United Artists, Volume 1, 1919-1950: The Company Built by the Stars
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United Artists was a unique motion picture company in the history of Hollywood. Founded by Charlie Chaplin, Mary Pickford, Douglas Fairbanks, and director D.W. Griffith—four of the greatest names of the silent era—United Artists functioned as a distribution company for independent producers. In this lively and detailed history of United Artists from 1919 through 1951, film scholar Tino Balio chronicles the company’s struggle for survival, its rise to prominence as the Tiffany of the industry, and its near extinction in the 1940s.
This edition is updated with a new introduction by Balio that places in relief UA’s operations for those readers who may be unfamiliar with film industry practices and adds new perspective to the company’s place within Hollywood.
to its affiliated members and boost its assets from $16 million in 1928 to $230 million. United Artists did not become a part of the Warner empire, nor did it subscribe to Schenck's plan to consolidate the UA group. The extant corporate records are silent on these matters, but if the reports in Variety are accurate, it was Chaplin who again obstructed the deal. His immediate response was that if the merger with Warner took place, he would withdraw from the company and distribute his pictures on
required to take short subjects as well. This practice, the forcing of shorts, together with block booking, was known as full-line forcing. As a congressional investigating committee remarked, "This is the only industry in which the buyer, having no idea of what he is buying, underwrites blindly all the product offered him." 13 The independent theater owner was not against block booking as such, since he needed a large number of pictures to fill the playing time of a theater that frequently
from the new. The management team headed by Arthur Krim and Robert Benjamin, which took over operating control of United Artists in 1951, devised a way to reverse the policy to attract top talent to its ranks. In reversing the policy the new goal of the company was to Introduction [ xxi generate profits for the middleman, which included management. The strategy worked, and under Krim and Benjamin United Artists became the largest distributor of motion pictures in the world. This is the
$560,000 dividend, the largest ever. When Schenck assumed the position of chairman of the board in 1924, he had provided the fledgling company with the leadership and savvy that not only stabilized its operations but also enabled it to survive intact the upheavals in the industry brought about by the battle for the theaters, then the sound revolution, and finally the maneuvering for control over the marketplace during the days of NRA. He formed the United Artists Theatre Circuit to guarantee
at a studio trying to shed its poverty-row image. Here, Wanger began to produce his so-called films of social consciousness. Washington Merry-Go-Round, for example, dealt with contemporary politics, and The Bitter Tea of General Yen, which Frank Capra directed, was a story about miscegenation between an American girl and a Chinese general. In his next job at MGM, Irving Thalberg put him to work producing Gabriel over the White House, a film about a President indifferent to his responsibilities