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Paramount Pictures Essay, Research Paper

The history of Paramount Pictures begins in Hungary in 1873, with the birth of Adolf Zukor. He immigrated to the United States as a teenager in 1888, and by the turn of the century was a successful Chicago furrier. Recognizing a new market, he entered the business of penny arcades at the age of 30; in 1905, he became business partners with Marcus Loew, who acquired a chain of nickelodeons across the country. Together they made the transition to motion-picture theaters, with Zukor serving as treasurer while Loew bought up hundreds of movie houses. Zukor distributed the French four-reeler La Reine Elisabeth (1912, Queen Elizabeth), starring Sarah Bernhart, and used the profits to launch his own production company in 1912: Famous Players. The motto was "famous players in famous plays," and Zukor began filming just that with The Count Of Monte Cristo (1913), starring James O'Neill (father of playwright Eugene O'Neill). Zukor's greatest success came with the stars produced by cinema, and in 1912 he signed one of the first and biggest, Mary Pickford. Already a popular actress, her career soared at Famous Players with such heartwarmers as Tess Of The Storm Country (1914) and Poor Little Peppina (1916). Zukor's distributor, the fledgling Paramount Pictures Corporation, was also handling the films of the Jesse L. Lasky Feature Play Company in 1914. Lasky, a vaudeville impresario, had two partners: his Polish-born brother-in-law, a successful glove salesman who called himself Samuel Goldfish, and writer/director Cecil B. De Mille. They'd hit big with their first film, which was also the first six-reel feature made in Hollywood: the The Squaw Man (1914), co-directed by De Mille and Oscar Apfel. Famous Players merged with Lasky in 1916, becoming the Famous Players-Lasky Corporation, with Zukor as president and Lasky as vice-president in charge of production. (They bought out Goldfish, who then joined Edgar Selwyn to form the Goldwyn company — and later took the name for his own, becoming Samuel Goldwyn.) Another dozen film-production companies joined Famous Players-Lasky over the following year, and soon the company absorbed its distributors Paramount and Artcraft. De Mille made hit after hit for the company in the late teens, most notably the historical drama Joan The Woman (1916) with opera star Geraldine Farrar; the World War One agitprop film The Little American (1917) with Mary Pickford; and the romantic farces Don't Change Your Husband (1918) and Why Change Your Wife? (1918), both starring Gloria Swanson. Pickford, by now a superstar, signed with First National in 1917, but the studio had other star players in the late teens. The two important replacements for Pickford in teenage romantic leads were Mary Miles Minter (Anne Of Green Gables, 1919) and the older but equally innocent Marguerite Clark (Uncle Tom's Cabin, 1918). All-American leading man Wallace Reid (The Roaring Road, 1919) was also a hit with audiences. Artcraft was releasing important works by some of the era's best filmmakers: the westerns of William S. Hart, most notably The Narrow Trail (1917) and The Toll Gate (1920); the energetic satires of producer/star Douglas Fairbanks, such as A Modern Musketeer (1917) and Bound In Morocco (1918), both written and directed by Allan Dwan; and a series of films by writer/director D.W. Griffith, including the World War One drama Hearts Of The World (1918) and the rural romance True Heart Susie (1919), both starring Lillian Gish. Fairbanks and Griffith left to co-found United Artists in 1919, and the hemorrhaging at Famous Players-Lasky continued into the early '20s: Clark retired in 1921; Reid stopped making films in 1922 when he entered a sanitarium to be treated for his tragic addiction to morphine, only to die not long afterward a age 32; Hart, his vogue having peaked, was let go in 1922; and Minter's career ended in 1923, with her ambiguous role in the still-unsolved murder of director William Desmond Taylor.Despite these setbacks, Famous Players-Lasky went on to even greater success in the '20s, a decade during which the studio bought up hundreds of movie theaters acoss the country. By managing their own theater chains, the studio dominated the market for first-run features — and by the start of the next decade, it was one of the great five "integrated major" studios, along with MGM, Fox, RKO, and Warner Bros. Gloria Swanson was a huge star by the mid 1920s, and made a notable series of films with producer/director Allan Dwan, including the