19 November 2018

New finds at the fair

Last Saturday, I was at the International Collector's Fair in the city of Utrecht. In the enormous halls of the Jaarbeurs full of vintage memorabilia, I went to hunt for postcards for our collection. Although the part of the fair with the postcards is getting smaller each year, I had a great time. Also because I met with Marlene Pilaete for drinks afterwards. I found a wonderful book full of early Pathé cards, a present for Ivo who is doing research in Berlin at the moment. We will do a post on this Pathé album later on. In today's post you'll find some of my other trophies, and yes, like Marlene commented, my taste is eclectic.

Polaire
French postcard. Sent by mail in 1903.

French singer and actress Polaire (1874-1939) had a career in the entertainment industry which stretched from the early 1890s to the mid-1930s, and encompassed the range from music-hall singer to stage and film actress. Her most successful period professionally was from the mid-1890s to the beginning of the First World War.

Carolina Otéro
Italian postcard by Moneglia, Stab. Civicchioni, no. 404. Sent by mail in 1906.

Carolina 'La Belle' Otéro (1868–1965) was a Spanish-born dancer, actress and courtesan.

Max Dearly
French postcard by Cautin et Berger, Paris. Caprion: Variétés.

Max Dearly (1874-1943) was a French actor, famous for his parts in 1930s French sound film but also for his previous career in Parisian vaudeville.

Colette
French postcard by VW, Paris, Serie 5060, sent by mail in 1909. Caption: Colette Willy - Nos actrices Parisiennes.

French novelist and performer Sidonie-Gabrielle Colette (1873-1954) or simply Colette is best known for her novel Gigi, upon which Lerner and Loewe based the stage and film musical comedies of the same title.

Ida Rubinstein in Le Martyr de St. Sebarstien
French postcard by FA, no. 109. Photo: A. Bert. Publicity still for the production Le Martyr de St. Sebastien (1911).

Ida Rubinstein (1885-1960) was a Russian-Ukrainian ballerina of the Ballets Russes, choreographer, actress and maecenas from the Belle Epoque. After Rubinstein left the Ballets Russes, she founded her own dance company, the Ballet Ida Rubinstein, and had immediate success with Le Martyre de Saint Sébastien (1911), with music by Claude Debussy, text by Gabriele D'Annunzio, choreography by Michel Fokine and sets and costumes by Léon Bakst. She also appeared in a few films, such as in the Italian drama La nave (Gabriellino D'Annunzio, Mario Roncoroni, 1921).

Edna Purviance
British postcard in the 'Pictures' Portrait Gallery, no. 94, by Pictures Ltd., London.

Edna Purviance (1895-1958) was an American actress during the silent film era. She was the leading lady in many of Charlie Chaplin's early films and in a span of eight years, she appeared in over 30 films with him.

Desdemona Mazza in L'appel du sang (1921)
French postcard in the Les Vedettes du Cinéma series by Editions Filma, no. 39. Photo: Films Mercanton. Publicity still for L'appel du sang/The Call of the Blood (Louis Mercanton, 1921).

Italian actress Desdemona Mazza (1901- ?) appeared in Italian and French silent films. She worked with such directors as Louis Mercanton, Julien Duvivier and Marcel L’Herbier.

France Dhélia
French postcard in the Les Vedettes de Cinéma series by A.N., Paris, no. 62. Photo: Novion.

France Dhélia (1894-1964) was a French actress of the silent cinema. In 1918 she rose to stardom when playing Sultane Daoulah in La sultane d’amour (René Le Somptier, Charles Burguet, 1918). Around 1925 she was at the peak of her success. Dhélia was often paired with actor Lucien Dalsace, as in La maternelle (Gaston Roudès, 1925), Oiseaux de passage (Gaston Roudès, 1925), and Les petits (Marcel Dumont, Gaston Roudès, 1925).

Henry Stuart and Agnes Eszterhazy in Die Freudlose Gasse (1925)
German postcard by Ross Verlag G.m.b.H., Berlin. Photo: Sofar-Film-Produktion. Publicity still for Die freudlose Gasse/The Joyless Street (Georg Wilhelm Pabst, 1925) with Henry Stuart, Agnes Eszterhazy, Ilka Grüning, Karl Etlinger, and Robert Garrison. Caption: Hotel Carlton.

