City of Dreams

By Bernard F. Dick
(University Press of Kentucky, Hardcover, 9780813120164, 288pp.)

Publication Date: May 1997

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" Horror films. Deanna Durbin musicals. Francis the talking mule. Ma and Pa Kettle. Ross Hunter weepies. Theme parks. ET. Apollo 13. These are only a few of the many faces of Universal Pictures. In February 1906 Carl Laemmle, German immigrant and former clothing store manager, opened his first nickelodeon in Chicago. He quickly moved from exhibition to distribution and to film production. A master of publicity and promotions, within ten years "Uncle Carl" had moved his entire operation to southern California, founded a city, and established Universal Pictures as one of the major Hollywood studios. In time Universal found its niche in horror films featuring Karloff and Lugosi, comedies starring Abbott and Costello and W.C. Fields, and low-budget musicals. But Carl Laemmle Jr. proved less adept than his father at empire building. Eventually he was forced out by financial difficulties, opening the way for a string of studio heads who entered and exited one after another. Thus the age of corporate Hollywood arrived at Universal Pictures earlier than at other studios. The Universal-International merger in 1946, Decca's stock takeover in the early 1950s, and MCA's buyout in 1962 all presaged today's Hollywood, where the art of the deal often eclipses the art of making movies. Stars and executives have come and gone, shaping and reshaping the studio's image, but through it all Universal's revolving globe logo has remained on movie screens around the world. And, unlike several other studios of Hollywood's golden age, Universal still makes movies today.

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