The Genius of the System: Hollywood Filmmaking in the Studio Era

Overview

At a time when the studio is making a stunning comeback, film historian Thomas Schatz provides an indispensable account of Hollywood's tradional blend of business and art. This book lays to rest the persistent myth that businesspeople and producers stifle artistic talent and reveals instead the genius of a system of collaboration and conflict. Working from industry documents, Schatz traces the development of house styles, the rise and fall of careers, and the making-and unmaking-of movies, from Frankenstein to ...

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Overview

At a time when the studio is making a stunning comeback, film historian Thomas Schatz provides an indispensable account of Hollywood's tradional blend of business and art. This book lays to rest the persistent myth that businesspeople and producers stifle artistic talent and reveals instead the genius of a system of collaboration and conflict. Working from industry documents, Schatz traces the development of house styles, the rise and fall of careers, and the making-and unmaking-of movies, from Frankenstein to Spellbound to Grand Hotel. Richly illustrated and highly readable, The Genius of the System gives the definitive view of the workings of the Old Hollywood and the foundations of the New.

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Editorial Reviews

From the Publisher
"There was much to criticize in the Hollywood system, and much to marvel at. But one can't do either without the means to make sense of it. This book provides that. —Elizabeth Kendall, The New York Times Book Review

"Brings the pace and confusion and inspiration of filmmaking to life...Schatz has made a lasting contribution to film history." —Directors Guild of America Newsletter

Publishers Weekly - Publisher's Weekly
In this original, monumental survey of Hollywood's film studios during their most glorious period, Schatz, professor at the University of Texas and author of Hollywood Genres , in contrast with the directorial theories of Andrew Sarris and other film historians, describes the creative give-and-take, the symbiotic accord between creators and front offices, in which the styles of writers, directors and stars fused with studio management structures, production operations, talent pools, narrative traditions and market strategies. Analytically and with anecdote examining the financial as well as creative workings of MGM, Warner Bros., Para mount, Universal and RKO in the era of Thalberg, Selznick, Zanuck and Hitchcock, Schatz demonstrates that at the heart of each studio's house style were the star-genre formulations (Bette Davis melodramas, Humphrey Bogart thrillers, Boris Karloff horror films, Gene Kelly musicals) that nowadays, as they are recirculated and rediscovered by young viewers, are all that remain of the great studios and of the vigorous, dynamic men and women who sustained them. Photos. (Feb.)
Library Journal
Several other histories of Hollywood's studio system have already been published, including Robert Stanley's The Celluloid Empire (LJ 5/15/78), Douglas Gomery's The Hollywood Studio System (LJ 1/86), and Ethan Mordden's The Hollywood Studios (LJ 5/15/88). All these books have some value, but Mordden and Schatz win top honors. Larger libraries should purchase both books, as they complement each other. Mordden's primary interest is aesthetics; Schatz's is business. Mordden's writing is sometimes brilliant, while Schatz's is only good, but Schatz has obviously done a lot of research, and he puts it to good use in a very readable book. John Smothers, Monmouth Cty. Lib., Manalapan, N.J.
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780805046663
  • Publisher: Holt, Henry & Company, Inc.
  • Publication date: 4/15/1996
  • Edition description: 1st Metro pbk. ed
  • Edition number: 1
  • Pages: 528
  • Product dimensions: 6.00 (w) x 9.00 (h) x 1.18 (d)

Meet the Author

Thomas Schatz, Professor of Radio-TV-Film at the University of Texas in Austin, is also the author of Hollywood Genres.

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Table of Contents

Acknowledgments
Preface: The Center of Gravity
Introduction: "The Whole Equation of Pictures" 3
Pt. I The 1920s: Beginnings
1 Universal: The System Takes Shape 15
2 MGM: Dawn of the Thalberg Era 29
3 Selznick at MGM: Climbing the Executive Ranks 48
4 Warner Bros.: Talking Their Way to the Top 58
Pt. II 1928-1932: The Powers That Be
5 Selznick at Paramount: From Boom to Bust 69
6 Universal: Renaissance and Retrenchment 82
7 MGM and Thalberg: Alone at the Top 98
8 Selznick at RKO: At the Helm of a Foundering Studio 125
9 Warner Bros.: The Zanuck Era 135
Pt. III The 1930s: Golden Age
10 MGM in the Mid-Thirties: Charmed Interval 159
11 Selznick International Pictures: Going Independent 176
12 Warner Bros.: Power Plays and Prestige 199
13 Universal: Playing Both Ends Against the Middle 228
14 MGM: Life After Thalberg 252
15 Selznick and Hitchcock: Balance of Power 271
Pt. IV 1941-1946: War Boom
16 Warner Bros.: Warfare at Home and Abroad 297
17 David O. Selznick Productions: Packaging Prestige 322
18 Universal: The Best of Both Worlds 340
19 MGM: The High Cost of Quality 359
20 Selznick and Hitchcock: Separate Ways 381
Pt. V 1947-1960: Decline
21 Warner Bros.: Top of the World, End of the Line 411
22 MGM: Last Gasp of the Studio Era 440
23 Universal: Blueprint for the Television Age 463
24 Epilogue: Into the New Hollywood 482
Notes on Sources 493
Photograph Credits 508
Index 509
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