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Homework Contracts Year 1 Movie

 THC Film Studies

The Golden Age

1930 – 1948
The Studio System
Five major corporate-style studios dominated the American film industry in the 1930s (and into the 40s). The Hollywood studios with their escapist "dream factories" and their "Front Office" studio head, production chief, producers, and other assistants, were totally in control and at full strength. They exerted their influence over choice of films, budgets, the selection of personnel and scripts, actors, writers, and directors, editing, scoring, and publicity.

·      20th Century Fox (formed in 1935 from the merger of Twentieth Century Pictures,  founded by Joseph Schenk, and the Fox Film Corporation)
·      Universal
·      Paramount
·      Warner Bros.
·      RKO Radio

Why it became the golden age

The 1930’s saw Hollywood blossom as stars were created and people saw the cinema as glamorous. Hollywood had a helping hand in the form of WW1 as the war temporarily destroyed European competition. It also had a helping hand in WWII as people wanted to escape the ‘reality’ of what was going on in the world.

Hollywood stars also helped the ‘troops’ on the front line. Bette Davis set up the Hollywood canteen where stars like Marlene Dietrich, Hayworth, Grable, Oberon, Garland, Cary and Mickey Rooney would entertain the troops. 
Others joined the armed forces including Clark Gable, Jimmy Stewart, Marlene Dietrich and Leslie Howard. Dietrich won the highest honor out of the stars when awarded the Medal of Freedom.

Hollywood united the country and gave it ‘hope’. People believed in Hollywood as became a way of life.


It stayed a success due to its business strategy

Vertical Integration

This meant the Major studios in Hollywood dominated film production, distribution and exhibition. They made, released and marketed their films, even owning the cinemas in which they are shown. The heads of the majors wanted to ensure that there was a constant outlet for their product By 1949 the major studios in Hollywood owned three quarters of first run US cinemas

Please visit http://encyclopedia.jrank.org/articles/pages/2910/The-Hollywood-Studio-System-in-1940-1941.html for a more detailed account of vertical integration

Star Contracts

Studios also owned their stars and their private lives. Each start had to sign a 7-year contract. This meant they were tied to the studio boss / ‘mogul’ for 7 years. The mogul would mold the star to become what he and the public wanted not only on screen but also off it. Love lives and marriages were made and destroyed, star ‘looks’ were created and bad behaviour hidden then punished. 

If a star did not want to participate in a film a year could be added on to their contract with no pay. Stars could be with a studio for years without working if they dared to disagree with boss.


Quantity not quality

During the Golden Age of Hollywood, the studios produced one film each week per year. At its height, the studio system released 350 films in a single year. This was made easy by each studio contracting its staff but also developing a ‘style’ of film. It was a form of standardisation that facilitated the use of assembly line techniques. Each studio specialised in a particular genre or set of genres in an attempt to attract customer brand loyalty.

20th Century fox: Musical and biographies. Fox Studios also capitalized on its association with Shirley Temple after the mid-30s - singlehandedly, she made over $20 million for Fox in the late 30s.

RKO: was the locale for the first films of Orson Welles (Citizen Kane (1941) and The Magnificent Ambersons (1942)), the sophisticated dance films of Fred Astaire and Ginger Rogers, comedies, and its seminal monster film King Kong (1933).

Universal prospered with noted director Tod Browning, westerns, W.C. Fields and Abbott and Costello comedies, the Flash Gordon serials, and its archetypal, low budget horror films such as Dracula (1931), Frankenstein (1931)

Paramount Studios on the other hand, with a more European, continental sophistication and flavor, boasted husky-throated Marlene Dietrich and director Josef von Sternberg, Gary Cooper, Cary Grant, Carole Lombard, Fredric March, Claudette Colbert, and director Ernst Lubitsch with his 'sophisticated' comedies:

Warner Bros. was male-dominated and fast moving, and noted for gritty, cutting-edge, realistic films or biopics, war films, Westerns, and socially conscious, documentary-style films.

All was going well until...................

1.     Bette Davis got angry!
Convinced that her career was being damaged by a succession of mediocre films, Davis accepted an offer in 1936 to appear in two films in England. Knowing that she was breaching her contract with Warner Bros., she fled to Canada to avoid legal papers being served upon her. Eventually, Davis brought her case to court in England, hoping to get out of her contract with Warner Bros. The case, decided by Branson J. in the English High Court, was reported as Warner Bros. Studios Incorporated v. Nelson in [1937]. Davis lost the case and returned to Hollywood, in debt and without income, to resume her career.

2.    Olivia De Havilland also got angry but this time she won
De Havilland mounted a lawsuit in the 1940s, supported by the Screen Actors Guild and was successful, thereby reducing the power of the studios and extending greater creative freedom to the performers. The decision was one of the most significant and far-reaching legal rulings in Hollywood. Her victory won her the respect and admiration of her peers, among them her own sister Joan Fontaine who later commented, "Hollywood owes Olivia a great deal”. The studio, however, vowed never to hire her again. The California Court of Appeal's ruling came to be informally known, and is still known to this day, as the De Havilland Law. 

3.     USA V Paramount                       
In 1948, the U.S. Supreme Court issues a decision in U.S. v. Paramount Pictures, et al., the government’s long-running antitrust lawsuit against Paramount Pictures and seven other major Hollywood movie studios

The case first went to trial in federal court in New York in June 1940, but was called off after two weeks when the government and studio attorneys worked out a compromise deal in which the studios would retain their movie theaters but limit block booking. Dissatisfaction with this so-called consent decree led to the formation of the Society of Independent Motion Picture Producers (SIMPP) by some of the leading independent movie producers of the day, including Charlie Chaplin, Walt Disney, Samuel Goldwyn, David O. Selznick, Mary Pickford and Orson Welles. The efforts by independent producers helped get the government’s antitrust case back into court in the fall of 1945. After a New York District Court handed down a guilty ruling (the terms of which nonetheless failed to satisfy the government and the independent producers), both sides submitted appeals that would eventually take the case all the way to the U.S. Supreme Court.

The trial preceded quickly once it reached the Supreme Court in February 1948. On May 3, the court issued its ruling, which affirmed the earlier verdicts and declared the studios guilty of violating antitrust law. By the terms of the verdict, the studios were made to sign consent decrees that would end the practice of block booking by requiring that all films be sold on an individual basis. They were also required to divest themselves of their own theater chains. With this decision, independent producers could finally begin to compete with the major studios for audiences and actors, marking the beginning of the end for the Hollywood studio system.

4.     The birth of TV

5.    Migration of people to the suburbs

Homework Assignment for Block 6 (Wednesday Class)

Read this blog along with the links given throughout

Choose a studio and put a case study together. Your case study must be creative and contain pictures. The best case study on each studio will be placed around the lecture theater for study material for the rest of the year.

Your case study should include from 1930 -1948:
The birth of the studio
The 'mogul'
The stars (2 male and 2 female) - How they were treated
The genre
The films (4 films)
The awards
The decline
The vertical integration (what is it and how did your studio work with it)

Homework Assignment for Block 5 (Thursday Class)

Please read over handout and answer the assignment questions for next week

Golden Age of Hollywood Quiz

By the 1950s Hollywood was in decline and facing meltdown but it was also the birth of the Hollywood we know today


Join me next week for Hollywood in the 70s to now and the birth of the ‘blockbuster’
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