Transforming the screen, 1950-1959 by Peter Lev

By Peter Lev

The Fifties: remodeling the monitor, 1950-1959.

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For example, Louis de Rochemont signed with CoIumbia, and John Ford and Merian C. Cooper reached agreement with the Poverty Row studio Republic. "" RKO and Warner Bros. were moving in the same direction, with only MGM and Twentieth Century-Fox among the majors sticking to in-house production. " The studio did far more than rent space to production companies. It arranged financing, approved story and budget, monitored production, and controlled marketing and distribution. Also, since studios in the early 1950s retained The American Film Industry in the Early 1950s many of their contract personnel and technical departments, independent producers were encouraged (and in some cases required) to use studio crews and faciIities.

A general set of themes in the time period was distrust, hatred, and anxiety among humans, explored in such varied genres as suspense thriller, film noir, Western, and even love story. ' However, for many Americans the early 1950s was an era of peace and prosperity. Americans were marrylng and having babies at a record rate. New suburban towns modeled on Long Island's Levittown were springing up around the major cities. Homebuilding, automobiles, and electric appliances were the foundations of a very strong consumer economy.

The non-exclusive Wallis contract was still in force until 1956, but by 1953 Lancaster was himself one of the leading producers in HoIlywood. Via first Norma Productions and then Hecht-HiU-Lancaster (story editor James Hill was added as a third partner), Lancaster was to make a series of important films at UA, including APACHE (1954),VERACRUZ(1954), MARTY (1955), SWEETSMELL OF SUCCESS (ig57), and ELMER GANTRY (1960). " For Howard Hawks, independent production offered more risk and more potential reward, but not dramatic changes in the way he made films.

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