Moguls & Movie Stars: A History of Hollywood (2010) s01e03 Episode Script

The Dream Merchants: 1920-1928

By the 1920s, making movies was the fifth biggest business in America and about to become bigger.
1921 was an all-time record year for Hollywood studios.
They produced 854 features.
By 1922, nearly 40 percent of Americans went to a picture show every week.
The development of movies from just images of things happening, without editing moved pretty quickly.
Within a decade, I mean, you had the studio system and the whole thing was working.
It must have been a very exciting time at that point because it was an industry being born.
There was great experimentation going on great vitality.
It was a land of gamblers, really.
These early founders were showmen.
They were Barnum & Bailey kind of guys.
You know, they'd throw the dice out there and they'd let it fly.
I think initially, they were all trying to build their own companies.
And I do think that because they all came from the same kind of background moving here as immigrants from Eastern Europe to a large extent, most of them were Jewish sharing that kind of tradition they all depended on each other in some ways but were always trying to step on each other to get ahead.
The press began to refer to Hollywood's founders many of them immigrants as Moguls a term that suggested East Indian rajas, with infinite power and ambition.
That title didn't seem particularly flattering, but it didn't stop those movie moguls from forging on to grab even stronger footholds in the movie business.
Some of them started off in these penny arcades.
Other people started off in making movies, others started off in distributing them.
As they get successful in one end they move into the second end and into the third end until they get all the profits.
Today it's called vertical integration.
Gaining control of story creation, stars, studios and local theaters, the movie entrepreneurs also reached outward creating webs of communications interconnections.
One of the first men to make intermedia links wasn't a scrappy immigrant entrepreneur.
He was newspaper magnate William Randolph Hearst.
Hearst had parlayed a mining inheritance into one of the world's largest fortunes.
Hearst was the biggest newspaper, magazine publisher in the United States.
So anything to do with the general field of communication, Hearst would be in on.
Hearst actually is an unsung hero in the film industry.
People do not realize that Hearst is one of the very first film companies in United States.
He was able to test out the success of a story by its popularity in a magazine.
And then he could turn around and sell it to himself to make a movie.
Hearst created a pioneering movie newsreel company and turned his newspaper comic strip characters into animated cartoons.
By 1919, William Randolph Hearst's interest in the movies was more than professional.
He began a lifelong affair with actress Marion Davies.
Marion Davies was a very talented comedienne.
She was a very accomplished actress in many ways.
She did not take herself at all seriously and I think that was incredibly refreshing to Hearst.
She loved "Pops," as she called him.
It's often said that the movies is a business of relationships in more ways than one.
While William Randolph Hearst was mixing business and pleasure with Marion Davies during the 1920s, the movie moguls were focused on building studios acquiring theaters and expanding their power.
With Hearst spreading the news, the 1920s was the first great era of advertising and mass media heroes.
A jazz-driven decade that idolized athletes like Babe Ruth and Jack Dempsey and turned shy aviator Charles Lindbergh into an overnight celebrity.
I don't know who coined the phrase "the roaring 20s," but they did roar.
They roared with prosperity they roared with a kind of hedonism.
They roared with the adulation of the crowd for celebrities.
And of course, movie stars.
When theater owner Marcus Loew moved to production acquiring Metro Pictures in 1920 his most valuable new asset wasn't a studio it was access to the profitability of creative talent and star power.
Metro writer/director June Mathis was an enthusiast for spiritualism.
She claimed a sixth sense for talent.
Her most famous find was Rodolfo Alfonso Raffaelo Piero Filiberto Guglielmi di Valentina d'Antonguolla.
Rudolph Valentino, for me is really a perfect emblematic movie star of the silent era because first of all, he's not loaded with talent.
Secondly, he doesn't come out of show business.
He's just bumming around.
He's café dancing here.
He's possibly petty thieving here.
He's drifting toward Hollywood.
But June Mathis, who was a wonderful screenwriter very successful screenwriter at Metro, had observed him.
She was looking for someone to play the key role of Julio in Four Horsemen of the Apocalypse.
And it occurred to her that he might be perfect particularly since Julio does a great tango in the movie.
He's fabulous in that tango.
He stands up a nobody and sits down a star.
Valentino became the male sex symbol of the 1920s.
He thrilled women as the impulsive Sheik.
With the power of the movies, his image was indelible.
Valentino was an overnight star.
But movie fame could also end with shifting public whim.
Star power was tested when Douglas Fairbanks and Mary Pickford fell in love.
The problem was that both were married to other people and in the 1920s divorce was a social stigma.
The two stars feared their union would end their careers.
Instead, audiences were thrilled.
Living at their hilltop mansion, Pickfair, in Beverly Hills one of the first grand estates of the area Pickford and Fairbanks were granted a reprieve by the fans.
But morality watchdogs had been keeping an eye on the movie business since nickelodeon days.
That made image-conscious moguls wary most of them eager to distance themselves from their peepshow past.
Especially Louis B.
He was very moralistic, my grandfather offended by the vulgarity of vaudeville and burlesque.
From the time he was in the business as a young man he talked about good movies, clean movies, movies for the family.
He was very old-fashioned in this sense.
By 1920, moral uplift was in the air.
The Volstead Act banned the sale of intoxicating liquor in the United States.
But in Hollywood, for a young generation of moviemakers flush with the power of money and fame Prohibition was a law made to be broken.
Over Labor Day Weekend in 1921 Hollywood good times visited San Francisco.
A raucous party was held at the St.
Francis Hotel.
Bootleg liquor flowed freely.
Hosting the boozy celebrations was popular comedy star Roscoe "Fatty" Arbuckle.
Before the San Francisco party was over, things turned ugly.
Arbuckle was accused of forcing himself on 30-year-old Virginia Rappe a little-known actress.
Rappe later died from a ruptured bladder, complicated by peritonitis.
Arbuckle was charged with manslaughter in the death of Virginia Rappe in September, 1921 and that sent shockwaves through the industry.
An ambitious San Francisco District Attorney issued an indictment but even before Arbuckle faced a judge and jury, he was convicted in the press.
Two hung juries resulted in yet a third trial and in the third trial he was acquitted with an apology from the jury.
It was decided that Virginia Rappe had died from a pre-existing condition, nothing Arbuckle had done.
But the verdict came too late.
Once as famous as Charlie Chaplin, Arbuckle struggled to make a comeback working as a director.
Frustrated and disillusioned, he died at age 46.
Looking back at the scandal, Arbuckle's friend, comedian Buster Keaton, declared: "It was the day our laughter stopped.
" The second Arbuckle trial was still in session when Adolph Zukor faced another scandal in February 1922.
Dapper Paramount director William Desmond Taylor, was found shot to death.
There were no clues to a killer, but plenty to suggest scandalous goings on.
It was thought that maybe he'd been involved in drug dealing.
Perhaps there were some homosexual connection.
But certainly there was a sexual relationship with two Hollywood stars of the period.
Mary Miles Minter and Mabel Normand.
Pictured on screen as the image of virginal innocence Mary Miles Minter's career was severely damaged when her gushing love notes were discovered in the murdered director's home.
For Mabel Normand her involvement in the unsolved mystery began a downward slide hastened by alcohol and drugs ending with her premature death in 1930 at age 37.
Hollywood started getting this reputation of being a really sensual, sexual, terrible place.
And that was keeping some people away from the movies somewhat.
They realized that if they didn't do something pretty soon themselves the government would step in and tell them what to do.
And they didn't want that, so they decided to you know, organize it themselves and start their own censorship board.
Will Hays was a professional politician.
He had been the Postmaster General in the Harding Administration.
Hays came up with a list of do's and don'ts through the Studio Relations Office.
The code sets up high standards of performance for motion picture producers.
It states the considerations which good taste and community value make necessary in this universal form of entertainment.
The establishment of the Hays office fended off outside interference in the movie business.
But even as they declared their dedication to high morality and family values the moguls found ways to profit from audience tastes for the risqué.
Filmmakers found the way to do that was to give their audiences a lot of sex a lot of fun, a lot of partying and a lot of drinking in a prohibition era and then at the end to have the good girl marry the good boy and live happily ever after, in a chaste life.
Cecil B.
DeMille did this with his sin-and-salvation epics where he could show a lot of sinning, a lot of sex, a lot of debauchery because at the end there was salvation for all concerned.
In the '20s, Cecil B.
DeMille was a master at toying with the do's and don'ts of the Hays Office as he played to the hilt the role of imperious movie maker.
Having come a long way from The Squaw Man in 1914 DeMille proved more than his image.
His use of light and shadow gave a visual elegance to his work.
But the ideal of the all-powerful director, first embodied by D.
Griffith was not invincible.
DeMille overreached himself with the 1923 Paramount epic The Ten Commandments mixing a biblical setting with a modern counterpart.
It wasn't about the orgies and the revealing costumes the project was way over-budget.
In mogul-ruled Hollywood, that was a mortal sin.
The Ten Commandments turned out to be a hit, but directors whose independence and artistic vision took risks with tight budgets were quickly going out of style.
The movie business is a business unlike any other because it marries art and commerce.
And they are fundamentally incompatible.
Art or commerce, during the 1920s money mattered more than ever.
Major stars were making fortunes but working with a studio contract meant they didn't have total control over the work, or more important, the profits.
Always in the history of stardom and moguldom there is the basic conflict.
Who controls? Is it the star the public wants to see or is it the entrepreneur who creates the vehicle for the star so the public can see them? Four of the industry's most powerful creative talents Mary Pickford, D.
Griffith Charlie Chaplin and Douglas Fairbanks, decided to take things into their own hands.
The result was a new distribution company, United Artists, founded in 1919.
When he joined United Artists, D.
Griffith was disappointed at the reception of his multi-layered epic Intolerance.
And still upset by the protests against The Birth of a Nation.
Working from his estate and studio in Mamaroneck, near New York City Griffith produced more conventional stories such as Way Down East a well-known melodrama and Orphans of the Storm, set during the French Revolution.
Both had memorable moments but Griffith's determination to maintain artistic independence left him frustrated and deeply in debt.
He turned to alcohol as his eminence continued to fade.
Time and tastes were changing.
Once unchallenged as the world's greatest filmmaker now D.
Griffith faced competition for the title.
And not all of his challengers were directors.
One of the most powerful men in Hollywood during the 1920s hardly looked the part.
Not yet 21, Irving Thalberg wasn't old enough to the sign company checks when Carl Laemmle made him general manager of Universal.
During early '20s, Universal Studios was known for low-budget formula movies but Irving Thalberg had a sharp sense of storytelling and grand ambitions He lavished attention and dollars on The Hunchback of Notre Dame, starring Lon Chaney.
Chaney's chameleon-like acting style awed and unnerved 1920s moviegoers.
Growing up on the Universal lot Carl Laemmle's niece experienced the actor's intensity first-hand.
That was unforgettable for me to see him do that and to see him in makeup, and, you know, with the hunch on his back, you know and all of these things that he had to wear to deform his face.
This was painful but he would do anything to achieve what he wanted.
Lon Chaney was an actor made for the movies of the 1920s a period of silent imagery and visual imagination.
The son of parents who were deaf he learned to communicate through pantomime training that led him to a career in the theater, and in 1912, the movies.
He made 150 films between 1913 and his death in 1930.
A majority of them were unforgettable because of the variety of characters he played many of them grotesque and physically demanding.
Like the deformed organist in the 1925 Phantom of the Opera.
If Lon Chaney personified the art Irving Thalberg represented the best of the business side of Hollywood.
Although on the surface they were opposites in 1923 small-time producer Louis B.
Mayer already had his eyes on Irving Thalberg.
With an offer of more power and $500 a week, he lured him from Carl Laemmle.
It was the beginning of a powerful partnership.
The 1920s were a time of consolidation in the movie business.
The companies that flourished early on were either dead or consumed by bigger fish with shrewder leaders and lusher bank accounts.
The foundations of the modern studio system were being laid.
What we see happening with the emergence of the studio system is this idea that you can mass-produce entertainment.
They like to call their factories studios.
It gives them an air of elegance and artistry.
But in fact, these are mass-production plants.
And they were actually self-sustaining.
They didn't have their own armies, but they had everything else.
By the end of the decade, the pioneers of the movie business many of them from impoverished backgrounds found themselves hobnobbing with presidents and wining and dining on Wall Street.
For the first time, Wall Street investors now see that this is not a fly-by-night industry.
They're giving the studios 10, 20 million dollars the equivalent today of 150, 200,300 million dollars to get those ventures started.
1920s Hollywood was a realm of competing fiefdoms ruled by a small group of self-made potentates.
After being bought out by Adolph Zukor and Jesse Lasky fiercely independent Sam Goldwyn created a new production company.
It was a gamble.
His life from the day he left Europe was one big bet, on himself.
He loved to go to casinos and he was a crapshooter.
Life had made him a crapshooter because "anything was better than what I got.
