A Tale of Two Studios | Repertory Series

Join us for a year-long celebration of Columbia Pictures and Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer

These two venerable studios both first stepped onto the screen in 1924; MGM, a powerhouse from the start, and the other, Columbia, a scrappy upstart. Their histories – and how one ultimately rose while the other faltered, tell the story of Hollywood itself. Read more about the first installment and purchase tickets here or at the box office. 

PART ONE: THE EARLY YEARS

He Who Gets Slapped THE BLOOD SHIPHe Who Gets Slapped was the first film entirely produced under the merger of Metro Pictures, Goldwyn Pictures, and Louis B. Mayer Productions – MGM; though not its first release, it was the first fully complete project created under the newly formed company, a company that was already well established as a home of high profile films.  The Blood Ship was one of the earliest efforts by scrappy ‘Gower Gultch’ grindhouse Columbia Pictures to step outside their usual B-movie fare and make a splash with a ‘big’ picture.

 

DATE: March 27 at 7pm

Showing as a silent film double feature with live score by Jeff Rapsis. The Blood Ship will be shown in 35mm.

 


Desert BrideBen-Hur (1925)Ben-Hur was and remains a hallmark of silent cinema, an epic on a scale not seen in 1925 when it was released – and rarely since.  Inherited by MGM from the Goldwyn company, plagued by difficult filming in Italy and a bloated budget (it remains the most expensive film of the silent era) that threatened the finances of the newly merged studio, it was ‘brought home’ to the studio in Culver City, CA, where under the watchful eyes of Louis Mayer and Irving Thalberg, it was finished and released to be a box office behemoth. It’s international box office records alone set an MGM record for 25 years, and it cemented the young studio’s reputation as an instant major. The Desert Bride by comparison, is an example of the typical modest Columbia programming during the silent era – Columbia being at the time a very ‘minor’ studio.  Comparing them both on the same bill gives a good idea of what audiences a century ago could see on screen.

DATE: April 3 at 6:30pm

Double feature with Ben-Hur in 35mm.


The Thin Man Ladies of LeisureThe Thin Man typifies the early 30’s at MGM: the movie star chemistry of William Powell and Myrna Loy, the urbane dialogue, wit, and the snappy direction of studio stalwart W. S. Van Dyke. Metro was not a home for auteurs, but the studio could assemble a team and turn out a classic like Thin Man on a near-weekly basis. Over at Columbia, studio chief Harry Cohn gave director Frank Capra, only on his fifth talking picture, complete control over Ladies of Leisure and its young star, Barbara Stanwyck, who nearly quit making movies before making this picture with Capra, who was slowly cementing his place as Columbia’s one-man A-movie unit.

DATE: April 10 at 7pm

35mm double feature


It Happened One Night The Wizard of OzThe Wizard of Oz and It Happened One Night: you might call both of these movies the pinnacle of 1930’s Hollywood filmmaking, in general, and for their respective studios. At MGM, multiple directors and the studio’s factory-like ability to create film on a grand scale worked perfectly to create a timeless Technicolor musical that still has an impact. Over at Columbia, Frank Capra borrowed Clark Gable from MGM for $2500 per week – Gable got $2000, MGM got $500 – and a reluctant Claudette Colbert (who initially referred to It Happened One Night as “the worst picture in the world”) and made box office dynamite for Columbia – creating a smash hit that held studio records into the 1980s. It Happened One Night was also the first movie to win Best Picture, Best Director, Best Actor, Best Actress and Best Writing.

DATE: April 17th at 7pm

35mm double feature


Mr. Smith Goes to WashingtonLove Finds Andy HardyIn Mr. Smith Goes To Washington, Capra again created a big hit for Columbia – and what is considered one of the best films ever made. He also raised the ire of politicians all over Washington DC, who assailed the film, director, and studio for making “the Senate look like a bunch of crooks.” The Senate answered by pushing the passage of the Neely Anti-Block Booking Bill, which eventually led to the breakup of the studio-owned theater chains in the late 1940s, ironically and unintentionally harming MGM, which was part of the Loew’s chain of theaters, but not Columbia, which owned no cinemas.  Over at Metro, with executive Irving Thalberg now dead, less creative risks were being taken, but the Hollywood dream factory continued to create massive hits like Love Finds Andy Hardy a perfect example of late 30’s mainstream studio craft, featuring top box office attraction Mickey Rooney, new starlet Judy Garland, and a young Lana Turner among others in this highlight of the popular Andy Hardy series.

DATE: April 24 at 7pm

35mm double feature

 

Up next in this series – the 40’s and 50’s – studios in transition, and the Widescreen era begins!