Friday, March 19, 2010

1925-MGM STUDIO TOUR, Hollywood's home movies

Somebody got the bright idea to film a home movie about the back lot of MGM studios.  This thirty minute silent film frequently airs on TCM when they have a half an hour of time to fill before the next movie.  It's fascinating.

The viewer really gets an amazing view of how a major Hollywood studio created films.  Each department at MGM had a fully staffed group of technicians from carpenters to musicians to production managers to you name it.  The department heads stand in front of the camera and smile for the cameraman they look very uncomfortable getting their picture taken.  It's like watching an amateur home movie photographed by your parents.

MGM even had their own power substation on the lot, pretty incredible.  MGM was known as the movie factory, they were a well oiled machine in many ways.  They were able to take a story create a budget and marshal the resources of the studio to bring it to the screen.

A lot of the success of MGM could be contributed to one man,  the legendary Hollywood big wig Louis B. Mayer.  There are many stories about Mayer's iron handed rule of the studio but there is no question he built a pretty remarkable organization. 

Seeing something like this really makes the Cahiers du cinema's auteur theory look like a total joke.  The real auteurs of Hollywood films were the various studio department heads who were responsible for the look and quality of a film.  This was particularly true at MGM.

As I watched the contract directors posing for the camera, I realized that most of them ended up leaving the studio.  MGM in particular was not a director friendly studio.  You did not express your personal vision at MGM.

MGM was in the business of pumping out pictures for the public.  It had to keep the product flowing to their chain of theaters.  It also maintained a certain level of technical quality which gave their films a certain glossy look.  They may not have always made the greatest films and they certainly produced plenty of crap but the films always looked good. 

About 30 minutes.  

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