" Goldwyn formed his company with the idea that he would have this logo like many companies that have a trademark, something strong.
And they came up with a reclining lion sculpture which was actually right across from the office of Goldwyn which was the New York Public Library.
He looked out the window with his publicity man and said: "You know, I like that.
That looks strong and good.
" Not strong enough.
By 1922, Sam Goldwyn had been forced out of his own company.
He was always working with an image that was not Schmuel Gelbfisz but Samuel Goldwyn.
He said, "I have enough trouble handling Goldwyn.
I can't deal with partners too.
" The essence to my father's life is survival.
This is an instinct that was basic with him.
Almost like an animal.
Without its founder, the Goldwyn Company became part of a package acquired by theater-owner Marcus Loew including Metro Pictures, the Goldwyn Company and Louis B.
Mayer Productions.
Adopting Goldwyn's lion logo, MGM was born.
The relationship between Samuel Goldwyn and Louis B.
Mayer forever linked in the most famous-named studio in history Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer, is really ironic because the two men loathed each other.
Mogul feuds didn't stop MGM from challenging Adolph Zukor's Paramount as Hollywood's most powerful studio.
Especially after the right team was found to run the place.
They were looking for somebody who was powerful and persuasive, and charming and Mayer seemed to fit the bill.
And Thalberg seemed to be "You know, okay, we'll take Thalberg too.
" But Mayer was the big thing they were getting.
From the start, the new MGM team faced major challenges.
They had inherited two pictures in trouble.
Ben Hur was one.
Greed was the other.
Both were out of control and over-budget.
The director of Greed was Erich von Stroheim.
As an actor, Stroheim was the man you love to hate in Hollywood's virulent anti-German films made during World War I.
By 1923, he'd become a skilled and grandiose director mixing opulence with risqué sex.
Greed was Stroheim's most uncompromising project yet.
The stage was set for an epic power struggle.
The Austrian director's first cut was 10 hours long.
An exasperated Irving Thalberg complained that Stroheim had a footage fetish.
He had to take drastic measures, and this consisted of sending a crew 50 miles down to Lake Forest, California where Stroheim was shooting.
And on a Saturday night, when they were on a break to take the cameras away.
Thalberg finally overruled Stroheim and had Greed finished the way he wanted.
Even by the very early 1920s you could see what was happening to people who took themselves extremely seriously as artists.
People like Stroheim were kind of ostracized and gradually pushed to the perimeter.
At the end of the silent era, essentially their careers were over.
They disappeared.
They were gone.
They were just gone.
Other directors would learn to work in the emerging studio system where moguls like Louis B.
Mayer and Irving Thalberg were firmly in control.
Mayer and Thalberg employed carefully crafted stories and an unmatched stable of stars.
Only two years after its founding, MGM was Hollywood's most profitable studio.
As profits soared, studio executives at MGM and elsewhere were reaching beyond ticket sales to enhance their product line.
Charlie Chaplin was one of the first stars to discover the power of merchandising.
There was this enormous craze for the Little Tramp character.
You had Charlie Chaplin dolls, Charlie Chaplin puzzles.
Everyone was buying Charlie Chaplin product.
It was the first cinema merchandising and that's so essential to what we have today and it all started with Chaplin and that great Little Tramp character.
During the '20s, Chaplin was smoothing out the rough edges of the Little Tramp and adding new depth to his dance-like style.
Films such as The Kid included scenes with tremendous emotional power as the Tramp takes on authority to save his child-star discovery 5-year-old Jackie Coogan.
In The Gold Rush Chaplin is alone, but resourceful an irrepressible survivor.
With freedom earned by success the former music hall comedian was taking his work seriously spending more time in production and making fewer films.
The rushed schedules of Chaplin's days with Mack Sennett were over and another comedy producer was replacing the king of Keystone.
Hal Roach was born in Elmira, New York and had one of the most amazing early lives.
He did all sorts of things.
He was a faro dealer.
He was prospecting in the Yukon.
Like a lot of early people in Hollywood he brought an amazing amount of living to the table when he got into motion picture making.
In 1915, Roach was acting as a bit player at Universal when he met another struggling actor, Harold Lloyd.
Harold Lloyd was a child of the Midwest.
He was born in Burchard, Nebraska.
Harold went to California with his father actually on a flip a coin, and it came up tails, and off they went to the West.