romantic dramas Zaza (1923) and Wages Of Virtue (1924) and the comedies Manhandled (1924) and Stage Struck (1925). In 1923 the studio released two of the biggest moneymakers American cinema had yet produced: the landmark western The Covered Wagon, directed by James Cruze, and De Mille's The Ten Commandments. Pola Negri, the Polish-born star of German films, began acting for Famous Players-Lasky in 1923, and appeared in such hits as director Ernst Lubitsch's satire Forbidden Paradise (1924). By then, the studio had also struck gold with Italian-born actor Rudolph Valentino, who became a superstar in the romantic dramas The Sheik (1921), Blood And Sand (1922), and Monsieur Beaucaire (1924). Valentino switched to United Artists the following year, not long after De Mille had struck out on his own as an independent; but 1925 also marked the company's hiring of producer B.P. Schulberg and his discovery, actress Clara Bow. Schulberg soon became general manager of production, while Bow found glory as the iconic flapper of the 1920s in such hits as Fascinating Youth (1926) and It (1927). She also starred in the classic drama of World War One flying aces, director William Wellman's Wings (1927), which became the first film to win the Academy Award for Best Picture. In 1927, the studio's name became Paramount Famous Lasky Corporation. During the years before the changeover to sound, Josef von Sternberg directed several memorable films: the landmark gangster movie Underworld (1927); The Last Command (1928), the first American film of German actor Emil Jannings; and the gritty drama The Docks Of New York (1929). Harold Lloyd released his final silent comedies with Paramount — For Heaven's Sake (1926), The Kid Brother (1927), and Speedy (1928) — as well as his first talkies, all directed by Clyde Bruckman: Welcome Danger (1929), Feet First (1930), and Movie Crazy (1932). The early years of sound proved to be a rocky time at the studio, which in 1930 again changed its name, this time to Paramount Publix Corp. But in its films, Paramount met the new technology with success. Victor Fleming directed Gary Cooper and Walter Huston in a rousing western, The Virginian (1929). Broadway director Rouben Mamoulian made his debut film Applause (1929), creatively treating both sound and camera movement. Equally impressive were Mamoulian's follow-ups: the crime drama City Streets (1931) with Gary Cooper; the classic horror film Dr. Jekyll And Mr. Hyde (1932), starring Fredric March; and the delightful musical Love Me Tonight (1932) with Maurice Chevalier and Jeanette MacDonald. Mamoulian had there followed the example of Lubitsch, who'd made the Paramount musicals The Love Parade (1929) and One Hour With You (1932) with Chevalier and MacDonald. Lubitsch's other notable early talkies include the musical Monte Carlo (1930), the antiwar drama The Man I Killed (1932), and the classic comedy Trouble In Paradise (1932). The Marx Brothers recreated their hit Broadway musical-comedies at Paramount, with The Cocoanuts (1929) and Animal Crackers (1930), and followed with a three classics of inspired zaniness: Monkey Business (1931), Horse Feathers (1932), and Duck Soup (1933). Von Sternberg, who'd directed the German production Der Blaue Engel (1930, The Blue Angel) with Jannings and Marlene Dietrich, brought Dietrich back with him under a Paramount contract and began starring her in a series of exotic and atmospheric romantic dramas: Morocco (1930), Dishonored (1931), Shanghai Express (1932), Blonde Venus (1932). In 1932, Paramount had an executive shakeup, and Lasky and Schulberg were sent packing. The Depression had hurt the corporation's finances, but even though it declared bankruptcy the following year, it reorganized in 1935 under the name Paramount Pictures, Inc. Film production continued throughout these uncertain years, but some careers were mangled at the time. The studio seemed to suffer especially from ups and downs in comedy, starting with the Marx Brothers, who were let go of after the poor box-office of Duck Soup. The first of the sly, innuendo-filled comedies written by and starring Mae West — She Done Him Wrong (1933), I'm No Angel (1933), and Belle Of The Nineties (1934) — were hits; but the studio, nervous about censorship, made her tone down her humor, and after such lukewarm efforts as Goin' To Town (1935) and Every Day's A Holiday (1938), West left Paramount. (Around the same time, the studio was similarly inhibiting the sauciness of one of its most famous stars, the cartoon flapper Betty Boop.) W.C. Fields appeared in over a dozen films at Paramount