For its first two decades, MGM was the dominant studio, consistently making money and earning Oscar nominations. Eyman notes “in the 1930s, MGM came to symbolize an alternate reality from the drabness and squalor of the worldwide Depression, an escape into a dreamworld of Park Avenue swells . . . For audiences at home and abroad, MGM was Hollywood at its most Hollywood in the best sense of the word.” Grand Hotel(1932) and Dinner at Eight (1933) are quintessential MGM films. Both feature John and Lionel Barrymore and Wallace Beery. The former includes Greta Garbo and Joan Crawford; to the latter add Jean Harlow and Marie Dressler. Both feature numerous interlocking stories involving rich and beautiful people. It was on the basis of such films that Mayer built his studio. He didn’t get directly involved in the creative process, but he did make sure to preserve the proper appearance of his films.If a script called for a woman to be rising from bed, Mayer still wanted her to look fabulous. Glamour trumped reality. Jean Harlow first appears in Dinner at Eight sitting up in bed wearing a gown that she might have worn to the Oscars.
Monday, October 24, 2005
Lion of Hollywood
The November 7 issue of The American Conservative is out on newsstands with my review of Lion of Hollywood : The Life and Legend of Louis B. Mayer by Scott Eyman. It isn't likely to be posted on the web so I will post a brief sample: