Death of the Moguls: The End of Classical Hollywood

Death of the Moguls: The End of Classical Hollywood

Death of the Moguls: The End of Classical Hollywood

Death of the Moguls: The End of Classical Hollywood


Death of the Moguls is a detailed assessment of the last days of the "rulers of film." Wheeler Winston Dixon examines the careers of such moguls as Harry Cohn at Columbia, Louis B. Mayer at MGM, Jack L. Warner at Warner Brothers, Adolph Zukor at Paramount, and Herbert J. Yates at Republic in the dying days of their once-mighty empires. He asserts that the sheer force of personality and business acumen displayed by these moguls made the studios successful; their deaths or departures hastened the studios' collapse. Almost none had a plan for leadership succession; they simply couldn't imagine a world in which they didn't reign supreme.

Covering 20th Century-Fox, Selznick International Pictures, Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer, Paramount Pictures, RKO Radio Pictures, Warner Brothers, Universal Pictures, Republic Pictures, Monogram Pictures and Columbia Pictures, Dixon briefly introduces the studios and their respective bosses in the late 1940s, just before the collapse, then chronicles the last productions from the studios and their eventual demise in the late 1950s and early 1960s. He details such game-changing factors as the de Havilland decision, which made actors free agents; the Consent Decree, which forced the studios to get rid of their theaters; how the moguls dealt with their collapsing empires in the television era; and the end of the conventional studio assembly line, where producers had rosters of directors, writers, and actors under their command.

Complemented by rare, behind-the-scenes stills, Death of the Moguls is a compelling narrative of the end of the studio system at each of the Hollywood majors as television, the de Havilland decision, and the Consent Decree forced studios to slash payrolls, make the shift to color, 3D, and CinemaScope in desperate last-ditch efforts to save their kingdoms. The aftermath for some was the final switch to television production and, in some cases, the distribution of independent film.


Are you planning to visit Los Angeles in the near future? Then you should take a Hollywood studio tour. At Paramount, located at 5555 Melrose Avenue in Hollywood, you get a two-hour walk-through confined mostly to the exterior of various soundstages, as well as a stop at Lucy Park, a small section of the studio lot that at one time belonged to Desilu Studios, which in turn bought out most of the old RKO Radio Studio facilities. You’ll probably also see some Foley artists plodding through reels of sound effects for forthcoming films and television shows; the famous “Blue Sky” cyclorama, which has been used as a backdrop for Leonard Nimoy’s Star Trek IV: The Voyage Home (1986) and Cecil B. DeMille’s The Ten Commandments (1956); the basement apartment shared by the lead characters of television’s Laverne and Shirley (1976–1983); and some exterior locations used in the series Seinfeld (1989–1998). But the back lot itself is almost entirely gone; it’s nothing like Warner Bros. or Universal, where faux New York City streets, European villages, and dusty western cow towns still exist side by side, ready for instantaneous use.

Sony Pictures, at 10202 West Washington Boulevard, the home of MGM for nearly a century, also offers a walking tour; here, too, as on the Paramount tour, ghosts predominate. The major phantom, of course, is MGM itself; while Sony may now own the studio facilities, it was MGM’s home base from the studio’s inception until 1990, and yet most of the . . .

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