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Hollywood History

Why’d That Movie Disappear? Welcome to Streaming’s Memory Hole Era

The French director, film critic and voracious cinephile Francois Truffaut once suggested a thought experiment. Imagine, he said, that there was only one copy of a book, and that copy was held in a single library, and you could only read it while inside that library. This was how film lovers were obliged to check […]

“How the Hell Can Walt Run a Studio Without Us?”: Behind the Disney Animation Revolt of 1941

Soon after the birth of Mickey Mouse, one animator raised Walt Disney Productions far beyond Walt’s expectations. That animator also led a union war that almost destroyed the company. Art Babbitt worked for the Disney studio throughout the 1930s and up to 1941, years in which he and Walt were driven to elevate animation as […]

Ten Years After the SAG-AFTRA Merger: Lessons for the Union’s Future

By 1938, entertainment workers unionized across the coasts with multiple organizations representing workers in film, radio and live performance. With the field expanding and television on the horizon, the Actors Equity Association President Frank Gilmore asked a simple question in a letter: why not form a single union that represents “all performers in the entertainment […]

“TV – That’s Where Movies Go When They Die”: Rewatching the First Televised Oscars

In the postwar turf fight between the motion picture industry and the television networks, the first telecast of an Academy Awards ceremony by NBC on March 19, 1953 marked the beginning of grudging truce: The movies would use TV to lure audiences back into theaters and TV would use the movies to sell television. As […]

How the Great Depression Reshaped Hollywood Studios’ Ties With Workers

“The motion picture business is neither depression-proof nor fool-proof,” observed Abram F. Myers in the pages of Film Daily and The Film Daily Year Book at the dawn of 1932. The occasion was reflections from industry leaders on the past year, and Myers, the chairman of the Allied States Association and longtime opponent of vertical […]

When MGM Ruled Hollywood: The Rise (and Fall) of Amazon’s Next Prize

Ars gratia artis is the motto curving above the headshot of a roaring lion, a corporate logo as well known as any designed by twentieth-century capitalism. We know what to expect next, but the curtain raiser is a double misdirection, first because Latin was not the usual second language spoken around the studio (that would […]

How Hollywood Has Kept One Step Ahead of Regulators

The rumors, news and inside gossip that herald mega media deals of Discovery Inc. and Warner-Media, and Amazon and MGM, repeat a familiar tale of consolidation and control among the apex predators of the entertainment business. The idea has been to staple together the flow charts of production, distribution and exhibition (vertical integration) while extending […]

A Hollywood Pastime: When Studios, Filmmakers Hit Back at Criticism

At the social media watercooler during the holidays, a flare-up erupted over Netflix’s Don’t Look Up, Adam McKay’s allegorical disaster film that, despite an all-star cast, earned less than stellar reviews from critics. McKay’s corner rushed in to dispute the call from what they deemed pretentious elites. “It’s our Dr. Strangelove for today!” gushed director […]

Film Noir’s Early Days: How Studios Resisted, Then Embraced, the Genre

“The picture is a morbid, seamy story dealing with the dregs of humanity,” wrote Terry Ramsaye, editor of Motion Picture Herald, in 1946. The bottom feeder in question was Fritz Lang’s Scarlet Street (1945), which had somehow slipped by the Breen office to incite the wrath of straitlaced critics and municipal censors. “One of these […]

The Crew Strike That Shut Down Hollywood In 1945

In the annals of the bloody and sometimes lethal battles between labor, management, and law enforcement, the melee that erupted outside the entrance of Warner Bros. Studios in Burbank on Oct. 5, 1945, may not be the most notable: some concussions and contusions, cars overturned and some activists jailed. Though hundreds of pickets, strikebreakers and […]