In 1914, when Hal Roach unexpectedly inherited $3000 he invested his windfall in a studio.
For his first star, he hired his friend Harold Lloyd.
Hal really didn't wanna be an actor and he was more comfortable being a behind-the-scenes and a creator.
And I think he saw in Harold somebody that he could really collaborate with and it's all about collaboration.
By 1926, Lloyd was earning a million and a half dollars a year.
His trademark was a prominent pair of glasses.
My grandfather decided to don a pair of glasses as his trademark.
Because some of the other comedians of the time wore silly hats, they had split mustaches they had sideburns.
They were always relying on something that was more of a grotesque type of a character and he wanted to be a real person.
He wanted to be an everyman.
Lloyd is best known for his thrill comedies such as Safety Last where audiences gasped and laughed at the same time.
But movies like Safety Last were only a small part of his varied comedy output.
I really think that Harold Lloyd was the father of romantic comedies.
He was the first comedian to ever take a character to heart and say "I want to have a romance with a girl.
" And that is what romantic comedy is all about.
Silent comedy was as competitive as it was fast-paced.
After Chaplin and Lloyd taciturn Buster Keaton was another great silent comic.
Buster Keaton was born Joseph Frank Keaton and he was born with a show, as he'd like to say.
His parents were medicine show entertainers.
And the act was notorious for the fact that it consisted of Keaton's father throwing him around, knocking him down and basically ill-treating him to the delight of the audiences.
After 20 years in vaudeville Keaton was introduced to the movies in 1917 by his friend Roscoe "Fatty" Arbuckle.
Immediately, Buster realizes this is what he wants to do.
He spends the day in the tech department tears a camera to pieces, figures out how all that works is watching how Arbuckle is directing scenes is working with the other cast members.
And the second Keaton walks into the frame, he's at home.
Keaton always said that if he had not been a filmmaker he might have been a civil engineer.
He loved things mechanical.
And his first independent release, One Week is a masterpiece of film comedy.
It's the perfect structured two-reel comedy.
The Citizen Kane of the comic two-reelers.
It's just perfection.
No film should follow it.
You cannot top One Week.
And that really put him at the top of the gang with Chaplin and Harold Lloyd as one of the great figures of film comedy.
The audiences in the silent days were in many respects great contributors to silent comedies because it was through the preview system that the silent comedies were made.
In the case of Chaplin and Buster Keaton and especially Harold Lloyd, they would sometimes build sequences that they weren't sure whether they would work or not.
They would preview it to some audience in Glendale or some out-of-the-way place.
The audience would tell them if the scene was working not gag writers or a staff of yes men.
Harold came up with a thing called the Laugh-o-Meter.
The Laugh-o-Meter was some form of a kind of a sound meter that they could see how strong the laughter and the reaction was to a scene and that they could judge it on a chart.
The moguls knew that movie success was a partnership between filmmakers and fans and it could become surprisingly personal.
The interaction between audience and imagery on the screen spilled into real life on August the 23rd, 1926.
Since the beginnings of Hollywood fame, other movie stars had died but nothing matched the impact of the sudden death of Rudolph Valentino.
Valentino's funeral was the flip side of a Hollywood premiere a glorification of superstar death in contrast to the birth of their latest movie.
The outpouring of grief was greater than the response to the unexpected death of U.
President Warren G.
Harding three years before.
For millions around the world, the movies were more than an amusing pastime.
Hollywood opened another world filled with imagery and personalities that were as vivid and involving as life and death itself.
Rudolph Valentino, the man, was gone but his image on screen lived on.
The appetite for stars was insatiable especially among women searching for a new identity during the 1920s.
Gloria Swanson, always clever.
She worked the streets of Hollywood in the best sense of that term.
She knew how to keep her career moving.
She's a tiny, itsy-bitsy little person, about 5 feet tall but she could walk carrying yards of fur and goods.
And she made a great, great identification figure for women.
It was the great gilded era of the movie star.
And the moguls recognized that while someone like Gloria Swanson was a very high-maintenance woman who required a lot of coddling and a lot of money to keep up with her expenses she paid them back because of the publicity that she generated the mystique that she created and the anticipation that came with each new Gloria Swanson movie's release.
Gloria Swanson reveled in her lavish lifestyle.
She spent $500 a month on perfume alone.
But after two years as her own producer she was a half-million dollars in debt.
A friend suggested that she talk to financier Joseph P.