Georges Milton
French postcard in the Nos Artistes series by Edit. Art de Comoedia, no. 33. Photo: Comoedia.

Georges Milton (1886-1970) was a French singer and actor. With his daring, merry songs Milton expressed the atmosphere of the French roaring twenties. He peaked in the French cinema of the 1930s as the character Bouboule.

Virginia Valli
Spanish postcard.

Virginia Valli (1895–1968) was an American stage and film actress whose motion picture career started in the silent film era and lasted until the beginning of the sound film era of the 1930s.

Armand Bernard in La femme en homme (1932)
French postcard by EDUG, no. 1506. Photo: Tobis-Films. Publicity still for La femme en homme/The Woman Dressed As a Man (Augusto Genina, 1932).

Armand Bernard (1893-1968) was a French actor, composer and band leader. With his heavy diction and his air of dignity he brought a comical note to many French comedies.

Ruby Keeler
British postcard in the Film Stars and Their Pets series by Valentine's Postcards, no. 7113 F.

Canadian-born actress Ruby Keeler (1909-1993) was a Broadway star, when she was asked to play the leading role in the First National musical 42nd Street (1933). It was a smash hit and, she made a string of successful early musicals with Dick Powell. From 1928 to 1940, she was married to actor and singer Al Jolson.

Betty Hutton in The Greatest Show on Earth (1952)
Dutch promotion card by Paramount Pictures. Photo: Paramount Pictures. Publicity still for The Greatest Show on Earth (Cecil B. DeMille, 1952).

American actress Betty Hutton (1921-2007) was an energetic, 'blonde bombshell' of the 1940s. She appeared in successful musicals and comedies, including The Miracle of Morgan's Creek (1943), Red, Hot and Blue (1949), Annie Get Your Gun (1950) and The Greatest Show on Earth(1952).

Kirk Douglass, Footprint Ceremony Grauman's Chinese Theatre
American postcard by Colourpicture, Boston, Mass., no. P51738. Caption: Grauman's Chinese Theatre, Hollywood, California. In the wet cement of the world famous forecourt, Mr. Kirk Douglas becomes a movie immortal as a crowd including Donald O'Connor and George Jessel looks on.

Tielman Brothers
Dutch promotion card bij Bovema / Imperial, Heemstede.

The Tielman Brothers was the first Indonesian band to successfully venture into the international music scene in the 1950s. They were one of the pioneers of rock and roll in The Netherlands, and are credited with releasing the first Dutch rock and roll single, Rock Little Baby of Mine in 1958. The band became famous in Europe for playing a kind of rock and roll later called 'Indorock', a fusion of Indonesian and Western music with roots in Kroncong. At the height of their career, in the 1950s and early 1960s, the band was hailed as one of the greatest live-acts in Europe.

Vladimir Korenev
Russian postcard, no 6216. Photo: G. Vajlja.

Handsome Vladimir Korenev (1940) is a Soviet and Russian film and theatre actor. In the 1960s, he became a sex symbol in the Soviet Union when he played the lead role of Ichthyander in the film Chelovek-Amfibiya/The Amphibian Man (1962). In 1961 he entered to the troupe of the Moscow Drama Theatre, where he is now a teacher. In 1998, Korenev was awarded the title 'People's Artist of Russia'.

18 November 2018

Abbott & Costello

William 'Bud' Abbott (1895–1974) and Lou Costello (1906–1959) were an American comedy duo, that first worked together in 1935. Their work in vaudeville and on stage, radio, film and television made them the most popular comedy team during the 1940s and early 1950s. Bud Abbott was the devious straight man and Lou Costello the stumbling, dim-witted laugh-getter. Their signature routine 'Who's on First?' is considered one of the greatest comedy routines of all time and set the framework for many of their best-known comedy bits.

Bud Abbott & Lou Castello
Dutch postcard, no. 950. Photo: Universal Film.

Bud Abbott


Bud Abbott was born in Asbury Park, New Jersey in 1897, into a show business family. His parents, Rae Fisher and Harry Abbott, had worked for the Barnum and Bailey Circus. Several years after the family relocated to Brooklyn, Abbott dropped out of grammar school and began working summers with his father at Dreamland Park on Coney Island.

