Hollywood East: Louis B. Mayer and the Origins of the Studio System

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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 ...
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Overview

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 regain control. 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 m

One of the most respected--and feared--men in Hollywood, Louis B. Mayer rose from pioneering film distributor to all-powerful studio head, personally responsible for thousands of careers. With flair and style, Diana Altman traces the development of Mayer the mogul and his contemporaries, delving into the rise of the studio system. Photographs.

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Editorial Reviews

Publishers Weekly - Publisher's Weekly
Altman (whose father was a former MGM East Coast talent scout) outlines the early careers of such film-industry founders as Adolph Zukor, Albert Warner, William Fox, Marcus Loew and others, making the point that the industry's true headquarters during its first five decades was not Hollywood but New York City. Her narrative spotlight is aimed mainly at Louis B. Mayer, the very emblem of the Hollywood movie mogul who, it turns out, was answerable to bosses at 1540 Broadway (``across the street from the Camel Cigarette sign blowing smoke''). Altman describes the cutthroat competition among industry pioneers, attempts by organized crime to muscle in--Mayer was one of the few movie moguls to fight back--and the changes wrought by WW II and the postwar advent of drive-in theaters and television. Finally, she relates the story of Mayer's dismissal in 1957 by the powers at corporate headquarters in Times Square and his brave comeback attempt, which failed when MGM stockholders voted against him. This is an entertaining though superficial chronicle, remarkable only for its admiring treatment of Mayer. As Altman remarks in the introduction, ``Louis B. Mayer-bashing is a current fad.'' Photos. (Oct.)
Library Journal
Film historian Altman pledges to defend the reputation of early mogul Mayer, attacked most notably in Bosley Crowther's Hollywood Rajah ( LJ 2/1/60). Since no one really cares, it is fortunate that she writes from a bird's-eye view of the rise of American motion pictures with Mayer just one of the various personalities who had a part. Twentieth-century world history, cinema history, biography, news clippings, and anecdotes come together in a blunt style that somehow works beautifully and cleanly. This is sophisticated storytelling and admirable history that reads like historical fiction. It even includes a poem by Rudolph Valentino. The problem of subjectivity is overcome by the book's structure. Recommended for popular collections.-- Brian Geary, West Seneca, N.Y.
Booknews
The author, a film historian, is also the daughter of the late Al Altman, Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer's New York talent scout. While most histories of the industry concentrate on Hollywood, Altman's tells what was happening in New York, where much of both the business and the creative activity occurred. Annotation c. Book News, Inc., Portland, OR (booknews.com)
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9781559721400
  • Publisher: Carol Publishing Group
  • Publication date: 9/1/1992
  • Pages: 288
  • Product dimensions: 6.25 (w) x 9.30 (h) x 1.31 (d)

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