Their relationship was soon more than business a personal co-mingling of the glamour of Hollywood and East Coast money.
Joe Kennedy was on Wall Street.
And he started saying to people, "If you have anything to do with films, send them my way.
Send me proposals.
I wanna start looking, I wanna start investing.
" He realized very quickly, that as he put it: "This is a gold mine.
We gotta get into it.
" As an Irish Catholic, Kennedy was an outsider in predominately Jewish mogul circles.
What unique thing did Joe Kennedy have? What he had was Harvard University.
And he put together a course at Harvard where he would bring Zukor where he would bring Marcus Lowe where he would bring the powers of Hollywood to Harvard.
Marcus Lowe said, "I can't tell you how it thrills me to be inside the halls of a college when I myself didn't get out of grammar school.
" Kennedy's affair with Gloria Swanson was another entre to the tight-knit Hollywood community.
Like Adolph Zukor and William Fox, Joe Kennedy saw the future in mergers.
But making successful movies wasn't as simple as it seemed.
Without Harvard degrees, the moguls could tell him that.
Kennedy and Swanson didn't listen when they were approached by director Erich von Stroheim with a story he called The Swamp.
Erich regaled the two of them with this story of this convent girl who is swept away by the prince who's whipped by the queen who runs away to Africa where she runs her aunt's brothel.
How this story ever got out of their living room in the first place is beyond comprehension.
Renamed Queen Kelly, the movie was a lavish disaster.
It was a classic example of the risks and unpredictability of making movies.
But that didn't stop ever-shrewd Joe Kennedy.
He joined with a business consortium that included radio magnate David Sarnoff to form RKO studios.
Radio-Keith-Orpheum, a merger of movies, radio and theater interests.
Controlling the business, from production to exhibition RKO was called "the ultimate show machine.
" Enriched with movie millions, Kennedy returned to his wife Rose and their nine children, including a future U.
President and two distinguished senators.
The failure of Queen Kelly added to the burden of Gloria Swanson's debt.
And her career, once one of the most glittering in Hollywood began to dim.
By the time Gloria Swanson and Joseph Kennedy called it quits the movie business was infused with financiers and firmly bi-coastal.
Production was in Hollywood but the power of the purse was in New York.
Moguls like Louis B.
Mayer may not have had the final say on budgets but Mayer had something the moneymen in New York didn't a gut instinct for stories and star appeal.
While in Europe to rescue Ben Hur and return it to Hollywood Mayer saw a film, starring a Swedish actress, Greta Gustafsson.
Greta Gustafsson would become Greta Garbo Garbo was a blank canvas.
And we project our images of what we feel onto her and that's part of the brilliance of her acting.
Garbo didn't have a bad angle and she knew everything about lighting.
And she was beyond categorizing.
A truly great star.
On the set, Garbo was aloof and quietly demanding.
But then, with Hollywood flair, fate took a hand.
When Garbo came to work on a John Gilbert film which was Flesh and the Devil no one expected that she would be the sensation of that film.
And they fell in love while they were making this film.
And it was a passionate sexual affair too.
You had Garbo who was a hot/cold person mostly cold, and Gilbert who was hot, hot, hot.
And when there was hot from her and hot from him, great.
But when it was cold from her, it drove him crazy.
In the 1927 film Love an adaption of the Russian novel, Anna Karenina the Garbo/Gilbert passion infused their performances but off-screen their affair was even more tempestuous.
There exists no photographs of Garbo between October, 1926 and April, 1927, which in the history of Hollywood is amazing and unique.
So she was being hidden someplace, and the question is why? Was she pregnant? Was there an abortion? Was there domestic violence? If there was something to hide the movie moguls were learning to keep it hidden.
With troops of studio publicists to manage the press and close relations with local police and politicians Louis B.
Mayer made sure that Garbo's mysterious allure was carefully maintained and protected.
It was not an easy job.
1920s America sometimes seemed out of control.
In films like Our Dancing Daughters Joan Crawford played a new kind of American girl, the flapper, a woman in energetic revolt and Louise Brooks' bobbed hair set the fashion.
The innocent era of Mary Pickford was clearly over.
No one embodied the times as emphatically as Clara Bow.
She was the first generation that grew up on the movies.
She would read the movie magazines and take them as literal truth.
And really believe that stardom could bring you happiness and contentment.
The winner of a Hollywood talent search when she was 16 Bow was given a bit part in a movie.
