Engulfed: The Death of Paramount Pictures and the Birth of Corporate Hollywood

Overview

From Double Indemnity to The Godfather, the stories behind some of the greatest films ever made pale beside the story of the studio that made them. In the golden age of Hollywood, Paramount was one of the Big Five studios. Gulf + Western's 1966 takeover of the studio signaled the end of one era and heralded the arrival of a new way of doing business in Hollywood. Bernard Dick reconstructs the battle that culminated in the reduction of the studio to a mere corporate commodity. He then traces Paramount's devolution...

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Overview

From Double Indemnity to The Godfather, the stories behind some of the greatest films ever made pale beside the story of the studio that made them. In the golden age of Hollywood, Paramount was one of the Big Five studios. Gulf + Western's 1966 takeover of the studio signaled the end of one era and heralded the arrival of a new way of doing business in Hollywood. Bernard Dick reconstructs the battle that culminated in the reduction of the studio to a mere corporate commodity. He then traces Paramount's devolution from free-standing studio to subsidiary -- first of Gulf + Western, then Paramount Communications, and currently Viacom-CBS.

Dick portrays the new Paramount as a paradigm of today's Hollywood, where the only real art is the art of the deal. Former merchandising executives find themselves in charge of production, on the assumption that anyone who can sell a movie can make one. CEOs exit in disgrace from one studio only to emerge in triumph at another. Corporate raiders vie for power and control through the buying and selling of film libraries, studio property, television stations, book publishers, and more. The history of Paramount is filled with larger-than-life people, including Billy Wilder, Adolph Zukor, Sumner Redstone, Sherry Lansing, Barry Diller, Michael Eisner, Jeffrey Katzenberg, and more.

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Editorial Reviews

From the Publisher

"Through the richness in cases, examples and anecdotes it gives a practical, nuts-and-bolts insight into the workings of the film business." -- Business History

"Does a fine job of detailing the death of a studio and its reincarnation as a subsidiary of a conglom. Dick's forensics peel back history, revealing the passions, politics and power plays of filmmakers and dealmakers that culminated in the dissolution of a Hollywood empire." -- Daily Variety

"An important book not only about the history of a studio, but also about the apparently ineluctable direction big business has taken in American society." -- Donald Spoto

"A breezy and informative six-reeler about the 'engulfing' of the once proud studio by a mega-conglomerate to which film art was merely another commodity." -- EH.NET Reviews

"Provides a helpful scaffolding of Paramount's fascinating history thus far and suggests that business historians would do well to engage the film industry further in their explorations of twentieth-century business and economic life." -- Enterprise and Society

"Clever, thought-provoking…Dick has the ability to explain the complex in-fighting among studio executives in the corridors of power in a movie studio -- and their even more complex negotiations with the conglomerates who own the studios -- in a way that is clear and incisive." -- Gene D. Phillips

"The stories behind some of the greatest films ever made pale beside the story of the studio that made them." -- Hollywood Inside Syndicate

"Provides historical insight into the death of Paramount Pictures as an autonomous studio and its fall to the conglomerate Gulf + Western in 1966." -- Journal of Economic History

"Uses Paramount Pictures to illustrate the evolution of the motion-picture industry from Thomas Edison to Michael Eisner.... Always erudite and entertaining." -- Kirkus Reviews

"This thoroughly researched story reveals the shift in the industry's primary focus from making fine film to making a successful, multifaceted business deal and prompts debate over which one is considered to be real art in modern Hollywood." -- Library Journal

"Everybody knows that Paramount was one of the major studios, but few know the twists and turns of the history of the studio over the years." -- Peter C. Rollins

"Traces Paramount's lineage from its 1912 origins to its 1966 purchase by Gulf & Western and its present ownership by Viacom/CBS." -- Publishers Weekly

"Astutely analyzes the role of outside corporate money in the film industry, and how the changes at Paramount heralded a new, inevitable trend in American film and arts.... Dick's in-depth analysis and research makes for great -- and shocking -- journalism." -- Publishers Weekly

"Dick lends the personalities and events so much emotional colour that his book is as compulsively readable as a biography." -- Sight and Sound

"Dick has composed an authoritative account of Paramount Pictures Corporation and accomplished the not inconsiderable feat of making it read less like business and more like history." -- Washington Times

Library Journal
Paramount Pictures was always one of Hollywood's most famous studios, turning out hit movies that ranged from Sunset Boulevard to The Godfather. Here, Dick (communications and English, Fairleigh Dickinson Univ.; Radical Innocence: A Critical Study of the Hollywood Ten) studies the many people, events, and trends that contributed to Paramount's evolution from an independent studio to a corporate subsidiary, the result of contemporary culture's increasingly complex practice of mergers and acquisitions. This thoroughly researched story reveals the shift in the industry's primary focus from making a fine film to making a successful, multifaceted business deal and prompts debate over which one is considered to be real art in modern Hollywood. The book is enhanced by historical information about the studio's early days, when it was briefly housed in a barn and shaped by such pioneering individuals as Adolph Zukor and Jesse Lasky. For film students and enthusiasts, as well as for large public media and academic collections. Carol J. Binkowski, Bloomfield, NJ Copyright 2001 Cahners Business Information.
Kirkus Reviews
Film historian Dick ("City of Dreams", 1997) uses Paramount Pictures to illustrate the evolution of the motion-picture industry from Thomas Edison to Michael Eisner. Paramount was started by Adolph Zukor, a Hungarian immigrant who loved dime novels and began his career in New York City as a two-dollar-a-week upholsterer. By the time he died (in 1976, at 103), he could look upon the film industry as one of his children. Dick knows his Hollywood history, and so we learn of the 1912 origin of the famous Paramount logo (mountain and stars), revisit the Fatty Arbuckle sex scandal, and follow the acting career of Ronald Reagan. The dominance of the studios really lasted only into the 1950s, says the author: "Hollywood's golden Age had quickly turned to silver and was starting to rust." He examines the competition (and then the cooperation) with television and cable, and he ends with an analysis of the corporate-merger mania that emerged in the 1980s and continues to dominate. "No longer do projects originate at a studio," notes the author; "they come from production companies to which the studio plays host, financing their films in whole or in part." The principal strength of the volume is Dick's ability to humanize (and, in some cases, to demonize) the generally faceless studio and corporate executives whose names range from the unknown to the renowned. George Weltner joined Paramount in 1922 and stayed his entire career; Charles G. Bluhdorn arrived in 1966 from Gulf + Western (which had gobbled up Paramount). Barry Diller and Don Simpson and Frank Mancuso and David Kirkpatrick-all are important players at whom Dick points his camera. Far more familiar names played at Paramount, too,including Francis Ford Coppola and Steven Spielberg. The author sometimes stretches analogies to the snapping point (allusions to Shakespeare and Roman history sometimes intrude more than illuminate), but by and large he strikes just the right tone. At times breezy, at times complex, always erudite and entertaining. (24 pages b&w photos)
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780813122021
  • Publisher: University Press of Kentucky
  • Publication date: 8/28/2001
  • Pages: 280
  • Product dimensions: 6.33 (w) x 9.33 (h) x 0.96 (d)

Table of Contents

Preface ix
1 Mountain Glory 1
2 Mountain Gloom 44
3 Barbarians at the Spanish Gate 85
4 Charlie's Boys 109
5 The Italian Connection 126
6 The Diller Days 149
7 Goodbye, Charlie 189
8 Sumner at the Summit 206
Epilogue 242
End Titles 245
Notes 247
Index 259
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