Walter and Marvin Mirisch, marked a major
shift in Hollywood power and another blow to the old studio monopolies. UA was a place where independent producers
could get their films financed and distributed while maintaining maximum creative control.

A spirit of independence had emerged in post-war Europe as well, and it influenced and inspired young American filmmakers.
The Mirisch brothers translated Japanese director Akira Kurosawa’s Seven Samurai into a Western, The Magnificent Seven.

In France, rebellious new directors, including Francois Truffaut and Jean-Luc Godard, rejected staid stories and
production methods and launched “the New Wave.” Ironically, the young European radicals admired studio masters like
John Ford and Alfred Hitchcock. They called them “auteurs,” the true authors of their films. Their Hollywood idols were
both flattered and amused.

Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf? signaled a new era in Hollywood. Based on the play by Edward Albee, and starring
Elizabeth Taylor and Richard Burton, the movie was filled with profanity and violence that was unthinkable in an
American film only a few years before. Director Mike Nichols was theater-trained and thoroughly American in his style, but
his work also reflected the new maturity of European films.
An increasing seriousness and complexity gave rise to unlikely new players in Hollywood’s power structure – critics.
Andrew Sarris and Pauline Kael were two of the most prominent. Kael made an important contribution to the success of
Bonnie and Clyde.

Developed as a project for Truffaut by two novice screenwriters, David Newman and Robert Benton, Bonnie and Clyde
was championed by a first time producer, up-and-coming movie star Warren Beatty. When Beatty succeeded in getting the
movie made and paid for by a reluctant Jack Warner, old Hollywood was astonished. Filled with violence and a jagged
cutting style, the film took the gangster movie that was a staple of the 1930s and made it new – too new for traditional critics
like Bosley Crowther of The New York Times. Pauline Kael’s reviews in The New Yorker and elsewhere reached a more
open-minded movie audience. Soon, less hidebound critics joined in to help make Bonnie and Clyde a surprise hit with a
growing younger audience.

Mike Nichols tapped this young audience in his second film, The Graduate, a romantic love story set against an environment
of uncertainty and alienation. Nichol’s success showed other filmmakers and stars that there were broader horizons for
American movie makers.

During the 1960s, in the search for ever-bigger profits and new audiences, American movies were becoming increasingly
international – with exotic locations and multinational funding. Lawrence of Arabia was a major example. So was the
hugely profitable James Bond series. The adventures of 007 also exemplified a new way to maximize profits and audiences –
a series of sequels that became known as a film franchise.

With all the social change of the 1960s, it wasn’t surprising that message movie producer Stanley Kramer would attempt to
reflect the times. Guess Who’s Coming to Dinner starred Hollywood veterans Spencer Tracy and Katharine Hepburn, but
it attempted to be cutting-edge by telling the story of a cross-racial romance, starring Sidney Poitier and Hepburn’s niece,
Kathryn Houghton. Kramer may have seen his film as daring and controversial, but traditional audiences loved it and
rebellious youth thought it was ridiculous.

Change came faster than ever before. At Fox, Richard Zanuck found this out when he brought his studio back with
blockbuster hits like The Sound of Music, one of the most profitable movies of all time. But all it took was a couple of
overblown misfires like Star, Hello, Dolly and most of all, Dr. Doolittle, to put Fox and Zanuck on a downward slide.
Showing that Hollywood power has no time for sentiment where profits are concerned, Richard Zanuck’s father, Darryl, the
studio’s chairman, returned from France and fired his son. It wasn’t long before the old man was gone, too, a powerless
figurehead who would die nine years later.

By the end of the 1960s, perhaps the only man who wielded old-style mogul power was Lew Wasserman, now in charge at
Universal. He was a widely respected and feared Hollywood force. At the same time, the foundations of old Hollywood
were being absorbed and subdivided. Cash-strapped studios began to sell off their back lots to real estate developers.

If studio power was no longer concentrated in sound stages, it added a new dimension with the election of Ronald Reagan as
governor of California and his first run for the presidency. His overwhelming rise to the White House in the 1980s was the
peak of a long relationship between movie imagery and politics.

In the 1960s, as governor, Reagan faced down student protestors at the University of California at Berkeley as an escalating
war in Vietnam threatened to tear the country apart. From the earliest days, traditional Hollywood hesitated to confront
controversy. In the ’60s, only ionic motion picture warrior John Wayne was willing to issue a call to arms in The Green

The 1968 Academy Awards Ceremony represented the stability of an old and honored Hollywood tradition as well as a
divided film community. Best Picture nominees The Graduate and Bonnie and Clyde represented a new Hollywood
influenced by Europe. The old guard was Dr. Doolittle. The more current liberal film was In the Heat of the Night, and the
traditional message movie was Guess Who’s Coming to Dinner? In the last two films, Sidney Poitier also represented a
shifting image of African-Americans on screen. In Guess Who’s Coming to Dinner? he was polite and perfect. In In the
Heat of the Night, he confronts racism head-on, and his film was a big Oscar winner.

With all its timeliness, In the Heat of the Night was still a big studio film. In 1968, a black-and-white zombie movie
budgeted at $114,000, Night of the Living Dead, became a $42 million, international hit. The threat to the survival of old
Hollywood wasn’t zombies; it was from a very alive and very young generation, eager to break down studio walls. They
found a way in by proving their skills with low budget producers like Roger Corman.
Inspired by Corman’s example, actors Dennis Hopper and Peter Fonda produced Easy Rider in 1969, a drug-addled biker
movie that was everything old Hollywood was not – irreverent, outspoken, undisciplined. The only thing Easy Rider shared
with Gone with the Wind was big profits.

Midnight Cowboy also broke old Hollywood precedents and won an Academy Award. This X-rated adventures of a male
prostitute roaming the alleys and backstreets of underground New York – perhaps more than any other film of the 60s –
announced that 50 years of old-fashioned filmmaking was coming to an end

The wave of buyouts and takeovers that marked the 1960s provide more tangible evidence of the changes. Giant
conglomerates, with little experience in entertainment or moviemaking, took over Paramount, UA, Warner Bros. and
eventually even MGM. Disney was one of the few studios that remained untouched.

As the studios lost their old identities, the last of the founding moguls passed from the scene. But their legends had just
begun. For Hollywood, it was both a fade-out and a fade-in. A new generation with names such as Coppola, Spielberg,
Lucas and Scorsese was about to emerge, bringing new movies – along with new respect for the films and the filmmakers of
the past.

The history of the movies and the generations of men and women who made them had led the world on an amazing journey.
A mix of art and commerce, technology and emotion, the world of Hollywood could be as crass and cruel as it was inspiring,
influential and entertaining. To some, making movies was simply a means to money and fame. To others – producers,
directors, writers, performers, and teams of studio artisans and technicians – it was the pleasure and passion of turning frames
of film into an evocation of life itself and a powerful kind of mythology that reflected and shaped the history of America and
the world.

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