She soon had bigger parts.
Stars like Gloria Swanson were like royalty.
Clara Bow was a Cinderella star.
She had "it.
" "It" was an invention of a woman named Elinor Glyn who was a very shrewd self-promoter.
She created this term "it" and what it was anybody's guess because you could never pin her down exactly what it meant.
It was something that you had that was almost inexplicable, therefore the term "it.
" But what it was drew everybody to you.
And that's why Clara Bow was the one and only "it" girl.
Clara Bow's love life was the object of much attention in the 1920s.
What the public was hearing and reading and enjoying was this idea of a liberated women who was in control.
But it also meant that in the mores of the time, she was promiscuous.
At one time, Bow juggled the affections of director Victor Fleming and up-and-coming star Gary Cooper.
1920s audiences were equally enamored with Clara.
To B.
Schulberg, the head of production at Paramount she was a hyperactive gold mine.
Her films were cheap to produce, and enormously profitable.
The uncertainties of discovering a star like Clara Bow or spotting a good story made moviemaking fast-paced and unpredictable.
But a major source of Hollywood profits and power came from more than stars and stories.
The great founder of the movies was Adolph Zukor.
He didn't go out and make a movie.
He built theaters.
Once you had a batch of theaters, you gotta put something in them.
So it's largely a real estate business how to get people to buy seats in the dark while flickering images, you know, are on the screen in front of them.
Fox, Paramount and Loew's had the biggest theater chains.
As the 1920s saw the full flowering of the movie palaces that had begun the decade before.
In 1926, movie entrepreneurs spent nearly half their annual profits on new theaters.
They were meant to be places where you could go and escape the rest of your world and have a giant infusion of entertainment.
The audience that went to movies in these gorgeous movie theaters did feel like they were going into a palace.
They felt pampered, cared for.
There were ushers dressed in special uniforms that led them to their seats with flashlights.
Everything you could do to treat them beautifully.
While owning theaters led to owning studios for many of the early moguls it also influenced one of the silent era's most influential writers Anita Loos.
Her father had owned a San Diego nickelodeon.
Barely over 5 feet tall, Anita Loos was just out of her teens when she sold her first story to D.
She exemplifies how you could get into the movie business by just wanting to be in the movie business.
She also exemplifies the fact that a lot of early screenwriters as a matter of fact, about half of them, were women.
Loos' scripts helped launch the career of Douglas Fairbanks and added a witty edge to the image of the modern female especially her novel, play and film Gentlemen Prefer Blondes where women acting dumb outsmarted men.
Whether you were woman or a man you needed to be tough and determined to make it in Hollywood.
My father was born in Wahoo, Nebraska, about 1902.
And he came from a very humble beginning.
His father ran a small hotel there.
He dropped out around the sixth or seventh grade.
He really didn't have any formal education.
And he joined the Army very, very young.
He had braces that he knocked off, actually because he thought that it was a giveaway to his age.
Darryl Zanuck may not have had a formal education but he was good at telling stories.
As a teenager, he became a struggling writer.
In 1924, he was noticed by Jack Warner.
At 21, Zanuck was hired as a Warner Bros.
His first star was a four-footed wonder.
Rin Tin Tin was a dog.
It was the brainchild of a man named Darryl Zanuck or as my grandfather used to call him: "Three wonderful guys named Darryl Francis Zanuck.
" And he was the one who I think put Warner Bros.
On the map as a production company.
My father wrote Rin Tin Tin stories as one of his early assignments at Warner Bros.
, and he used to say: "The only thing on this lot that's smarter than I am is Rin Tin Tin.
" Because he thought that Jack, who was his friend, was kind of a buffoon and he was surrounded by buffoons and nobody really wanted to work as hard as he was working.
Thanks to Rin Tin Tin and a lot of creative drive Zanuck was named Warner production chief in 1927.
A boy wonder, like MGM's Irving Thalberg.
You would have to say no one that was meek or bashful could have possibly come from Wahoo, Nebraska without a dime in his pocket and end up as Darryl Zanuck, but he did.
And the circumstances were right the timing of the industry, the birth of the industry, was right.
He was the right age and he had the right energy and he had the right talent.
He was dynamic.
You wouldn't want to be up against him in even a tic-tac-toe game.
Just as Darryl Zanuck was taking his first steps to becoming a movie mogul Hollywood inadvertently acquired a typically grandiose advertisement for itself.
