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PEOPLE IN AMERICA - Movie Pioneers - 2004-11-20


Broadcast: November 21, 2004

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VOICE ONE:

I’m Sarah Long.

VOICE TWO:

And I’m Steve Ember with People in America in VOA Special English. Today we tell about three people who helped make Hollywood the center of the movie industry.

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VOICE ONE:

When you hear the name Hollywood, you probably think of excitement, lights, cameras and movie stars. Famous actors are not the only important people in the entertainment business. Directors and producers are important, too. Today, Hollywood is full of producers and directors. However, very few are as famous and successful as Hollywood’s first motion picture businessmen, Cecil B. DeMille, Samuel Goldwyn and Louis Mayer.

(((“There’s No Business Like Show Business”, CDP-8244)))

VOICE TWO:

Cecil Blount DeMille was born in Ashfield, Massachusetts in Eighteen-Eighty-One. Both his parents were writers of plays. His father died when he was twelve years old. His mother kept the family together by establishing a theater company. Cecil joined the company as an actor. He continued working in his mother’s theater company as an actor and a manager until Nineteen-Thirteen. That year, he joined Jesse L. Lasky and Samuel Goldfish to form the Jesse L. Lasky Feature Play Company. Goldfish later changed his name to Samuel Goldwyn.

VOICE ONE:

The three men started making motion pictures immediately. They loved working in the movie business. They were deeply interested in its creative and financial possibilities. DeMille, Lasky and Goldfish began working on a movie version of the popular American western play, “Squaw Man.” DeMille urged that the movie be made in the real American West. He chose Flagstaff, Arizona. DeMille and the company traveled to Flagstaff by train. When they arrived, DeMille thought the area looked too modern. They got back on the train and keep going until they reached the end of the line. They were in a quiet little town in southern California. The town was called Hollywood. DeMille decided this was the perfect place to film the movie.

“Squaw Man” was one of the first full-length movies produced in Hollywood. It was released in Nineteen-Thirteen and was an immediate success. DeMille is considered the man who helped Hollywood become the center of the motion picture business. He quickly became a creative force in the new movie industry. His success continued with “Brewster’s Millions,” “The Call of the North” and “The Trail of the Lonesome Pine.”

VOICE TWO:

Cecil B. DeMille was among the very few filmmakers in Hollywood whose name appeared above the title of his movie. His name was more important to movie-goers than the names of the stars in the movie. DeMille’s movies were known to be big productions. He combined a lot of action, realistic storytelling and hundreds of actors to make some of Hollywood’s best movies. He made many kinds of movies including westerns, comedies, romances and ones dealing with moral issues

DeMille gained a great deal of fame with the kind of movie known as an epic. An epic tells a story of events that are important in history. DeMille’s epic movies were based on the settling of the American West, Roman history or stories from the Bible. His first version of the historic film “The Ten Commandments” was a huge success among silent films in Nineteen-Twenty-Three. In Nineteen-Fifty-Six, he released a new version of “The Ten Commandments” to include sound. It is broadcast still on American television during the Christian observance of Easter.

VOICE ONE:

Cecil B. DeMille produced and directed seventy movies. In Nineteen-Forty-Nine he received a special Academy Award for “thirty-seven years of brilliant showmanship.” He died of heart failure in Nineteen-Fifty-Nine.

One of DeMille’s last films was “The Greatest Show on Earth.” It won the Academy Award for best picture in Nineteen-Fifty-Two. It was about people who performed in the circus. Some people say it was a fitting subject because Cecil B. DeMille often was called the greatest showman in Hollywood.

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VOICE TWO:

In Eighteen-Ninety-Five, a thirteen-year-old boy from Warsaw, Poland found his way to the United States. Samuel Goldfish was alone. He had no money. He found work as a glove maker. He continued working in the glove-making industry until he was almost thirty years old.

VOICE TWO(cont):

In Nineteen-Thirteen, Samuel and his wife’s brother, Jesse L. Lasky, and Cecil B. DeMille formed the Jesse L. Lasky Feature Play Company. It produced the movie, “Squaw Man.”

In Nineteen-Sixteen, Goldfish started a business with Edgar Selwyn. They combined their names Goldfish and Selwyn and called the new company Goldwyn. Samuel Goldfish liked the name and changed his to Samuel Goldwyn in Nineteen-Eighteen. The Goldwyn Company made many successful motion pictures. Yet, the company was not a financial success.

In Nineteen-Twenty-Two, Samuel Goldwyn was forced to leave the company. The Goldwyn Company then joined with Metro Pictures and Louis B. Mayer Productions to form Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer, known as MGM. Samuel Goldwyn was not part of the deal. He promised never to be a joint owner of another company. He formed his own company Samuel Goldwyn Productions.

VOICE ONE:

Samuel Goldwyn was one of the great independent producers during the “Golden Age” of Hollywood. Most of his films were successful financially and popular with critics. He insisted that his films be well made and of high quality. This became known as the “Goldwyn Touch.”

Goldwyn usually paid for his films himself. He bought the best stories and plays to be made into movies. He employed the best writers, directors and actors. And he discovered new actors including Lucille Ball, Gary Cooper, Susan Hayward and Will Rogers.

Goldwyn was extremely independent. He had a strong desire to control every element of the production and marketing of his films. He made all decisions concerning his films including choosing directors, actors and writers. His best films include “The Little Foxes,” “The Best Years of Our Lives” and “Porgy and Bess.” His movies received many Academy Awards.

VOICE TWO:

Samuel Goldwyn was known also for his sense of humor. He created funny expressions. In Hollywood they are known as Goldwynisms. One of his most famous expressions was “Include me out.”

In Nineteen-Forty-Six, Goldwyn received the Irving Thalberg Memorial Award for his excellent movie productions during the Academy Award ceremonies that year. He died in Nineteen-Seventy-Four.

Samuel Goldwyn was in the movie business for almost sixty years. He is considered one of the most influential film producers ever.

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VOICE ONE:

Louis B. Mayer began as a theater operator in Havermill, Massachusetts in Nineteen-Oh-Seven. Over the next several years he bought more theaters. Soon he owned the largest group of theaters in New England. In Nineteen-Seventeen, Mayer formed his own movie production company. In the early Nineteen-Twenties, Louis B. Mayer Pictures joined two other companies to form Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer.

Mayer was appointed vice president and general manager of Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer. He had a strong fatherly way of supervising the company and actors.

The company had some of the biggest names in show business including Judy Garland, Clark Gable, Katherine Hepburn and Elizabeth Taylor. A popular expression used at the time was M-G-M had “more stars than there are in heaven.” M-G-M produced some of the most popular movies of all time including “The Wizard of Oz,” “Gone with the Wind” and “The Philadelphia Story.”

VOICE TWO:

In the Nineteen-Thirties and Nineteen-Forties, Louis B. Mayer was the most powerful businessman in Hollywood. He earned more than one-million-two-hundred-thousand-dollars a year. He was paid more than anyone else in the United States.

In Nineteen-Fifty, Mayer received a special Academy Award for “excellent service to the Motion Picture industry.” He died in Hollywood, California in Nineteen-Fifty-Seven. He was seventy-two years old.

VOICE ONE:

Cecil B. DeMille, Samuel Goldwyn and Louis B. Mayer are remembered for their excellent movies and their continuing influence in the motion picture industry. They led the way for movie producers and directors of today and those still to come.

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VOICE TWO:

This program was written and directed by Lawan Davis. Our studio engineer was Keith Holmes. I’m Steve Ember.

VOICE ONE:

And I’m Sarah Long. Join us again next week for People in America in VOA Special English.

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