during the mid 1930s, but was usually kept in minor or supporting roles — although in such funny films as Million Dollar Legs (1932) and International House (1933). But a few films that were pure Fields also emerged, including two classics, It's A Gift (1934) and The Man On The Flying Trapeze (1935). De Mille returned to Paramount with one of his best films, The Sign Of The Cross (1932), a sin-and-salvation drama set in Nero's Rome. He followed with a string of hits in the '30s, including the epic Cleopatra (1934) and the westerns The Plainsman (1936) and Union Pacific (1938). Charles Laughton, who'd scored as Nero for De Mille, starred in two classics at Paramount: the horror tale The Island Of Lost Souls (1932) and the comedy Ruggles Of Red Gap (1935). Ernst Lubitsch temporarily stopped directing and became Paramount's Production Manager in 1935. He let go of von Sternberg, who had overdosed audiences on his version of Dietrich in The Scarlet Empress (1934) and The Devil Is A Woman (1935). But not long after producing and supervising Desire (1936) with Dietrich and Gary Cooper, Lubitsch was replaced by producer William Le Baron; he returned to directing with Angel (1937) starring Dietrich. By then, Paramount's stable of actors included one of Hollywood's biggest stars: Gary Cooper. The perfect romantic lead in Morocco and A Farewell To Arms (1932), he was equally at home playing comedy for Lubitsch in Design For Living (1933) and Bluebeard's Eighth Wife (1938). Cooper was also an ideal action hero in The Lives Of A Bengal Lancer, directed by Henry Hathaway, and Beau Geste (1939), directed by William Wellman — which was also Cooper's last film under contract. But the year 1939 saw another Paramount player achieving stardom: Bob Hope, already a popular radio comic, had a hit with the horror spoof The Cat And The Canary. The next year he made Road To Singapore, co-starring Bing Crosby and Dorothy Lamour, launching a highly succesful series for the trio. On his own, Hope scored in comedies throughout the 1940s and '50s, such as Louisiana Purchase (1941), Monsieur Beaucaire (1946), My Favorite Brunette (1947), The Paleface (1948), My Favorite Spy (1951), Son Of Paleface (1952), and Casanova's Big Night (1954).In the '40s, two of Paramount's best writers began directing. Preston Sturges had penned the comedy Easy Living (1937) for director Mitchell Leisen, and the Fran?ois Villon biopic If I Were King (1939) for producer/director Frank Lloyd. Billy Wilder, collaborating with Charles Brackett, had co-scripted Lubitsch's final Paramount film, Bluebeard's Eighth Wife, and a memorable trio directed by Leisen: the farcical Midnight (1939), the timely comedy/drama Arise, My Love (1940), and the romantic drama Hold Back The Dawn (1941). Sturges wrote and directed eight major films in four years, blending visual humor with a peerless verbal wit, and developing a glorious stock company of players: The Great McGinty (1940), Christmas In July (1940), The Lady Eve (1940), Sullivan's Travels (1941), The Palm Beach Story (1942), The Miracle Of Morgan's Creek (1942), Hail The Conquering Hero (1943), and The Great Moment (1944). But Sturges stumbled as an independent after he left Paramount, and by the end of the decade his career in Hollywood was over. Wilder directed ten films at Paramount before switching to United Artists in the mid 1950s. Besides such brilliant comedies as The Major And The Minor (1942) and A Foreign Affair (1948), he and Brackett also co-scripted several classic dramas: the wartime espionage tale Five Graves To Cairo (1943); the landmark noir Double Indemnity (1944); a groundbreaking study of alcoholism, The Lost Weekend (1945); and Wilder's masterpiece, Sunset Boulevard (1950), in which former Paramount legend Gloria Swanson returned to her studio to play a forgotten silent-screen actress who loses her mind as she vainly attempts a comeback. Paramount players Alan Ladd and Veronica Lake became famous after appearing as a sympathetic hit man and his girlfriend in This Gun For Hire (1942); the studio reteamed them in The Glass Key (1942), The Blue Dahlia (1946), and Saigon (1948). Paulette Goddard was embraced by audiences, especially in actioners directed by De Mille: North West Mounted Police (1940) and Unconquered (1946), both with Gary Cooper, and Reap The Wild Wind (1940) with John Wayne. De Mille also scored with the biblical epic Samson And Delilah (1948). Writer/director Leo McCarey had a huge hit at Paramount with the comedy/drama Going My Way (1944) starring Bing Crosby. Independent producer Hal Wallis began releasing his films