Moguls & Movie Stars: A History of Hollywood (2010) s01e06 Episode Script

The Attack of the Small Screens: 1950-1960

During the 1940s, America triumphed in a world war and emerged as the most powerful nation on the planet.
It was also a triumphant time for Hollywood.
Studio profits surged from almost $20 million in 1940 to a hundred and twenty-two million dollars by 1946.
Then came television.
The movies had weathered entertainment competition before.
But in the 1950s, a major source of studio control was gone.
In 1948, the United States Supreme Court forced studios to give up their ownership of theaters.
The days of guaranteed screenings and profits were over.
Audiences also were on the move and moguls and movie stars were forced to keep up.
The United States, after World War II, underwent massive changes.
None of which benefited the movie industry.
The population was moving away from urban centers.
We talk about the baby boom, which was really a family boom a housing boom, a suburban migration boom.
And all of these things were changing lifestyles.
One key indicator of this transformation was the rise of the drive-in movie theater.
There were only a couple of dozen at the end of World War II.
There was five to 6000 of them by 1960.
A third of all the theater screens in the United States by 1960 were drive-in.
Studio control of where and when audiences saw movies was slipping.
But the moguls continued to cling to the tried and true.
Every studio is jumping on the bandwagon, theaters are putting in sound equipment.
- We don't wanna be left out.
- We don't know anything about this.
In 1952, MGM released Singin' in the Rain starring Gene Kelly who also shared directing credit with fellow dancer-choreographer Stanley Donen.
Lamont and Lockwood.
They talk.
Well, of course we talk.
Don't everybody? A good-humored send up of the transition to sound it was old-fashioned Hollywood entertainment at its best.
I'm singin' in the rain Just singin' in the rain Gene Kelly was a new kind of on-screen hoofer a product of the war years.
I'm happy again Unlike elegant Fred Astaire, he portrayed an Everyman hero.
Kelly's popularity was another indication that American movie audiences were changing.
The sun's in my heart And I'm ready for love By the mid-'50s, if the studios were hoping that old-fashioned musicals would keep theater seats filled, they were whistling in the dark.
No one was turning off television.
Jack Warner hated television.
He didn't allow a TV set to be used as a prop as a piece of furniture on a set.
He wanted nothing to do with it.
The motion picture industry has always fought new ideas.
They said television is a gimmick.
Nobody wants to sit at home and watch a box.
Do you seriously think people will go out to see movies when they can sit at home and see them on television for free? They have cooks at home and they go out to dine.
In 1953, the Academy Awards ceremony was broadcast for the first time.
A year later, the show drew 43 million viewers the largest single audience in television's five-year commercial history.
This is indeed the wedding of two great entertainment mediums with motion pictures and television.
And with Oscar 25 years old, it's high time they got married.
Despite Bob Hope's best wishes the movie moguls wanted a prenuptial agreement before they rushed into any movie-TV marriage.
In the early '50s, Hollywood remained a closely-knit society of intertwined relationships and competitive aspirations a private world of power and influence that had changed little since the 1920s.
It should be noted that there was a lot of studio politics all around, but a lot of that took place at dining room tables around town.
And the Goldwyn dinner party was considered the hardest ticket in town.
They gave small dinner parties, sometimes a couple of nights a week.
And as Katharine Hepburn said: "You always knew where your career stood by where you sat at the Goldwyn dining room table.
" And there were the regular Goldwyn croquet games.
And if you were extended that invitation you really knew you had arrived.
The bad news is you then had to play croquet with Sam Goldwyn.
Periodically, I'd be stupid enough to go out there and watch them.
He'd say to me, "Tell them I'm not cheating.
" And he was cheating.
And I said, "I better stay out.
" And I'd look at these guys, and I said, "Don't get me into this.
" Whether it was croquet, poker, polo, or movie making the aging moguls remained convinced that they were masters of the game.
But the rules were changing.
Since 1924, Louis B.
Mayer had reigned over production at MGM.
He'd fought off challengers like William Fox maintained control over his partnership with Irving Thalberg and survived the transition to sound, the Great Depression and World War II.
As the highest-paid executive in America, Mayer had risen from the very bottom.
In 1951, he was at the very top and could afford to sound modest.
There are many here to whom I owe a great vote of thanks and I have appreciation in my heart.
Grandpa had been successful and he thought so loved and admired I don't think he could begin to imagine that every seven years, his contract would not be renewed with a raise and profit participation.
And he just couldn't imagine that he wouldn't stay there until the end of his life.
The movie business was facing a very different world and Mayer's boss in New York since 1927, Nick Schenck was anxious to rethink MGM's future.
