Thursday, April 24, 2014

90th Anniversary of Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer

Early 1925 advertisement for MGM, which was
called "Metro-Goldwyn" Pictures, as
featured in Photoplay Magazine.

At The Matinee looks back at the once-mighty Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer studios (or MGM), along with its iconic films and personalities.

April 24, 1924: Theater magnate Marcus Loew (1870-1927) decided to merge his two studio holdings- Metro Pictures Corporation and the financially troubled Goldwyn Pictures Corporation, along with joining Louis B. Mayer (1884-1957)’s production firm. The merged company would use the Goldwyn Pictures trademark, "Leo The Lion"- along with the motto Ars Gratia Artis (which is Latin for Arts for Arts Sake). The Goldwyn Studios in Culver City, California would be used for the merged company; and as for Samuel Goldwyn- he wanted no part in the merged studio, as he would remain an independent producer for the rest of his career.

While Loew was chairman of MGM, Mayer would be vice president of the studio, and Irving Thalberg (1899-1936) would be in charge of production. The new studio’s first series of films would be He Who Gets Slapped with Lon Chaney, and two productions that were previously with Goldwyn- Erich Von Stroheim’s Greed and Ben-Hur: A Tale of Christ (with Ramon Novarro)- which would be the most expensive film ever made at the time of its release in 1925.

That same year, the studio would have another epic hit- King Vidor’s World War I masterpiece, The Big Parade (adapted from Lawrence Stallings’ novel, Plumes) with John Gilbert. With the success of those features, MGM would be the most profitable studio in 1926.

As the motion picture industry was transitioning from silent pictures to sound features, MGM would be the last studio to make the switch to sound pictures- beginning with the 1929 musical The Broadway Melody, which was the first all-sound picture to win an Academy Award for best picture. This would make MGM a specialist in filmed musicals throughout the company’s “golden era”.

“MORE STARS THAN THERE ARE IN THE HEAVENS”: MGM boasted itself with this motto, as the studio had many notable personalities throughout the “golden age”- such as Lionel Barrymore, Greta Garbo, Lew Ayres, Norma Shearer, Clark Gable, Joan Crawford, Spencer Tracy, Jean Harlow, William Powell, Myrna Loy, Mickey Rooney, Judy Garland, Frank Morgan, Katherine Hepburn, Bing Crosby, Angela Lansbury, James Stewart, Lana Turner, Wallace Beery, Ann Miller, Jackie Cooper, Elizabeth Taylor, Fred Astaire, Debbie Reynolds, Gene Kelly, Greer Garson, Van Johnson, Esther Williams, Red Skelton, and many more personalities who were in MGM features during the studio’s glory years.

NOTABLE MGM FILMS: Some of the most memorable films that MGM produced over the years were The Champ (1931), Queen Christina, Grand Hotel (both 1932), David O. Selznick’s Dinner At Eight (1933), The Thin Man, Treasure Island (both 1934), A Night At The Opera (with the Marx Brothers), Mutiny on the Bounty (1935, and the 1962 re-make), The Great Ziegfeld (1936), Boys Town, Marie Antoinette (both 1938), Ninotchka, The Wizard of Oz, Goodbye, Mr. Chips (all from 1939), The Philadelphia Story (1940), Woman of the Year, Mrs. Miniver (both 1942), Lassie, Come Home (1943); Meet Me In St. Louis (1944), The Postman Always Rings Twice (1946), Easter Parade (1948), Adam’s Rib, On The Town (both 1949), Father of the Bride, Annie Get Your Gun (both 1950), An American In Paris (1951), Singin’ In The Rain (1952), Brigadoon (1954), , Blackboard Jungle (1955),  Teahouse of The August MoonForbidden Planet (both 1956), Jailhouse Rock (1957, with Elvis Presley),William A. Wellman’s re-make of Ben-Hur (with Charlton Heston, 1958), How The West Was Won (1961), Lolita (1962), The Unsinkable Molly Brown (1964), Grand Prix (1966), Point Blank, The Dirty Dozen (both 1967), Stanley Kubrick’s adaptation of Arthur C. Clarke's 2001: A Space Odyssey (1968), Shaft (1972), That’s Entertainment! retrospective features (1974, 1976, 1994), Neil Simon’s The Sunshine Boys (1975), Paddy Chayefsky’s Network (1976), and many more.

Though the studio lost its luster after the company's ousting of Louis B. Mayer in 1951 (and after several complicated corporate takeovers over the years)- movie buffs (myself included) still remember the great classics from MGM’s glory days.

Thankfully, we can see many of the classic (and contemporary) MGM features on Turner Classic Movies, on Public Television, DVD, Blu-Ray and on Warner Archive Instant.

More stories related to the unfortunate downfall of MGM will be featured in later editions of At The Matinee.

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The proprietor of "At The Matinee", Chris Hamby- welcomes your comments and suggestions on any post featured. NOTE: All comments are monitored by the author.