When he was 15, Abbott signed on as a cabin boy on a Norwegian steamer but was soon forced to shovel coal. He eventually worked his way back to the United States after a year. His father was a longtime advance man for the Columbia Burlesque Wheel, and he installed Bud in the box office of the Casino Theater in Brooklyn. Bud spent the next few years in burlesque box offices.

In 1918, working in Washington, D.C., he met and married Jenny Mae Pratt, a burlesque dancer, and comedian who performed as Betty Smith. They remained together until his death 55 years later.

In 1923 Abbott produced a cut-rate vaudeville tab show called Broadway Flashes, which toured on the Gus Sun circuit. Abbott began performing as a straight man in the show when he could no longer afford to pay one. He continued producing and performing in burlesque shows on the Mutual Burlesque wheel, and as his reputation grew, he began working with veteran comedians like Harry Steppe and Harry Evanson. Abbott suffered from epilepsy starting from about 1926.

Abbott crossed paths with Lou Costello in burlesque a few times in the early 1930s when Abbott was producing and performing in Minsky's Burlesque shows and Costello was a rising comic. They first worked together in stock burlesque in 1935 at the Eltinge Theatre on 42nd Street, after an illness sidelined Costello's regular partner. They formally teamed up in 1936, and went on to perform together in burlesque, vaudeville, minstrel shows, and stage shows.

In 1938, they received national exposure as regulars on the Kate Smith Hour radio show, which led to roles in a Broadway musical, The Streets of Paris. In 1940, Universal signed the team for their first film, One Night in the Tropics (A. Edward Sutherland, 1940), starring Allan Jones. Despite having minor roles, Abbott and Costello stole the film with several classic routines, including an abbreviated version of 'Who's On First?' Their work earned them a two-picture deal with Universal.

During World War II, Abbott and Costello were among the most popular and highest-paid stars in the world. Between 1940 and 1956 they made 36 films and earned a percentage of the profits on each. They had their own radio program, The Abbott and Costello Show, throughout the 1940s. In the 1950s, they introduced their comedy to live television on The Colgate Comedy Hour, and launched their own half-hour series, The Abbott and Costello Show.

Abbott was very supportive of his relatives. Norman and Betty Abbott, the children of Bud's older sister, Olive, started their careers working behind the scenes on Abbott and Costello films. Betty became Blake Edwards' longtime script supervisor, and Norman directed episodes of many television series, including Leave It to Beaver, The Jack Benny Program, Sanford and Son, and Welcome Back, Kotter.

Bud Abbott died of cancer at the age of 76 in 1974, at his home in Woodland Hills, Los Angeles.

Bud Abbott in The Wistful Widow of Wagon Gap (1947)
Vintage collectors card, no. 7. Photo: Universal. Publicity still of Bud Abbott in The Wistful Widow of Wagon Gap (Charles Barton, 1947).

Bud Abbott & Lou Costello
French postcard by Editions P.I., La Garenne, no. 227. Photo: Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer, 1949. Publicity still for Bud Abbott and Lou Costello in Hollywood ( S. Sylvan Simon, 1945).

Lou Costello


Lou Costello was born Louis Francis Cristillo in 1906 in Paterson, New Jersey, the son of Helen Rege and Sebastiano Cristillo.He attended School 15 in Paterson and was considered a gifted athlete. He excelled in basketball and reportedly was once the New Jersey state free throw champion. His singular basketball prowess can be seen in Here Come the Co-Eds (1945), in which he performs all his own tricky hoop shots without special effects. He also fought as a boxer under the name 'Lou King'. He took his professional name from actress Helene Costello.

In 1927 Costello hitchhiked to Hollywood to become an actor, but could only find work as a labourer or extra at Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer and Warner Bros. His athletic skill brought him occasional work as a stunt man, notably in The Trail of '98 (Clarence Brown, 1928) featuring Harry Carey. He can also be spotted sitting ringside in the Laurel and Hardy film The Battle of the Century (Clyde Bruckman, 1927).

In 1929, with the advent of sound film, he headed back east intending to get the requisite stage experience. In New York he began working in burlesque on the Mutual Burlesque wheel during the Great Depression.

In 1934, Costello married Anne Battler, a burlesque dancer. They would have four children, Patricia 'Paddy' (1936), Carole (1938), Lou Jr. 'Butch' (1942) and Christine (1947). In November 1943 his son, Lou Jr. drowned in the swimming pool of the family home just days before his first birthday.