Mayer never liked Schenck.
He called him skunk.
But his New York boss had the final say.
And all of a sudden, this earthquake happened and he lost his job.
And suddenly, the ground, out from under him, evaporated and he was in free fall.
And it's just one of the most awful things I've ever witnessed.
And you could see the loneliness in his eyes.
I just didn't know what was gonna happen.
Even though sentiment was a staple on movie screens hard-nosed realities ruled executive office suites.
It was time for Hollywood to take on television.
Old-time showmen the moguls were always convinced bigger was better.
As early as 1928, William Fox had expansive plans for a widescreen system called Grandeur.
In 1952, viewers were taken on a roller coaster ride when three synchronized projectors were used to create This Is Cinerama.
New widescreen systems like VistaVision and CinemaScope followed as audiences were also enveloped in stereophonic sound.
In 1953, when the widescreen biblical epic The Robe opened some theater owners blinked their marquees signaling a Morse code message that read "good luck.
" They hoped that Hollywood had found the antidote to TV.
Cinemascope is the most remarkable development in the world of entertainment in the last 20 years.
Every picture we produce henceforth will be filmed in this revolutionary Cinemascope process.
Renounce him so all can hear! Along with big screens the moguls added a dazzling palette of color.
If color, big screens and stereo sound weren't enough to overwhelm television Hollywood added 3-D another old idea that dated to the popular stereopticons of the 1890s.
My grandfather didn't think much of 3-D.
He went to see an early 3-D movie in black and white I believe called Bwana Devil, and thought it was a horrible movie.
But when he saw the box office receipts, he said, "Okay, we're making 3-D.
" In his eagerness to get on the 3-D bandwagon Warner hired veteran director André de Toth.
With only one good eye de Toth couldn't see the 3-D effect in The House of Wax.
But he could turn out a movie fast and cheap.
In a couple of years, 3-D was gone left on the cutting room floor of Hollywood history.
Moviegoers seemed glad to get rid of their glasses.
A comeback? Forget it.
For a while, the moguls' bigger-is-better approach to the challenge of television paid off at the box office.
As always, audiences were attracted to the grandeur of great stories and the appeal of well-known stars.
The stars never die and never change.
You may change this star anytime you want.
Since 1934, no movie star commanded the screen as voraciously as Bette Davis.
Starting with tonight's performance! In All About Eve, though the story was set in the world of theater Davis offered razor-sharp evidence that stardom could be a blood sport.
I said I'm a dying man! Not until the last drugstore has sold its last pill.
As Bette Davis reveled in the cutting edge of entertainment fame in All About Eve early television remained the realm of newcomers and former second-tier stage and movie performers such as Milton Berle, Jackie Gleason Sid Caesar and most of all, Lucille Ball.
She had never found a top-tier place in the Hollywood image factories.
But with her television success Lucille Ball and husband co-star Desi Arnaz ended up owning the RKO lot a studio where Lucy was once a contract player.
By 1957, their company, Desilu owned more sound stages than either MGM or Twentieth Century Fox.
Despite the television success of second-tier studio stars like Lucille Ball the moguls remained convinced that only the big screen could produce a major magnitude star like Judy Garland.
Ironically, when she made A Star is Born Judy Garland's career was in decline.
Closer angle, okay? All right, take five.
She had been released from her MGM contract in 1950.
There was something about Judy, which, no matter how low she went would always come back.
The woman had more comebacks than practically any other star in entertainment history.
And that sense of optimism, that sense of hope that was part of her persona was very much identified with American film.
And America itself, and therefore American film in Hollywood.
By the 1950s the appeal of stars like Judy Garland and the magic of the movies had been a comforting centerpiece of American life for more than 40 years.
The studio system was still kind of operating in '54, when I got to MGM, where they nurtured stars.
And I remember there in front of me were about 25 of those people.
George Sanders wearing tights Gable over there.
I mean, all of them, MGM.
And I remember going to the men's room there standing next to me was George Sanders.
And I couldn't help but look at him.
"Can I help you?" I said, "No, Mr.
Sanders, I'm a big fan of our yours.
" "Thank you.
" It was thrilling.
The Fox lot was somewhere between a campus and a factory.
It was a factory in that they were manufacturing motion pictures.
It was a campus in that there was a stimulating creative environment.
People who worked in films then, and I think still do are doing it partially for the money and very much for the love of what they're doing.
In the competitive climate of Hollywood, love was never enough.
Television had a more intimate point of view, and better yet, it was free.
Even more significant, thanks to TV, after 50 years New York, the cradle of moviemaking in the 1890s, was making a comeback.
You felt immediately comfortable in television.
It was so easy to get into television it's embarrassing.
