cover image The Hollywood Studios

The Hollywood Studios

Ethan Mordden / Author Knopf Publishing Group $24.95 (387p) IS

The studio system in Hollywood was doomed once the Supreme Court decided in 1948 that the same companies that created movies could not legally control their exhibition, forcing studios to divest their theater chains. That decision inaugurated a series of changes limiting studio contributions primarily to the financing and marketing of pictures. What was lost? Much more than the simple star-making machinery one associates with the studio era, as this entertaining, informative volume makes clear. Performing arts writer and novelist Mordden (The Hollywood Musical, etc.) ably demonstrates that each studio had its own distinctive style, deriving from the esthetic affinities of the moguls who ran them, the idiosyncrasies of their contract artists and the ways they distributed power among the studios' various creative departments. Mordden makes an amiable and authoritative guide as he tours readers through the studios of the 1930s and '40s, pointing out the hallmarks of the major housesthe MGM musical, the Paramount sex comedy, the Warner crime drama and more. Written with a flair and clarity that will delight even the casual movie lover, this study is a refreshing and convincing alternative to the auteurist approach to film history. Photos not seen by PW. (April)