After the Mutual Wheel collapsed, Costello went to work for the Minskys, where he crossed paths with Bud Abbott. In 1935 they first worked together at the Eltinge Theatre on 42nd Street in New York City when Costello's partner failed to show. Abbott and Costello formally teamed up in 1936.

Abbott and Costello were signed by the William Morris talent agency, which succeeded in landing them featured roles and national exposure. Their second film, Buck Privates (Arthur Lubin, 1941), with The Andrews Sisters, was a runaway hit. It grossed $10 million on a $180,000 budget, what was then a company record.

They immediately became the No. 3 Box Office Stars of 1941. Their film successes include In The Navy (Arthur Lubin, 1941), Hold that Ghost (Arthur Lubin, 1941), Keep 'Em Flying (Arthur Lubin, 1941) with Martha Raye, Who Done It? (Erle C. Kenton, 1942) and Pardon My Sarong (Erle C. Kenton, 1942). During World War II, they were among the most popular and highest-paid entertainers in the world.

After the war followed hits like The Time of Their Lives (Charles Barton, 1946) and Buck Privates Come Home (Charles Barton, 1947), a sequel to their 1941 hit, Buck Privates. In both Abbott and Costello Meet Frankenstein (Charles Barton, 1948), they encounter Count Dracula (Bela Lugosi) and the Wolf Man (Lon Chaney Jr.). Subsequent films pair the duo with the Invisible Man, Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde, and the Mummy.

By the mid-1950s Abbott and Costello's popularity waned, and after failing to come to terms with the team, Universal dropped their film contract in 1955. With radio, film and television vehicles, they suffered from overexposure, and were eclipsed by the team of Dean Martin and Jerry Lewis who had taken their place as the cinema's hottest comedy team.

In 1956, after troubles with the Internal Revenue Service forced both men to sell their large homes and the rights to some of their films, Abbott and Costello made their final film together, an independent production called Dance with Me, Henry (Charles Barton, 1956). The film was a box-office disappointment and received mixed critical reviews. Abbott and Costello dissolved their partnership in 1957 amicably.

Costello went back to his roots of stand-up, including stints in Las Vegas, and sought film projects for himself. He appeared several times on Steve Allen's fledgling The Tonight Show, but most often in variations of his old routines, with Louis Nye or Tom Poston taking on the straight man role. Costello sought to be known as something other than the funny fat man in the baggy clothes, and played a dramatic role on The Tobias Jones Story episode of Wagon Train (1958).

Shortly after completion of The 30 Foot Bride of Candy Rock (Sidney Miller, 1959) with Dorothy Provine, his only starring film appearance without Abbott, Lou Costello suffered a heart attack. He died at Doctors Hospital in Beverly Hills on 3 March 1959, three days before his 53rd birthday.

Bud Abbott & Lou Castello at Homes
American postcard by Western Publishing & Novelty Co., Los Angeles, Calif, no. 865. Captions: Home of Lou Costello, North Hollywood. Home of Bud Abbott, Encino, California.

Bud Abbott & Lou Castello
American postcard by Universal Studios.

Sources: Ed Stephan (IMDb), Wikipedia and IMDb.

17 November 2018

Photo by Paramount

Paramount Pictures is the fifth oldest surviving film studio in the world after the French studios Gaumont Film Company (1895) and Pathé (1896), followed by the Nordisk Film company (1906), and Universal Studios (1912). Paramount Pictures was created in 1916 through the merger of two prominent film production companies, the Famous Players Film Company and the Jesse L. Lasky Feature Play Company, and a nationwide film distributor, Paramount. Film producer Adolph Zukor put 22 actors and actresses under contract and honoured each with a star on the logo. These fortunate few would become the first movie stars. Paramount’s early hits included Blood and Sand (Fred Niblo, 1922) starring Rudolph Valentino, the Western The Covered Wagon (1923), and The Ten Commandments (1923), a biblical epic directed by Cecil B. DeMille. In 1933 the company declared bankruptcy, Lasky was ousted, and the company reorganized to emerge as Paramount Pictures, Inc., with Zukor serving as chairman of the board emeritus. Gulf+Western acquired the company in 1966, followed by Viacom, Inc. in 1994. Today, Paramount is the sole member of the Big Six film studios still headquartered in the Hollywood district of Los Angeles.

