The true story behind the making of the American movie industry. This seven part series will detail the personalities, relationships, collaborations and conflicts that created an industry and an art form - while also looking at how moviemakers responded to major historical events, such as the Great Depression, WWII and the Civil Rights Movement. Includes footage of Louis B. Mayer, Jack Warner and Lou Wasserman among the moguls. Each one hour segment will focus on a different era of American movie history, from the invention of the first pictures to the cutting-edge films of the 1960s. Each installment will feature clips and interviews with historians and major Hollywood figures.
A major undertaking for Turner Classic Movies, Moguls & Movie Stars attempts nothing less than its subtitle announces: a history of Hollywood. Across seven hour-long episodes, this documentary miniseries cruises through the major developments of the cinema, with a particular emphasis on how the studio system came to be (and came to collapse). There's even material on the days of pre-cinema--the first episode actually begins in 1889, before moving pictures could be projected on the screen. Even with all that time available to writer-producer Jon Wilkman and his consultants, this is a selective pass through the material; much is left out or glossed over, and certain iconic movie stars stand in for the many left unmentioned. The weight is on those moguls, the ambitious men--mostly hungry immigrants--who saw an opportunity in Southern California's orange groves and created the amazing, vertically integrated system that operated as a "dream factory" for a few silvery decades. The life stories of Louis B. Mayer, Sam Goldwyn, William Fox, and other front-office titans thread through the series, perhaps as a corrective to past Hollywood chronicles that foregrounded the movie star or the director as the real story of the company town. Wilkman also makes sure we know about the indie films of African-American pioneer Oscar Micheaux and the remarkable contributions of female filmmakers of the early silent era, whose stories have often been left out of these accounts. In truth, there won't be much new here for Hollywood history buffs, given the need to hit the high points and then move on to the next thing, but less hardcore enthusiasts will get a pleasant, quick-moving overview. Many talking heads pop up, historians (David Thomson brings his keen critic's gaze to Clark Gable) and insiders (Richard Zanuck, Peter Bogdanovich) alike; the narration is provided by Christopher Plummer, whose patrician tone seems oddly mismatched to this tale of immigrants and scrappers gambling on a disreputable business. Think of the brothers Warner making a fateful decision to sell their father's horse and buy a projector--movie history turns on such risks, and Moguls & Movie Stars has a stack of such stories. --Robert Horton
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