ENGULFED: The Death of Paramount Pictures and the Birth of Corporate Hollywood

Bernard F. Dick, Author . University Press of Kentucky $27.50 (269p) ISBN 978-0-8131-2202-1

In 1977's Silent Movie, Mel Brooks turned his gimlet eye on showbiz, portraying a "megaconglomerate called 'Engulf and Devour' " that attempts to buy a small film company. No one could have missed the reference to Gulf + Western, the multinational that bought up distinguished Paramount Pictures in 1966. Dick, professor of communications at Fairleigh Dickinson University, astutely analyzes the role of outside corporate money in the film industry, and how the changes at Paramount heralded a new, inevitable trend in American film and arts. From its founding, Paramount had been in the forefront of quality Hollywood productions: the studio won the first Academy Award for Best Picture in 1929 (for Wings), and received a Best Picture nomination every year between 1949 and 1955 under the visionary leadership of founder Adolph Zukor and close-knit producers and directors. In the mid-1950s, politics, economics and the advent of television caused a decline in revenues and a complex battle between trustees, stockholders and businessmen bent on diversification that ended with the sale of the studio. In the book's second half, Dick charts the dizzying business maneuvers after Paramount (and other formerly independent studios) became line items in the labyrinthine ledgers of large corporations. Dick's in-depth analysis and research (he had access to previously undisclosed papers of Paramount's last president) makes for great—and shocking—journalism. Less for the general reader than film or business historians, this is nonetheless an important addition to literature on Hollywood and the economics of entertainment. Photos. (Aug.)

Reviewed on: 06/25/2001
Release date: 08/01/2001
Genre: Nonfiction
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