Rudolph Valentino in Blood and Sand (1922)
Rudolph Valentino. German postcard by Ross Verlag, no. 4685/1, 1929-1930. Photo: Paramount. Publicity still for Blood and Sand (Fred Niblo, 1922).

Gary Cooper in Morocco (1930)
Gary Cooper. German postcard by Ross-Verlag, no. 5751/1, 1930-1931. Photo: Paramount. Publicity still for Morocco (Josef von Sternberg, 1930). Cooper was mistakenly credited as 'Garry Cooper'.

Marlene Dietrich
Marlene Dietrich. German postcard by Ross Verlag, no. 6673/2, 1931-1932. Photo: Don English / Paramount. Publicity still for Shanghai Express (Josef von Sternberg, 1932).

Veronica Lake
Veronica Lake. Big Belgian card by Chocolaterie Clovis, Pepinster. Photo: George Hurrell / Paramount. Publicity still for This Gun for Hire (Frank Tuttle, 1942).

Charlton Heston in The Ten Commandments (1956)
Charlton Heston. Dutch postcard by Gebr. Spanjersberg N.V., Rotterdam, no. 5183. Photo: Paramount. Publicity still for The Ten Commandments (Cecil B. DeMille, 1956) with Heston as Moses. Moses' robe was hand-woven by Dorothea Hulse, one of the world's finest weavers. She also created costumes for The Robe, as well as textiles and costume fabrics for Samson and Delilah, David and Bathsheba, and others.

Famous Players in Famous Plays


Famous Players was created in 1912 by Adolph Zukor, a Hungarian immigrant who started in the penny arcade and nickelodeon business in New York in the early 1900s. Famous Players enjoyed early success producing and distributing multi-reel (feature-length) films and developing a star-driven market strategy.

With partners Daniel Frohman and Charles Frohman, Zukor planned to make films which appealed to the middle class by featuring the leading theatrical players of the time ('Famous Players in Famous Plays'). By mid-1913, Famous Players had completed five films. Its first film was Les Amours de la reine Élisabeth/Queen Elizabeth (Henri Desfontaines, Louis Mercanton, 1912) which starred Sarah Bernhardt.

Meanwhile, three young filmmaking entrepreneurs, Jesse Lasky, Samuel Goldfish (later Goldwyn), and Cecil B. DeMille, launched a production company in Hollywood in 1913, Jesse L. Lasky Feature Play Company. They scored a major hit in 1914 with their first feature production, The Squaw Man (Oscar Apfel, Cecil B. DeMille, 1914).

That same year, as the movies were rapidly becoming a major entertainment enterprise, W. W. Hodkinson formed a nationwide distribution company, Paramount Pictures, to release the films produced by Famous Players, Lasky, and others. Paramount was the first successful nationwide distributor. Until this time, films were sold on a state-wide or regional basis which had proved costly to film producers. Also, Famous Players and Lasky were privately owned while Paramount was a corporation.

Zukor and Lasky bought Hodkinson out of Paramount, and merged the three companies into one. The new company Lasky and Zukor founded, Famous Players-Lasky Corporation, grew quickly, with Lasky and his partners Goldwyn and DeMille running the production side, Hiram Abrams in charge of distribution, and Zukor making great plans. With only the exhibitor-owned First National as a rival, Famous Players-Lasky and its Paramount Pictures soon dominated the business.

Because Zukor believed in stars, he signed and developed many of the leading early stars, including Mary Pickford, Pauline Frederick, William S. Hart, Douglas Fairbanks, Fatty Arbuckle, Gloria Swanson, and Wallace Reid. With so many important players, Paramount was able to introduce ‘block booking’, which meant that an exhibitor who wanted a particular star's films had to buy a year's worth of other Paramount productions. It was this system that gave Paramount a leading position in the 1920s and 1930s, but which led the government to pursue it on antitrust grounds for more than twenty years.

The studio produced scores of top hits, ranging from Rudolph Valentino vehicles like The Sheik (George Melford, 1921) and Blood and Sand (Fred Niblo, 1922) to Western epics like The Covered Wagon (James Cruze, 1923) and the DeMille spectacles The Ten Commandments (1923) and The King of Kings (1927).

