Auteur Series Part 2: 1910’s Carl Laemmle and the Rise of the Studio Moguls
The second decade of the Twentieth Century brought a new twist to the movie industry. The concept of a business to produce and distribute moving picture stories breathed life into a growing nation. 1912 was the founding year for Universal and Paramount Studios. Universal beats establishment by a solid month so they hold the title as the oldest in America. Universal founder Carl Laemmle deserves his own distinguishment in the world of film influence.
How is a mogul considered an auteur?
I know, this blog series is supposed to focus on auteurs. Strictly speaking, I am in complete error here. Sorry sticklers, but we are doing an exception. And yes, in the 2nd week. Don’t worry, it’s gonna pay off. Especially as the century unfolds to reveal a repeating pattern of rebellion from this newly established system. So let’s break ahead, back to the system. It’s why, how, and what.
When the studio wasn’t the system
No, the studio idea in America began as a way for Jewish Americans to find employment in a new industry where they can make their own rules on acceptance. Most other legitimate forms of employment such as law, medicine, or politics were strict to allow what they considered inferior races. A different time, a different time. It was inconceivable to not work on the Jewish holy day of Saturday during the Nineteenth Century Many had to take careers in crime prior to this. This gathering enabled a blending of American cultures, stories, and styles. The growing city of Los Angeles provided adequate lands with a varied terrain at a cheap price.
The chance to open their own “industry” where they could work for themselves and employee artists, technicians, accountants, and every other conceivable job. The best part of establishing a new industry is calling it a proper noun Hollywood is “The Industry” and Webster’s Dictionary currently represents this example for the word pretentious. This was all happening at a socio-political time when labor movements were at their height. The studio guilds were born as a product of this stirring of elements. Laemmle was a key part of determining how the Industry would identify itself in the coming decades.
Lammle’s American Dream
So if one immigrant class can make it in America then anyone can. Why not put that in a bottle and sell it. That’s exactly what Lammle’s and the other studio pioneers sought to enact with the selections of the types of films to make. There was increasingly greater control by the producing element in the films. Studios churned out competing pictures on similar themes. All selling the vision of fantasy within the realm of the story in celluloid and the celebrated lives of those immortalized in it.
The Mogul Dynasty
As the studios grew, so did the power at the top. Somewhat rightly so. You see, the business element to film as a product could be predicted and quantified. With the conception of film market research and private funding from some less than reputable sources sometimes, the moguls saw the advantage of big budget productions. The moguls would outdo themselves in competing budgets in a battle that is continued by their surviving studios to this day.
A Bonus Auteur that’s not really an auteur:
November 1913, Nils Granlund, Marketing Director for Loews Theaters, splices together the first movie trailer clip. This sets the stage for the recapitulation of a film for marketing use. The hype these build around film is a marketing masterpiece. Some say the trailers are the best part of going to the movies.