What is the history of Hollywood movie studios?

I know that MGM, 20th Century Fox, and Columbia are all old movie studios.

I was wondering if anyone could briefly describe which studio(s) opened first, which ones merged, and who were the big stars of the studios over time -- like, I know Clark Gable was with MGM and Carole Lombard belonged to some other studio, and the Three Studios worked for Columbia.

Were there ever any big switches when a star jumped to another studio? Do movie stars still sign with studios, or is it more of a movie-by-movie basis? When did any such changes take place?

7 Answers

  • Anonymous
    8 years ago
    Favorite Answer

    Stooges. The Three Stooges worked for Columbia.

    The history of Hollywood is a big subject. A lot has happened in the over one hundred years since the first movie-makers in New York City were fighting over the patent rights to their equipment, and the smart ones went to a remote agricultural town in Southern California close to the Mexican border to set up shop away from the cops and the process servers.

    Lots of studios from that era are long gone. Edison. Famous Players Lasky, Hal Roach Studios (creators of "The Little Rascals"). Etc. Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer was a conglomerate of earlier businesses.

    The star system lasted from the late twenties to the early sixties. Everybody on this planet knows their names. Chaplin, Fairbanks, Dietrich, Garbo, Fields, Groucho, Mae West, Swanson, Astaire, Grant, Hepburn, Tracy, Garland, Taylor, Wayne, Monroe, Fonda, his daughter, Bogart, Bacall, Newman, Lancaster, Douglas, his son, Lemmon, Curtis, Peck, the other Hepburn, McQueen, Poitier, MacLaine, etc. etc. etc.

    The studios kept their stars under lock and key, though they often loaned them out to other studios in return for a consideration. Rarely did the stars have the power to change studios on their own terms. Until the studio system began to fall apart around 1960. Which happened because audiences were more sophisticated and wanted on-location realism instead of fantasies performed on sound stages. And the Supreme Court had recently busted the biggest studios for operating what was, in effect, a cartel.

    And audiences wanted realism in other ways too. By the middle of that decade, all of the most artistic and sexy and dramatically powerful movies were being done by independent producers, and the studios were only producing "family values" shows like "The Sound of Music," "Doctor Dolittle," and "My Fair Lady."

    For years now the movie industry has been very democratic. Anybody with determination and a really good idea can make a movie and get it distributed. There are lots of stories of people who have mortgaged their house or whatever to raise fifty or a hundred thousand dollars to make a low-budget movie that eventually gets picked up by a distributor and earns millions.

    Just one example: When the "indie" directors Joel and Ethan Coen made their first movie, "Blood Simple," in 1984, they went to their parents' friends and various business people in their home town of Minneapolis to raise just enough money to rent camera equipment at the weekend rate and hire a couple of character actors whose names were barely recognizable. And they made a small masterpiece, which then allowed them to get big money from the studios for their subsequent movies.


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  • Kini
    Lv 7
    8 years ago

    That is a big subject, no one can condense that here. Although studios began in New York city, the earliest ones in California were started by men who operated nickelodeons. They also distributed and made the movies. Carl Laemmle, an independent that became Universal, Famous Players and Jesse Lasky Co. which turned into United Artists (Mary Pickford, Charlie Chaplin, Doug Fairbanks, D.W. Griffith). There was Hal Roach Studio which had the Keystone Cops comedies. William Fox studios which became 20th Century Fox. Biograph/Vitaphone in NY became Warner Bros. The first feature film in the U.S. I think was The Great Train Robbery in 1903 but it was not a movie studio that produced it, just the actor who wrote and directed and produced it. I dont know where the money came from to film it.

    Movie stars did not always stay with the same studios and got loaned out to other studios, sometimes that was a punishment for not obeying the studio head. That happened with Clark Gable. He was loaned out to David Selznick for Gone With The Wind. There was a financial agreement between studios on loaned out people for one picture or for a period of time. Some people who started big ended up at a Poverty Row studio like RKO, Monogram, Republic. Some movie stars went rogue by starting their own production company like Marilyn Monroe and Humphrey Bogart but those movies, altough well made, were not box office hits.

  • 8 years ago

    I wish that there was an easy way to describe how the movies started in what is now Hollywood. The names of the studios were not and still aren't well known. The actors played many parts and had other duties in the making of a moving picture. It is really a fascinating story and worth looking up names like Republic studios and people like Charlie Chaplin and Mary Pickford. The search will take days.

  • 4 years ago

    In Hollywood's golden age, MGM, RKO, Fox, Warner Bros and Paramount were known as the big five, with Columbia and Universal being the little two. Those are the relevant names - the rest is up to you and Google!

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  • Dinah
    Lv 7
    8 years ago

    I only know spotty stuff, like Lucille Ball and Desi Arnaz opening their own out of necessity. I think Loretta Young, Barbara Stanwyck and Bette Davis did a jump too. I don't think stars do sign with studios anymore, but that's spotty too. I think productions today are as much who submits what to whom and who knows who.

  • S
    Lv 7
    8 years ago


    Sorry I can't give you a shot version of Hollywood, but you might be interested in this site. Check it out. Bet we might have some Cali folk here, also go over to travel and click on Los Angelas. And post this there you might get some good answers there too.

  • Bob
    Lv 7
    8 years ago

    Wow, such a question for such a small answer box!

    Why not go to a library and read a few books?..

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