Pola Negri in The Cheat (1923)
Pola Negri. German postcard by Ross Verlag, no. 939/5, 1925-1926. Photo: Paramount-Film. Publicity still for The Cheat (George Fitzmaurice, 1923).

Harold Lloyd and Jobyna Ralston in Why Worry (1923)
Italian postcard by Casa Editrice Ballerini & Fratini, Firenze (B.F.F.), no. 446. Photo: Paramount. Publicity still for Why Worry (Fred C. Newmeyer, Sam Taylor, 1923) with Harold Lloyd and Jobyna Ralston.

Gloria Swanson in Stage Struck (1925)
Gloria Swanson. German postcard by Ross Verlag, no. 1488/3, 1927-1928. Photo: Paramount / Parafumet. Publicity still for Stage Struck (Allan Dwan, 1925).

Clara Bow
Clara Bow. German postcard by Ross Verlag, no. 3510/1, 1928-1929. Photo: Paramount.

Abie's Irish Rose
Charles Rogers, Nancy Carroll, and Jean Hersholt. German postcard by Ross Verlag, no. 111/1. Photo: Paramount. Publicity still for Abie's Irish Rose (Victor Fleming, 1928), which was based on a popular Broadway play.

A Movie Factory


In 1926, Adolph Zukor hired independent producer B. P. Schulberg, an unerring eye for new talent, to run the film studio. Paramount was one of the first Hollywood studios to release what were known at that time as ‘talkies’, and in 1929, released their first musical, Innocents of Paris (Richard Wallace, 1929). Maurice Chevalier starred and sung the most famous song from the film, Louise.

Eventually, Zukor shed most of his early partners. In 1935, Paramount went bankrupt. Zukor was bumped up to chairman of the board. In this role, he reorganised the company as Paramount Pictures, Inc. and was able to successfully bring the studio out of bankruptcy.

Paramount continued to emphasize stars; in the 1920s there were Swanson, Valentino, and Clara Bow. By the 1930s, talkies brought in a range of powerful new draws: Miriam HopkinsMarlene Dietrich, Mae West, W.C. Fields, Jeanette MacDonald, Claudette Colbert, Dorothy Lamour, Carole Lombard, Bing Crosby, band leader Shep Fields, famous Argentine tango singer Carlos Gardel, and Gary Cooper among them.

Like the other majors, Paramount's house style was geared to a range of star genre formulas; but the studio was unique in that these generally were handled not by unit producers but by specific directors who were granted considerable creative autonomy and control. Examples are Josef von Sternberg's highly stylized Dietrich melodramas like Morocco (1930), Shanghai Express (1932) and Blonde Venus (1932), and Ernst Lubitsch's distinctive musical operettas with Jeanette MacDonald such as The Love Parade (1929) and One Hour With You (1932).

While the key elements in these star-genre units were director and star, other filmmakers were crucial as well: writer Jules Furthman and cinematographer Lee Garmes on the Dietrich films, for example, and the production design by Hans Dreier on all of the films directed by both Lubitsch and von Sternberg during this period.

In this period Paramount can truly be described as a movie factory, turning out sixty to seventy pictures a year. Such were the benefits of having a huge theatre chain to fill, and of block booking to persuade other chains to go along. The studio's invested heavily in comedy during the early sound era, best typified perhaps by its run of the Marx Brothers comedies: The Cocoanuts (Robert Florey, Joseph Santley, 1929), Animal Crackers (Victor Heerman, 1930), Monkey Business (Norman Z. McLeod, 1931), Horse Feathers (Norman Z. McLeod, 1932), and Duck Soup (Leo McCarey, 1933). The first two films were shot at Paramount's Astoria, New York, studio.

W. C. Fields, George Burns & Gracie Allen, and Jack Oakie also contributed to this comedy trend, whose roots ran deeply into American vaudeville. In 1933, Mae West would add greatly to Paramount's success with her suggestive movies She Done Him Wrong (Lowell Sherman, 1933) and I'm No Angel (Wesley Ruggles, 1933). However, the sex appeal West gave in these movies would also lead to the enforcement of the Production Code, as the newly formed organization the Catholic Legion of Decency threatened a boycott if it was not enforced.

