Death of the Moguls: The End of Classical Hollywood

By Wheeler Winston Dixon | Go to book overview

CHAPTER 5
Zukor and Paramount

Adolph Zukor was arguably the first, and certainly the longest living, of the golden age studio titans. And like the others, he was crazy about the movies, both as a business and an art form, although he was far less of a public manipulator, preferring to work behind the scenes. Zukor got into the game early as an exhibitor, opening a penny arcade in 1903 in Manhattan and in 1904 a small theater (Gomery, Studio System 26). By 1912, Zukor had moved into production, and in 1913, recognizing the rising power of the star system, Zukor signed Mary Pickford to a $20,000 a year contract, effectively jumpstarting the entire rush to sign top talent for films (Gomery, Studio System 27). Zukor called his company Famous Players, and later, after a merger with producer Jesse Lasky, Famous Players–Lasky, with a roster of Broadway stars, and used the facilities of Paramount, founded by William H. Hodkinson in 1914, to distribute its films. The founders of Famous Players-Lasky were Lasky, Zukor, Samuel Goldwyn (then known as Samuel Goldfish), Cecil B. DeMille, and Zukor’s brother-in-law, Al Kaufman.

Hodkinson had formed Paramount from nine smaller companies, and the studio now depended on Famous Players to produce roughly half of the 100 films it distributed nationally each year. But Hodkinson was more of an auteurist than Zukor, who was simply a businessman. As Tim Wu writes, “Zukor’s plan for the film industry was predicated on

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Death of the Moguls: The End of Classical Hollywood
Table of contents

Table of contents

  • Title Page iii
  • Contents ix
  • Acknowledgments xi
  • Prologue 1
  • Chapter 1 - The Postwar Collapse 12
  • Chapter 2 - White Fang at Columbia 36
  • Chapter 3 - Z for Zanuck 65
  • Chapter 4 - Mayer’s Mgm 88
  • Chapter 5 - Zukor and Paramount 113
  • Chapter 6 - The Major Minors 136
  • Chapter 7 - Universal Goes Corporate 168
  • Chapter 8 - That’s All, Folks- Jack Warner’s Lost Kingdom 192
  • Works Cited and Consulted 225
  • Index 231
  • About the Author 249
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