Tuesday, July 31, 2012

It is the only movie studio that still exists in the Hollywood zip code and now it is 100 years old. It does have a remarkable history and it is Paramount Pictures. A history that includes people like Bing Crosby and Bob Hope that referred to the Paramount symbol of the mountain peak. In the 1946 film Road to Utopia, they referred to the peak as bread and butter, the source of their incomes. Funny.
Jerry Lewis and Dean Martin were products of Paramount. Go way back to Mary Pickford and Rudolph Valentino, Audrey Hepern, Carey Grant, Grace Kelly, even Moses and the Israelites. They were all movie legends; the product of Paramount. Brad Grey is only the 8th studio head to take charge. At the 100th Birthday gala for the studio, nearly any current star you knew was there. I guess those stars that were there, got work from the studio.
Think of any current name and they probably worked at Paramount and brought in millions for the studio. People like Harrison Ford, Meryl Streep, Edward G. Robinson, Martin Scorsese, Melanie Griffith, Jack Nickelson, George Clooney, Brad Pitt , Mark Walberg, Charlize Theron, David Spielberg, Adam Sandler, Chris Rock, John Travolta, Barbara Streisand nearly every living star worked there.
The studio brought you favorites like Iron Man, Indiana Jones, Top Gun and even Woody Allen films. It all started with a silent picture and the first moving film came from this studio. Adolph Zuckor realized that moving those stills at a rapid pace would be a big advancement in entertainment and showed a movie called Queen Elizabeth in 1912. Then soon the stars were born. People wanted to see more films with their favorite actors and actresses performing.

Luckily, this studio has archives and is preserving it’s valuable celluloid rolls of film in a cold area. Other studios did not take care of their original films and much has disintegrated into cracked pieces or simply got lost and disappeared from their vaults. The original camera negatives are so important to maintain. It is the most original version of the film. Films like the Ten Commandments, True Grit, Breakfast At Tiffany’s and Rosemary’s Baby are being well preserved.
The studio produced good films, they won the very first Academy Award for Wings in 1929. It was also right in the middle of the Depression and no one had money to spend at the movies so Paramount did go bankrupt. The Depression had a devastating effect on everyone including Paramount; but within a few years , the studio was Producing quality films again.
It climbed to being able to produce 40 to 50 films every year; that is almost one a week. Boy does that make me feel so unproductive. They sent them out to your local theatre with an efficiency and always a waiting audience. These were the days when you used to go once a week to the local movie theatre. The Marxs Brother’s were good for a few films like Duck Soup made in 1933.
Paramount was know for the witty, elegant, sophisticated , clever films of the day like The Blue Dahlia in 1946. Things were going good for Paramount. Even Elvis Presley would ride a bike around the back lots of the studio by the 1950’s . But, then came Television that ruined everything. Who needs to go out when you can just plop yourself down and watch something. My friend Sharon has that problem with her husband Ken; he loves TV.
That little screen began to steal the audience from the big screen and once again Paramount had to adapt or go out of business. The executives brought in Alfred Hitchcock who became the screen’s master of suspense. He directed thrillers like The Birds, and romantic spy films existed like To Catch a Thief. The real hero of the studio was Cecil B. DeMille who produced the epic films like The Ten Commandments that had an unlimited budget. Wow , I wish I has an unlimited budget.
By the 1960’s a young actor Robert Evans became a studio head that saved the picture making company again. He approved films to be made like Love Story, and The Godfather and with just those two topics made more money than the studio has ever seen. So, what is to be learned here . People want love stories and stories about strong gutsy families. Can we recreate themes like that in our own households?

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