Influential comedy directors were Leo McCarey with Belle of the Nineties (1934) and Ruggles of Red Gap (1935) with Charles Laughton, and, Mitchell Leisen with Easy Living (1937) with Jean Arthur and Ray Milland, and Midnight (1939) with Claudette Colbert.

W.C. Fields and Chester Conklin in Fools for Luck (1928)
W.C. Fields and Chester Conklin. Dutch card. Photo: Paramount. Publicity still for Fools for Luck (Charles Reisner, 1928).

Jeanette MacDonald in The Love Parade (1929)
Jeanette MacDonald. French postcard by Cinémagazine-Edition, no. 796. Photo: Paramount. Publicity still for The Love Parade (Ernst Lubitsch, 1929).

Maurice Chevalier
Maurice Chevalier. German postcard by Ross Verlag, no. 531. Photo: Paramount.

Charles Rogers and Nancy Carroll in Follow Thru (1930)
Charles 'Buddy' Rogers and Nancy Carroll. German postcard by Ross Verlag, no. 5547/1, 1930-1931. Photo: Paramount. Publicity still for Follow Thru (Lloyd Corrigan, Laurence Schwab, 1930).

Claudette Colbert and Henry Wilcoxon in Cleopatra (1934)
Claudette Colbert and Henry Wilcoxon. French postcard by A.N., Paris, no. 962. Photo: Paramount. Publicity still for Cleopatra (Cecil B. DeMille, 1934).

The end of the classic Hollywood studio system


In 1940, Paramount agreed to a government-instituted consent decree: block booking and ‘pre-selling’ (the practice of collecting up-front money for films not yet in production) would end. Immediately, Paramount cut back on production, from 71 films to a more modest 19 annually in the war years.

Still, with more new stars like Bob Hope, Alan Ladd, Veronica Lake, Paulette Goddard, and Betty Hutton, and with war-time attendance at astronomical numbers, Paramount and the other integrated studio-theatre combines made more money than ever.

At this, the Federal Trade Commission and the Justice Department decided to reopen their case against the five integrated studios. This led to the Supreme Court decision United States v. Paramount Pictures, Inc. (1948) holding that movie studios could not also own movie theatre chains. This decision broke up Adolph Zukor's creation, with the theatre chain being split into a new company, United Paramount Theatres, and effectively brought an end to the classic Hollywood studio system.

With the separation of production and exhibition forced by the U.S. Supreme Court, Paramount Pictures Inc. was split in two. Paramount Pictures Corporation was formed to be the production distribution company, with the 1,500-screen theatre chain handed to the new United Paramount Theatres on December 31, 1949. Leonard Goldenson, who had headed the chain since 1938, remained as the new company's president.

Despite such setbacks, Paramount had a number of successes in the 1940s and 1950s, notably the satirical comedies of writer-director Preston Sturges such as The Lady Eve (1941) and Going My Way (1944), the cynical dramas and comedies of writer-director Billy Wilder like Double Indemnity (1944) and Sunset Boulevard (1950), the Road to-comedies of Bob Hope, Bing Crosby, and Dorothy Lamour the Western Shane (1953), and Alfred Hitchcock’s Rear Window (1954) with James Stewart and Grace Kelly.

With the loss of the theatre chain, Paramount Pictures went into a decline, cutting studio-backed production, releasing its contract players, and making production deals with independents. By the mid-1950s, all the great names were gone. Only Cecil B. DeMille, associated with Paramount since 1913, kept making pictures in the grand old style. Despite Paramount's losses, DeMille would, however, give the studio some relief and create his most successful film at Paramount, a remake of his 1923 film The Ten Commandments (1956), starring Charlton Heston and Yul Brynner. DeMille died in 1959.

Like some other studios, Paramount saw little value in its film library, and sold 764 of its pre-1948 films.

Charles Laughton
Charles Laughton. Vintage postcard. Photo: Paramount. Publicity still for Ruggles of Red Gap (1935).

Victor Mature in Samson and Delilah (1949)
Victor Mature. French postcard by Editions P.I., Paris, no. 358, 1954. Photo: Paramount Pictures Inc.. Publicity still for Samson and Delilah (Cecil B. DeMille, 1949).

Dorothy Lamour
Dorothy Lamour. French postcard by Viny, no. 13. Photo: Paramount.