And nobody knew enough to say no, so that you were able to try stuff.
For me, the biggest contribution to the whole career that live television gave me was the strange attitude "We've got another one next week.
" And that allowed you to relax.
It showed you something, which I'm sure is true today which is that, given the opportunity to work, there is a burst of talent.
Live television I must have done 50 plays for them was totally a writer's medium.
It was as close as you're ever going to get for a public forum like theater, movies.
Together, a really people's art form.
Paddy Chayefsky was a young writer.
He started doing one-hour plays for the Philco Playhouse.
One of his plays, Marty, was made into a movie by United Artists.
And it was a major hit, it won an Oscar.
It won him an Oscar.
I think there was a great investment on the part of the moguls in the 1950s in the maintenance of glamour.
You got a real nice face, you know? - Really a nice face.
- Thank you.
To make a movie with Ernest Borgnine and Betsy Blair these people who didn't look like movie stars didn't sound like movie stars, didn't act like movie stars it was a threat to the machine.
With production talent and stars from television and the New York stage a powerful new relationship between audiences and screen entertainment was beginning.
I think the difference between the studio stars and the generation of actors from the '50s and '60s, and the stars they became was the earlier group of stars were untouchable.
They were not human.
And I don't say that derogatorily.
It was a different style.
More fundamentally, it was being isolated in this bubble called studio.
I am guilty of a lot of things.
Star power in the 1950s bridged old and new big screen glamour and a new generation of actors with uninhibited emotional intensity.
I'll go on loving you for as long as I live.
From a 1940s teenager to mature superstar Elizabeth Taylor was the image of traditional Hollywood star power.
When A Place in the Sun was made Elizabeth Taylor was probably the most beautiful woman in the world.
You promise to be a good boy? She was breathtaking.
Not to waste your time on girls? And she was still young.
I don't waste my time.
And Montgomery Clift was part of a new sensibility of acting that came along after the war.
Monty Clift was able to play sort of an attractive, sexy male character but to invest it with a kind of vulnerability that was something that wasn't the norm up until then.
We'd better go now.
The 1950s were an astonishing moment for the emergence of a new kind of leading man.
And, of course, when you talk about leading men in the 1950s it sort of begins and ends with Marlon Brando.
My place is all cleared up.
Now, you want me to clear yours? Marlon Brando was trained in the Method at the Actors Studio.
Elia Kazan, who directed him, was one of the founders of the Actors Studio and was really steeped in theater.
The biggest single factor in the difference between the New York school and the Hollywood school is that when we began we had no studio space.
If you haven't studio space, the first thing you do you have to go out to the streets.
And that style, photographically and then also because of the nature of it it affected the stories.
On the Waterfront was so seminal a movie.
You give it to Joey, you give it to Dugan, to Charlie who was one of your own.
Do you know what you are? - Come on! - You're a cheap, lousy, dirty, stinking mug! I think it's safe to say that Brando's impact on acting in movies was about the same as television's impact on the motion picture industry.
It hit it head-on and in the solar plexus.
The screenwriter of On the Waterfront was Budd Schulberg son of Paramount studio chief B.
The younger Schulberg was a Hollywood rebel.
In 1941, he published What Makes Sammy Run? a scathing novel about a crass and immoral hero who claws to the top of the movie business.
The book outraged the moguls.
For many, Schulberg's book was more fact than fiction.
During a second round of House Un-American Activities anti-communist hearings in 1951 Schulberg named names of fellow communists he knew during the late '30s making him a pariah to the growing ranks of Hollywood liberals.
Now, you good people ain't so dumb you don't know what's important.
That didn't stop him from taking on the emerging power of television in 1957 with A Face in the Crowd starring Andy Griffith another newcomer from the New York stage.
Griffith played a small-town hick whose folksy mass media charm makes him enormously influential on television.
I'm an influence, a wielder of opinion.
A force.
A force.
For decades, the movies had been the epitome of mass media influence and power.
In the 1950s Hollywood was confronted by a more independent audience with money to spend, young and rebellious.
What's the matter? Need help? Blackboard Jungle was an amazing moment in the history of '50s movies.
From the moment that movie starts with "Rock Around the Clock" You're the tough guy, huh? - You have the first rock 'n' roll movie, really.
And one of the first movies from a studio to directly acknowledge the impact of a young audience and how movies could be made for the kids of the people who movies had been made for for the last several years.
You can't be idealistic all your life, Jim.
Whether the moguls liked or even understood it the generation raised during the uncertainties of the war years was demanding movies and movie stars of their own.
One young actor expressed this era of conflicted beliefs and emotions.
