"Ars Gratia Artis" -- Art For Art's Sake -- is all well and good, but one should never forget moviemaking is, at its heart, still a business. And nothing is quite so good for business as an unassailable monopoly!
Over the decades, many different approaches to this have been tried: Studios buying up ALL the movie theaters for example, and the whole "studio system" of locking talent into contracts.
In the late 1920s, William Fox, owner of Fox Film Corporation, came up with his own, cunning scheme to take over the ENTIRE film industry.
The result would set widescreen filmmaking back some 20 years! Read more
How much is a word worth? In the case of "It", the answer is $50,000, and that in 1920s dollars! That's how much Paramount Studios paid to "Madame" Elinor Glyn, to use her clever idea of giving polite society a way to talk about sex appeal: By assigning it an innocuous name!
Glyn, described in the Film Historian's Commentary track as, "A hack writer for Cosmopolitan Magazine", also got a cameo appearance out of the deal; portraying herself in the film. Cosmo also got some "product placement" in the film -- before that concept had even been invented! Read more
Here's a film so hilariously bad, it's a wonder it has not made it to shiny disc before! Seriously, it must be RIGHT up there on ANYONE's list of the Worst Films Ever Made. Olive Films saw their chance, and released it on both SD-DVD and Blu-ray.
This cheesy, British, sci-fi outing was Written, Produced, and Directed by American Cy Roth, has American Anthony Dexter as its star, and goes to great pains to try to feature American accents throughout in the dialog. Indeed, it's very much as if the Brits were ALREADY trying to distance themselves from it! Read more
What is widely considered the first ever "screwball comedy" -- and still one of the best -- was made by Frank Capra for Harry Cohn's "Poverty Row" studio, Columbia Pictures.
MGM had loaned Clark Gable for the film -- pocketing a neat $500/week profit over his contract salary of $2,000/week. When several actresses turned down the female lead (partly due to the script at the time making the character less sympathetic), Cohn suggested Claudette Colbert. Colbert had made a previous film with Capra which turned out poorly. And besides she had a long planned vacation scheduled to start -- just weeks away. So she told Cohn and Capra she'd only take the part if they paid DOUBLE her normal salary *AND* could complete her shooting in just 4 weeks . NOT a 4 week shoot beginning some time in the future, but 4 weeks from THAT VERY DAY! Keep in mind this was at a point when costumes and sets had yet to be created! Read more
There have ALWAYS been "independent" films of course. But with the gradual breakdown of the Hollywood Studio System in the 50s and early 60s, independent filmmaking really came into its own. Shooting for just 14 days, and with only $400K to spend, Director Ralph Nelson ended up Producing THIS flick all on his own, when no major studio wanted to take on the project!
The result (Distributed by United Artists) garnered an Oscar Nomination for Best Picture (losing out to "Tom Jones"). It also got Oscar Nominations for Best Supporting Actress (Lilia Skala), Best Adapted Screenplay, and Best Black & White Cinematography. But of course what everyone remembers is that this is the film that got Sidney Poitier his only acting Oscar. Read more
Sometimes it's truly weird how Hollywood cranks out a hit. Howard Hawks' film adaptation of the notoriously convoluted and confusing Raymond Chandler novel was actually completed, and in the can in 1945. But then Warner suddenly realized, with the war coming to an end, they had to rush all their WAR themed movies out the door RIGHT NOW while there was still a market for them! So "The Big Sleep" was put on the shelf.
And THAT gave Lauren Bacall's agent a chance to lobby with Jack Warner. To wit: The film should be reshot and reedited to give Bacall more screen time with Bogart, along with new dialog geared at reprising their fiery chemistry from, "To Have and Have Not" (1944). The result is truly amazing of course; even iconic. It probably helped that the Bacall/Bogart affair going on during the 1945 shoot had turned into the Bacall/Bogart marriage by 1946! Read more
By 1934, Jack Warner was badly in need of some class.
Oh, his distinctly blue-collar studio was cranking out detective films and other such low-brow stuff, but what he REALLY needed was a Prestige project which would show Warner Bros. could hold its head up with the big boys!
What followed is the stuff of Hollywood legend -- one which should probably bear the title, "The Comedy of Errors"! Read more
For his 21st birthday in 1929, Carl Laemmle, Jr., received an unusual birthday gift. His Dad gave him Universal Studios.
The guy everyone THOUGHT was the heir apparent to Carl Laemmle, Sr., got relegated to doing B-grade pictures, as Junior jumped in with both feet and took complete control. And he knew precisely what he wanted to make; a short list which included "Dracula". Junior really got a kick out of horror tales.