through Paramount in the mid '40s, and made several memorable noirs, including The Strange Love Of Martha Ivers (1946), I Walk Alone (1947), and Sorry, Wrong Number (1948). A government action against film studios that controlled huge theater chains caused Paramount to split into two companies in 1949: the Paramount Pictures Corporation for production and distribution, and United Paramount Theatres, Inc., for theater operation. The early '50s were nevertheless a lucrative time for the studio, thanks to the hit comedies of Martin & Lewis, such as At War With The Army (1950), Sailor Beware (1952), Scared Stiff (1953), and Living It Up (1954). Although the duo split in 1956, Lewis stayed with Paramount and continued to star in such hits as The Sad Sack (1957) and The Geisha Boy (1958). De Mille ended his career with two blockbusters, the circus drama The Greatest Show On Earth (1952) and his epic remake The Ten Commandments (1956). Four other producer/directors did some of their best work at Paramount in the '50s: Billy Wilder, no longer writing with Brackett, looked at media exploitation in Ace In The Hole (1951, aka The Big Carnival) and made the delightful comedy Sabrina (1954); William Wyler scored with the crime drama Detective Story (1951) and the romantic comedy Roman Holiday (1953); George Stevens made the Dreiser adaptation A Place In The Sun (1951) and the landmark western Shane (1953); and Alfred Hitchcock made three classic thrillers, Rear Window (1954), The Man Who Knew Too Much (1956), and Vertigo (1958). Hitchcock gave Paramount another blockbuster with his last film for the studio, his horror masterpiece Psycho (1960). John Ford directed the classic Western The Man Who Shot Liberty Valance (1962) and the comic actioner Donovan's Reef (1963), both starring John Wayne. Jerry Lewis, now directing his own films, was also a solid moneymaker for the studio in the early '60s — and was making his funniest comedies: The Bellboy (1960), The Errand Boy (1961), The Nutty Professor (1963), The Patsy (1964). In 1966 Paramount merged with Gulf & Western Industries; G&W was the surviving corporation, and Paramount was a subsidiary with its own management. Producer Robert Evans became production head under Charles Bluhdorn, head of Gulf & Western, who also expanded Paramount's investment in television production. Despite such costly flop musicals as Paint Your Wagon (1969) and Darling Lili (1970), Evans guided Paramount to enormously profitable films: the Neil Simon comedies Barefoot In The Park (1967) and The Odd Couple (1968), Roman Polanski's horror classic Rosemary's Baby (1968), the romantic drama Love Story (1970), and Francis Coppola's classic gangster films, The Godfather (1972) and The Godfather, Part II (1974). Evans then departed to become an independent producer, and made Chinatown (1974) with Polanski for Paramount. Barry Diller became the studio's chief executive, and oversaw such blockbusters as King Kong (1976), Saturday Night Fever (1977), Grease (1978), Heaven Can Wait (1978), and Star Trek: The Motion Picture (1979). Martin S. Davis became chairman and CEO of Gulf & Western in 1983, and the following year Frank Mancuso replaced Diller as chairman of Paramount. By then the studio was on top with Raiders Of The Lost Ark (1981) and the first of many Star Trek sequels, Star Trek II: The Wrath Of Khan (1982). Paramount's other major '80s hits include the two Raiders sequels, Indiana Jones And The Temple Of Doom (1984) and Indiana Jones And The Lost Crusade (1989); the Eddie Murphy comedy/actioners Beverly Hills Cop (1984) and Beverly Hills Cop II (1987); the Tom Cruise actioner Top Gun (1986); and the adultery melodrama Fatal Attraction (1987). In 1989 Gulf & Western changed its name to Paramount Communications, Inc. Mancuso was ousted in 1991 and former NBC head Brandon Tartikoff became Paramount's chairman but resigned the next year, replaced by Sherry Lansing, former president of 20th Century-Fox. Paramount's hits in the '90s include Coppola's The Godfather, Part III (1990), the Tom Clancy adaptation The Hunt For Red October (1990), the fantasy/drama Ghost (1990), and the television-derived comedies The Addams Family (1991) and Wayne's World (1992). In 1994 the media company Viacom bought Paramount Communications; big releases since include the comedies The First Wives Club (1996), Albert Brooks' Mother (1997), and Private Parts (1997) with Howard Stern. Such films promise that the image of a mountain encircled by stars will remain an icon of American film production.

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