- Why should you be the only one involved? - But I am involved! We are all involved! Jimmy Dean was a very intuitive actor an extraordinarily bright person with a tremendous intellectual curiosity and almost no discipline whatsoever.
James Dean called me when the film East of Eden was going to open in New York, and he said: "I want to see you, but they won't let me away.
They're scared I'm gonna run off and do something crazy.
" And I said, "Well, would you?" And he said, "Yeah, probably I would.
" James Dean was taking a break from his third starring role, Giant directed by George Stevens when he gunned his Porsche toward a desert crossroad.
In the screening room one night Dad got a phone call and he left the room.
He came back in and told everybody, and it was really shattering.
I mean, he was so young and it was just so unexpected and so tragic because Jimmy had a lot to give.
He was gonna be a very interesting actor, and probably a director.
James Dean was 24.
Like Rudolph Valentino another incandescent Hollywood life was cut short.
Young audiences had lost an overnight idol.
But the box office power of the youth market remained and would only grow.
The 1950s, despite all the mythology that we are led to believe was not an era of conformity.
It was an era of great emotional disturbance and philosophical disturbance because everything we had believed about the right way to behave and the right things to believe in the American society were being wiped out were being erased as if on a blackboard.
Don't touch me.
Please don't touch me.
I don't like to be touched.
At the heart of American mixed emotions in the '50s was sex.
The great Hollywood sex symbols personified a mix of fantasy and fear.
Since the days of Jean Harlow eccentric Howard Hughes knew how to capitalize on peepshow appeal as old as the movies.
Movie showmen from time immemorial have known that sex sells.
It's a fact of life.
Not everyone was gutsy enough to exploit that fact.
Howard Hughes was.
And when he made his film The Outlaw in the 1940s even before he had a distributor that was willing to show it he was plastering billboards of Jane Russell in a haystack.
She became a sensation in the 1950s.
He even made a film in 3-D where the entire promotion of the film was based on seeing Jane Russell's bust in 3-D.
Being a Hollywood sex symbol was more than a matter of good looks.
Billy Wilder called it flesh impact.
He said the only people he'd seen that had it were Clara Bow and Marilyn Monroe.
Marilyn Monroe is a figure from the moment just before censorship starts to break down.
In Let's Make Love, one of her last films there's a moment where she says, "My name is Lolita.
" And you click and you suddenly realize she's the sort of child sexpot.
And there is a childishness to Marilyn Monroe a quality that's not quite grown up.
I think what men loved about her was she was unthreatening.
She was too needy to be demanding.
She wasn't autonomous.
She wasn't strong.
She wasn't self-willed.
She was fragile.
And yet, she was just incredibly beautiful and voluptuous.
So she was sort of the best of both worlds as far as men were concerned.
She was really there, in a sense, to make other women look bad.
I mean, Mae West took the joke upon herself.
Marilyn Monroe is the joke on America.
She is America pretending to want sex and not wanting it at all.
Censorship cast a shadow over motion pictures but it wasn't hard to see through.
By the 1950s, the shadow game was fading.
Playboy Magazine was born, with Marilyn Monroe on the cover and medical researcher Alfred Kinsey's reports on male and female sexuality became bestsellers.
I think he's a man of honor.
A girl can tell.
I got three daughters.
In 1953, The Moon is Blue dared to ignore the production code when it used a forbidden word for an innocent girl.
I'm so glad you don't mind.
Mind what? Well, men are usually so bored with virgins.
I'm so glad you're not.
Some cities and states banned the film but the Supreme Court overruled them.
The walls of censorship were weakening.
Sex and the movies had been playmates since the peepshow days.
In real life, innocent girls had been flocking to Hollywood since the days of Mary Pickford.
Many quickly learned that there could be a price to pay.
Twentieth Century Fox was interesting.
That was known.
That they had a lot of people under contract Marilyn Monroe, unfortunately, being one of them that really got under contract because they were called the 5:00 girls.
They did bit parts in movies, everything like that.
But there was never any plan to turn them into stars.
They were to service producers at, like, 5:00 in the afternoon.
A lot of girls came to Hollywood wanting to make good wanting to have a career and there were only, like, seven or eight opportunities because there were only seven or eight studios.
And you would pay the piper, you know, in order to get that opportunity.
If Hollywood treated sex with an unsettling mix of public moralizing and private hypocrisy in the 1950s, there were even scarier things to worry about.
With the Hollywood blacklist still in full force there was the shadow of the atomic bomb and a new Cold War with the Soviet Union that produced an atmosphere ripe for fear and recrimination.
Charlie Chaplin had once been the best-known and perhaps most-beloved man in the world.
