Moguls and Movie Stars: A History of Hollywood (Warner)
The subtitle A History of Hollywood is apt for this seven-part, seven hour documentary series produced for Turner Classic Movies. This production looks at the development of Hollywood as a business, through the creation of the studios and the rise of the star system. It is, as the title announces, the movies as defined by the moguls and the movie stars, rather than by the filmmakers and the films. It’s a legitimate historical approach, it simply is only one part of the story—a fascinating one, mind you, that involves the evolution of the business as managed by a group of immigrant businessmen who became the Hollywood moguls and the rise of actors from nameless figures to international celebrities. And it suggests a populist cinema as well, an ideal vision created by immigrants looking to define America through their films, a task that served them well for decades until they lost touch with the evolving culture.
The seven episodes tackle the history decade by decade (give or take a few years) from the first peepshows through the end of the sixties, when the studio system as we know it collapsed. But I also appreciate that writer/producer Jon Wilkman includes the pre-cinema history of magic lantern shows and the original experiments in capturing and recreating movement through scientific photography, and there is a wealth of rare clips from the pioneering days of cinema and behind the scenes of the studios in their heyday. Christopher Plummer narrates. Seven episodes on three discs, plus “Panel Discussion” segments with TCM host Robert Osborne and the filmmakers discussing each chapter.