Grace Kelly
Grace Kelly. French postcard by Editions P.I., Paris, no. 584, Photo: Paramount, 1954.

Yul Brynner in The Ten Commandments (1956)
Yul Brynner. French postcard by Editions P.I., Paris, no. 831. Photo: Paramount. Publicity still for The Ten Commandments (Cecil B. DeMille, 1956). For his pursuit of the Israelites, Brynner in his role as Rameses II wears the blue Khepresh helmet-crown, which the pharaohs wore for battle.

High Concept Pictures


By the early 1960s, Paramount's future was doubtful. The high-risk movie business was wobbly; the theatre chain was long gone; investments in television came to nothing; and the Golden Age of Hollywood had just ended. Films of this period include Psycho (Alfred Hitchcock, 1960) and Breakfast at Tiffany’s (1961).

In 1966, a sinking Paramount was sold to Charles Bluhdorn's industrial conglomerate, Gulf + Western Industries Corporation. Bluhdorn immediately put his stamp on the studio, installing a virtually unknown producer named Robert Evans as head of production. Despite some rough times, Evans held the job for eight years, restoring Paramount's reputation for commercial success with The Odd Couple (Gene Saks, 1968), Rosemary's Baby (Roman Polanski, 1968), Love Story (Arthur Hiller, 1970), and The Godfather (Francis Coppola, 1972) and its sequels.

Evans abandoned his position as head of production in 1974. By 1976, a new, television-trained team was in place headed by Barry Diller and his associates, Michael Eisner, Jeffrey Katzenberg, Dawn Steel and Don Simpson, who would each go on and head up major movie studios of their own later in their careers. The Paramount specialty was now simpler. ‘High concept’ pictures such as Saturday Night Fever (John Badham, 1977) and Grease (Randall Kleisner, 1978) hit all over the world, and Apocalypse Now (Francis Coppola, 1979) was also a huge hit.

Paramount's successful run of pictures extended into the 1980s and 1990s, generating hits like An Officer and a Gentleman (Taylor Hackford, 1982), Flashdance (Adrian Lyne, 1983), Terms of Endearment (James L. Brooks, 1983), Top Gun (Tony Scott, 1986) with Tom Cruise, and the Friday the 13th slasher series. Paramount teamed up with Lucasfilm to create the Indiana Jones franchise. During this period, responsibility for running the studio passed from Eisner and Katzenberg to Frank Mancuso, Sr. (1984) and Ned Tanen (1984) to Stanley R. Jaffe (1991) and Sherry Lansing (1992).

In 1994 Paramount was acquired by Viacom Inc. Titanic (James Cameron, 1997), made jointly with 20th Century Fox, tied the record for most Academy Awards and was the first film to earn more than $1 billion at the box office. More recent Paramount’s hits include both the Iron Man and Star Trek series, and The Wolf of Wall Street (Martin Scorsese, 2013) starring Leonardo DiCaprio.

Paramount is the last major film studio located in Hollywood proper. For a time the semi-industrial neighbourhood around Paramount was in decline, but has now come back. The recently refurbished studio has come to symbolize Hollywood for many visitors, and its studio tour is a popular attraction. The distinctively pyramidal Paramount mountain has been the company's logo since its inception and is the oldest surviving Hollywood film logo. In the sound era, the logo was accompanied by a fanfare called Paramount on Parade after the film of the same name, released in 1930. Legend has it that the mountain is based on a doodle made by W. W. Hodkinson during a meeting with Adolph Zukor. It is said to be based on the memories of his childhood in Utah.

Marlon Brando in The Godfather (1972)
Marlon Brando. American postcard by Classico San Francisco, no. 136-183. Photo: The Ludlow Collection. Publicity still for The Godfather (Francis Ford Coppola, 1972).

Leonard Nimoy dies at 83
Leonard Nimoy as Spock in Star Trek. American postcard by Classico, San Francisco, no. 105-117. Photo: Paramount Pictures, 1991.

Kate Winslet and Leonardo DiCaprio in Titanic (1997)
Kate Winslet and Leonardo DiCaprio. Vintage postcard. Photo: publicity still for Titanic (James Cameron, 1997).

Sources: Encyclopaedia Britannica, Film Reference, Wikipedia and IMDb.