The Little Tramp may have been a humble figure but Chaplin himself was proud and politically outspoken.
Even though he became a millionaire he was always sympathetic to leftist causes always sympathetic to the disenfranchised.
This does not sit well in the post-World War II era coming on the heels of a nasty paternity suit which showed that, despite blood evidence Chaplin was not the father of this child, the court ruled against him anyway.
I think it was his political views which really did him in.
Chaplin's ideas seemed socialistic, even communistic to people at a time when that kind of thinking scared many Americans.
It was just a very bad time for Charlie Chaplin.
So finally, when he went to London to promote his latest film, Limelight his re-entry permit was rescinded until he could prove his moral worth.
And he found this so insulting that, instead of coming back and facing these charges, he just said: "Sell everything.
I'm not coming back.
This is outrageous.
" It was an amazing turn of events.
Like his Little Tramp, Chaplin had been shunned by righteous society.
Yet, exiled from America at age 63 he remained as indomitable and independent as ever.
Like many of the first moguls Chaplin had come to America as an ambitious immigrant.
A regular infusion of talent from overseas gave American movies much of their power and appeal.
In the teens and '20s, there were actors like Greta Garbo and directors like Ernst Lubitsch.
The '30s brought Marlene Dietrich.
As Hitler rose to power, another wave arrived including actor Peter Lorre and a quick-witted writer named Billy Wilder.
He was truly a renaissance man.
He knew more about more things than anybody else I have known before or since.
He knew more about art and more about football and more about bridge and more about politics.
Marvelous sense of humor.
I just found him fascinating.
A self-described former dance hall gigolo and journalist in Vienna Wilder witnessed the birth of Nazism.
The experience didn't make him a romantic.
As a writer/director, Wilder's 1950 film, Sunset Blvd starring William Holden and 1920s superstar Gloria Swanson was no airbrushed portrait of Hollywood.
Those imbeciles.
Haven't they got any eyes? Have they forgotten what a star looks like? Half-forgotten silent-era legends such as Buster Keaton and director Erich von Stroheim, made appearances reminders of the often abrupt rise and fall of Hollywood fame.
There's a lot of cruelty in the movie business because we deal largely in images and often stars, they age.
You got an appointment? No appointment necessary.
I'm bringing Norma Desmond.
Norma who? Norma Desmond! They can no longer play the roles that they played in their youth and this industry throws them away as they threw away the leading character of Sunset Blvd.
And there's a lot of cruelty in that.
The power of Billy Wilder's movies about America was his immigrant's inside and outside point of view.
It's guys who love America the way refugees can love America but can still look at it with a jaundiced eye and see things Americans don't see.
I think they came here and really dug the country and dug turning it on its head a little bit.
Billy Wilder understood America very, very well.
He came to this country in a hurry and didn't have very much when he arrived here.
And I think he learned that if you were going to make your way in America you could serve very strong black Viennese coffee but better serve a chocolate with it.
English-born Alfred Hitchcock also knew how to entrance an American audience.
He arrived in the United States in 1939 and carefully maintained a personal style built on suspense and sublimated sex.
He survived a contentious relationship with obsessive David O.
Selznick and mastered the Hollywood power structure during the 1940s.
By the '50s, he was a formidable producer/director.
I was once talking about the studio system and the limitations of it to Jimmy Stewart.
And Jimmy Stewart said: "Well, I never saw anybody tell Hitchcock what to do.
" Like prolific John Ford, Hitchcock's tastes and interests gave a personality to his pictures that attracted audiences.
But unlike his camera-shy fellow directors Hitchcock enjoyed making brief appearances in his movies.
It was as much a way of capturing audience attention as it was ego.
Although each Hitchcock movie was different in a way, theatergoers knew what they were going to get.
When a passport agent saw that Hitchcock gave his profession as producer the agent asked what he produced.
The rotund director answered, "Goosebumps.
" Hitchcock was fascinated with cool blondes.
And audiences were fascinated by his fascination.
During the 1950s, it was elegant Grace Kelly.
If cool blondes ruled Hitchcock's erotic imagination a quite different woman was his off-camera anchor to reality his wife Alma.
In an era with virtually no American women producers or directors Alma Reville Hitchcock showed that female influence in Hollywood could come from unexpected sources.
Other Hollywood wives made their opinions known but Alma Hitchcock had been an assistant director and editor in London and worked as a writer on her husband's American films.
Everything had to go through Alma.
We never saw her.
She rarely came to the set but I'm sure everything had to pass through the ever-wary eye of Alma.
She read everything changed a lot okayed a lot and he relied on her.
While Hitchcock was a recognized movie master in the 1950s with films such as Strangers on a Train, Vertigo and North by Northwest he was more famous as a television personality.