In 1923, an enormous sign was erected in the hills overlooking the town.
With 50-foot-high letters, it read "Hollywoodland" promoting a real estate development.
Twenty years later, the sign was still there, with only "Hollywood" remaining.
It became an accidental symbol of the movie capital and one of the world's most recognized landmarks.
By 1927, even though the moguls and movie stars had nothing to do with the Hollywoodland sign they were eager to promote the industry it would come to represent.
The result would be The Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences.
But at first, not everyone in Hollywood was ready to celebrate.
Faced with increasing dissatisfaction about salaries and creative control among writers, directors and actors to the horror of the moguls, there was talk of unionism.
The Academy was organized because they were trying to keep the unions out of Hollywood.
And the major studios thought, "Well, if we organize this academy where if people have problems, they'll come to us and we'll solve the problems and keep the unions out.
" The first Academy Awards ceremony held in the Blossom Room of the Hollywood Roosevelt Hotel was an informal affair.
In fact, everyone knew the winners beforehand.
And not everyone took the honor seriously.
For Best Actor, Jack Warner nominated Rin Tin Tin.
Two films, a lyrical drama, Sunrise and an aerial war epic, Wings, were both honored as Best Picture.
Both showed how far silent story-telling had come since the days of The Great Train Robbery.
Wings director was 31-year-old William Wellman a maverick best known for hard-hitting melodramas and Westerns.
WELLMAN, JR: My father was a rebel.
He was born a rebel, he lived as a rebel.
He always had trouble with authority figures.
He was always looking to tomorrow.
He was never a guy going about yesterday.
Even today maybe, but it's tomorrow, he's ready to go.
Typical of the varied backgrounds of early filmmakers it was Wellman's experience as an actual fighter pilot in World War I that impressed Jesse Lasky at Paramount.
Despite Lasky's enthusiasm, Adolph Zukor balked at the budget.
But in the end, Wings showed the political power and influence the movie business wielded.
The War Department ended up giving Paramount what amounted to $16 million worth of manpower and equipment.
They put together well over 5000 troops hundreds of pilots hundreds of planes tanks.
Even with the U.
Military to back them up Zukor and Lasky knew they were taking a risk with such an expensive and action-oriented production.
For insurance, as anxious producers would do time and again they turned to star power.
This time, bubbly Clara Bow.
Bow added her nonstop energy to a raucous production environment.
The survivor of more than a few brawls William Wellman had earned his nickname Wild Bill.
The huge success of Wings didn't make Adolph Zukor and Jesse Lasky any less annoyed with their maverick director.
They didn't invite him to the opening of Wings and they made sure he was not invited to the first Academy Award celebration and his picture won Best Picture.
In the years to come, the Academy Awards would continue to honor celebrate and often stir controversy.
Representing creative tensions that were at the heart of Hollywood's mix of commerce and art.
William Wellman would also continue his willful ways for more than 40 years.
But for a founding generation of filmmakers Wings was only one memorable film in a remarkable decade of Hollywood history.
The great comedy stars, Chaplin Lloyd and Keaton were in a full bloom of fun.
The swashbuckling adventures of Douglas Fairbanks amazed.
Garbo intrigued.
And Clara Bow delighted.
At the same time, movie story-telling had matured and deepened.
Inspired by the example of D.
Griffith directors like King Vidor explored contemporary America with films such as The Crowd a visually evocative examination of the impact of a newly emerging mass culture.
In hardly more than 20 years an unlikely generation of entrepreneurs and image-makers had created an international entertainment industry.
Mass media idols had emerged.
And an expressive new visual medium had been fully formed.
The great films that survive are so human, so deeply human, and so transcendentally moving because there's a certain simplicity, and yet it's very complex.
Because finally a gesture would tell a great deal.
I mean, it was all images.
Griffith and Mack Sennett and Charlie Chaplin and other pioneers of silent film not only set a standard, a very high standard but they also invented a lot of the filmmaking grammar and a lot of the story-telling techniques that remain absolutely intact today.
During the 1920s, movie story-telling reached a pinnacle of style and audience appeal.
Studio output and profits were soaring.
MGM boss, Nick Schenck, boasted: "We can make money showing blank film.
" Then, with little warning, Hollywood was inundated with change.
One, two, three, four, five.
Fifty, fifty Mississippi.
The movies were learning to talk and audiences were eager to listen.
Okay, for sound.