Hitchcock's TV success starting in 1955, proved that screen size might not matter.
By the late '50s, Hollywood studio heads were finding ways to survive the challenge of television, and to even profit from it.
Half-forgotten films stored in studio vaults were sold or leased to television stations eager to fill airtime.
And then, studios turned to small screen production.
Inter-media links were being forged.
And one of the first to make the connections was Walt Disney.
It's difficult, you know, not to see the industry as the product of true visionaries.
You think about a guy like Walt Disney.
This was a distinctive visionary.
From animation to feature-length animation, to the amusement park the integration of film and television, and licensing and merchandizing.
This goes all the way back to Mickey.
And this is somebody who understood American culture and American entertainment.
Disney was what we would call with Goldwyn and Selznick, a "major" independent producer.
But things began to change in the early '50s when Disney decides to build this amusement park in California.
And as it's running out of money, Disney decides to cut a deal with ABC to create this TV series.
And Disneyland was the name of the series.
It was an hour-long advertisement for this park that was still being built when this series debuted.
Disneyland also used old Disney product and repackaged it for the weekly TV show.
Also important is they used the TV show to promote their new movies.
The big studios look at this and they say: "Pssh.
Maybe we ought to rethink our relationship with television.
" The enormous success of Disneyland tapped a deep well of nostalgia for an idealized American past in part because there was so much uncertainty in the 1950s present.
To lure audiences from their TVs old movie genres were given new twists and established stars were willing to take chances to grow and survive.
The Western High Noon starred veteran leading man Gary Cooper.
I haven't married because I've been waiting.
Cooper's shy, slow-talking appeal had made him an archetypical American hero in the '30s and '40s.
But in High Noon he played a sheriff who reflected 1950s doubts and vulnerability.
The clock was ticking on Old Hollywood.
High Noon was produced by Stanley Kramer known for his message movies since the late 1940s.
Stanley Kramer was very interested in current affairs.
And Stanley wanted to make pictures that were about something.
And they were violating the old bromide: "If you wanna send a message, call Western Union.
" In 1958, old bromides were no escape from an activist new American Civil Rights movement.
Even so, traditional entertainment-oriented Hollywood stood mostly on the sidelines.
Stanley Kramer got involved.
His film, The Defiant Ones, featured two new Hollywood stars Tony Curtis and Sidney Poitier.
Sidney Poitier proved to be a tremendously important figure in the journey of American movies.
Come on, boy, you got a free arm.
Come on, hit it.
Because as we all know there was very little opportunity for black people to have good roles in American movies.
And American movies did not reflect the totality of the American experience.
No more yes, sir! Come on! The Defiant Ones was the story of two escaped prisoners in the South one black, one white.
Hold on, Joker! Kramer conceived it as a dramatic metaphor for a shared humanity between the races.
But in 1958, it was still a white man's vision of equality.
At the film's end Poitier refused to abandon his fellow captive.
James Baldwin said that he saw it with a black audience and they shouted out, "Get back on the train.
" A black man should not be giving up his freedom for this white man here.
The movie was a success for Poitier.
A critical success.
He gets the Oscar nomination.
The Defiant Ones represented more than social and political timeliness in the 1950s.
It was an example of a major shift in Hollywood power.
The studio that distributed it was United Artists.
Founded in 1919 by Mary Pickford, D.
Griffith, Charlie Chaplin and Douglas Fairbanks UA was on the verge of collapse by 1951 when remaining founders Pickford and Chaplin transferred control to experienced entertainment attorneys Arthur Krim and Robert Benjamin.
Krim and Benjamin had a new vision for creative power in Hollywood.
One thing that happened in the 1950s that I think, made all the moguls feel that someone was walking over their graves was the rise of United Artists.
I mean, for decades, Hollywood studios had worked one way.
The mogul was king, not the director, not even the producer.
United Artists came along and suddenly producers would package their own projects come to United Artists and if the producer and the studio could agree on a budget they would make the movie there and split the profits.
United Artists was called the studio without walls.
At UA and elsewhere, some of the new generation of independent producers came from Hollywood's acting aristocracy.
In the '50s, Burt Lancaster was one of the most prominent.
Burt Lancaster was a man who wanted to be more than just the actor who showed up and got moved around and went home at night.
He wanted to have an impact on the movies that he was involved in.
And so he started a company called Hecht, Hill, Lancaster.
And he was also adventurous.
So he was an actor who was governed to a great extent by what the material was.
And he liked to think that he was making some films that were gonna make the world a better place.
- We furnish them with items.
- Some cheap, gruesome gags? - You print them.
- Yes.
In 1957, Lancaster cast an unsentimental eye on the entertainment business.
- I make it out you're doing me a favor? - I didn't The day I can't get along without a press agent's handout Lancaster exposed the fame game at its worst.
That's too harsh.
Anyone seems fair game for you tonight.
Publicity was essential, but Hollywood's reputations for stars as well as studios, was built on box office.
During the age of the founding moguls RKO, a studio known as Hollywood's little major was often considered a Hollywood foster child.
RKO, Radio-Keith-Orpheum, had been formed in the 1920s by a consortium of investors from theater, radio and Wall Street including Joseph P.
Kennedy and radio and TV mogul David Sarnoff.
Despite some good years with stars such as Katharine Hepburn Fred Astaire and Ginger Rogers and arguably the biggest of them all, King Kong by World War II, the joke was that RKO was the safest place to be during an air raid because the studio hadn't had a hit in years.
In 1948, RKO was acquired by Hollywood's great eccentric.
Howard Hughes had come to Hollywood in the '20s.
He made an expensive splash in the 1930s with action-packed films such as Hell's Angels and Scarface.
During the '40s Hughes shifted his attention to his first love, aviation amassed an enormous fortune, and added a reclusive aura of mystery.
Howard Hughes bought RKO in the late 1940s and no one ever knew why.
He didn't show much interest in the studio or the operation of the place.
There's a possibly apocryphal story that after his one and only tour of the plant, all he said was, "Paint it.
" During the 1950s, RKO suffered from Hughes' eccentricities.
But that didn't stop the wily entrepreneur from selling it for a tidy profit in 1955.
The buyer, General Teleradio a subsidiary of General Tire & Rubber Company was after the studio's old movies to sell to television.
New production screeched to a halt in 1957.
The fate of RKO was an indication that the days of studios as proud fiefdoms were passing and the moguls who ruled them could be the next to go.
By the 1950s, a tough and determined new team was taking control of Hollywood.
They didn't command a studio, they ruled a talent agency.
Music Corporation of America, MCA.
Jules Stein insisted that all of the agents at MCA wore black suits and white shirts.
He wanted them to look like Fleet Street English bankers, and they did.
And this is at a time when a lot of agents wore loud ties and checkered suits and funny hats, and that was not at all the look of Lew Wasserman or Jules Stein.
The motto at MCA was dress British, think Yiddish.
At the head of his well-tailored troops Lew Wasserman stormed Hollywood and established a new power structure based on independent stars like veteran Jimmy Stewart.
You're not gonna have a country that can make these kind of rules work.
Stewart was a Hollywood icon.
During the 1930s, he was an all-American hero in Frank Capra's comedies and populist dramas.
In the '40s, he volunteered for the Air Force during World War II.
Jimmy Stewart was a product of the studio system.
But in 1950, Lew Wasserman engineered a deal that gave Stewart a new kind of independent power.
Winchester '73 is a great film.
But it's also a wonderful business lesson.
At the time that the studio, Universal, was making the film, they were hurting.
They really needed money.
They couldn't afford Jimmy Stewart's salary.
Supposing I don't tell you? So Lew Wasserman said, "How about this? You get to take him for a very low salary or minimum salary and in return, he gets 50 percent of all the receipts at the back end.
" Where is he? It was a redistribution of income of a major kind.
And Wasserman did that.
During the 1950s agents were becoming central to Hollywood power.
Their wide-ranging relationships with studios independent producers, directors and writers could tie the pieces of a project together.
Wasserman used his connections to become a master of the package.
One of his first clients when he came to Hollywood in 1939 was charming actor Ronald Reagan.
A key time in this whole era was 1951 when Lew Wasserman and MCA's client, Ronald Reagan, did a deal.
And the deal was this.
At the time, Ronald Reagan was head of the Screen Actors Guild.
And Revue Productions, which was owned by MCA desperately needed a waiver from SAG.
And the waiver was that they wanted to continue representing all the great stars but also produce television shows.
Reagan used his influence with the SAG board to help deliver what his agent wanted.
The MCA waiver allowed the kind of concentration of control that was a Hollywood rerun.
Thomas Edison's Motion Picture Trust tried to own it all in 1909 and the first moguls bought theaters and cornered production and distribution during the 1920s.
In 1962, MCA bought Universal Pictures and Lew Wasserman's power play was complete.
With the rise of MCA and the success of a reborn United Artists the old studio system was being transformed beyond recognition.
At the same time, Hollywood's founding generation was continuing a gradual fade out.
In 1952, it was half-forgotten William Fox.
In 1957, overthrown king Louis B.
Mayer was still plotting his return to the throne at MGM even as he lay dying from leukemia afraid that someone would try to kill him by cutting off his blood supply.
The following year, another of Hollywood's founders Jesse Lasky, died.
With Adolph Zukor, Cecil B.
DeMille and Samuel Goldwyn Lasky had been a Hollywood pioneer and co-founder of Paramount Pictures.
During the Depression, power slipped through his fingers but he had never been desperate to keep it.
Other moguls were always looking over their shoulders to see who was going to do them in.
And my father trusted everyone.
He enjoyed life.
They didn't really know how to enjoy life because they were nervous and suspicious and distrustful.
My father believed in everyone and thought everyone meant well.
Not exactly Columbia co-founder Harry Cohn's philosophy of life.
To the end, Cohn refused to retire.
"If I wasn't the head of a studio," he asked, "who would talk to me?" Cohn was among the first to make TV production a profit center for his studio and the '50s had been Columbia's most successful decade.
When Harry Cohn died in 1958, there was a large crowd at his funeral but legend has it comedian Red Skelton had the last word: "It just proves what Harry always said," Skelton quipped "give the public something they want to see and they'll come out for it.
" He was a much-loathed, crude guy but he ran a hell of a good studio.
The sibling rivalry between Harry and Jack Cohn had nothing on the warfare between Harry Warner and his little brother Jack.
The youngest Warner had the glamorous job in Hollywood Harry controlled the purse strings from New York.
From the beginning, it was brother against brother.
Eventually, the two wouldn't speak to each other without witnesses.
Finally, in 1956, with all the turmoil in Hollywood Harry was thinking of getting out of the business he'd managed since 1918.
The older brothers, Harry and Albert, are feeling their age.
They're willing to sell.
They tell Jack they wanna sell and they want him to cooperate and sell his shares too.
Jack goes along with it.
But he's a much younger man, he wants to continue.
So he makes a private deal with the new buyers that after the sale, he will buy back his stock and he will become president of Warner Bros.
Harry had a heart attack when he read the news.
His health in decline two years later, he died from a stroke.
Learning of his brother's death while on vacation in France Jack refused to return for the funeral.
Many in the family never forgave him.
But now, Jack Warner had his dream.
He was the undisputed boss of Warner Bros.
Jack bought back a very different studio than the one he and his brothers had founded and built into the '30s and '40s.
He was now president of a studio that was in a movie business that was suffering, the audience was much more fickle.
By 1956 even fearless Darryl Zanuck had tired of the uncertainty and infighting in Hollywood.
In his 50s, after more than 20 years as the head of production at Twentieth Century Fox Zanuck resigned, separated from his wife of 32 years and left America for France to produce movies starring a series of mistresses.
He got out right at the very early stages of the downtrend and destruction of the studio system.
And now, it was just a hodgepodge and everybody was independent.
Irascible Sam Goldwyn released his last movie in 1959.
He had already assumed the role of a self-appointed elder statesman eager to tell everyone who'd listen how to make movies even if he had had a hard time getting the money to make them himself.
Hollywood power continued to shift from a star-driven studio autocracy to an era of independence that recalled the opportunistic peepshow pioneers of the 1900s and the Poverty Row hustlers of the '20s and '30s.
There have always been lone wolves, mavericks what we call independent filmmakers.
They weren't called that in the silent era, or in the '30s, '40s or '50s but they've always been there.
Sam Arkoff and James Nicolson formed a company called American International Pictures in the '50s to cater to the audience that the major studios didn't yet recognize.
They very often devised the poster art before they shot the movies.
And their prodigious director was a guy named Roger Corman.
Roger Corman, who studied engineering at Stanford and English literature at Oxford started as a messenger at Fox.
In the '50s, he could shoot an action picture horror film or Western in less than a week.
We could really, very often, go into theaters and compete or out-gross a major studio film because our films were really somewhat rebellious.
They were geared to the youth market and the major studios were still doing love stories in which you had a 52-year-old leading man making love to a 45-year-old leading lady because they were established stars.
And they were trading on the brand.
And I felt, I think with some justification, that teenagers didn't really like that.
By 1959, the first moguls represented an old and dying Hollywood but young, independent, low-budget moviemakers like Roger Corman had inherited their scrappy outsiders' ambitions.
What I was doing wasn't really that original.
It was the way motion pictures began.
More than a half century before, Hollywood's founding generation had conjured up a worldwide entertainment empire from a penny arcade amusement.
By the end of the 1950s their great film factories still stood.
But many of Hollywood's pioneers were powerless or gone.
Facing the 1960s, anxious industry insiders wondered would Hollywood have a sequel and if so, who would make it?