The Golden Age & The Paramount Decision

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The “golden age” was between the years of 1928 and 1948. The Golden Age was a big year for the major studios such as Paramount, Universal, fox etc.

1928 was defiantly a massive year for the film industry because sound was created for films.

This period of film was on a “production line model”

People used to watch films like Gone With The Wind (1940) to escape the worries of the great depression.

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Olivia De Havilland

Olivia De Havilland who played Melanie Hamilton from Gone With The Wind decided to sue Warner Bros one of the biggest film production companies still to date. She decided to sue Warner Bros because of how she was treated as an actress as it is write in Warner Bros contract that once you have signed the contract you must act and play whoever they wish for the company for 7 years and Olivia didn’t want to play the role she was given so she refused and Warner Bros said they would fire her and call up all the other major companies to tell them not to give her a job. Olivia then took Warner Bros to court and she won her case and changed the film industry for the greater good.

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The Birth of cinema and Hollywood

In the beginning of photography there was photography but no moving image (1827)

Several people made developments toward the moving image, but no single person can truly claim to have “invented” cinema itself as there was numerous of contributions. Some of the major contributors towards the moving image include.

  • Louis Le Prince (UK)
  • Thomas Edison (USA)
  • George Eastman (USA)
  • George Melles (France)
  • The Lumiere Brothers (France)

In 1884 George Eastman invented film on a roll as opposed to single slides.

In 1889 Thomas Edison invented a kinetoscope (right) which was a machine through which one person could view 50 feet of film through a slit in the top.

Louis Le Prince Invented a machine the size of a small refrigerator which could record image moving.

Then the panopticon was invented which meant more than one person at a time could watch.

In January 1894, a five second film starring an Edison technician called Fred was shot on kinetoscope, it consisted of a man sneezing and everyone was amazed by this.

The first studio was named “The Black Mariah”


Nickelodeons – a cinema with an admission fee of one nickel.

Filmmakers started to show their work in vaudeville theaters as a novelty act, and were very popular.

The first small scale cinemas were created, these were called Nickelodeons because it cost a nickel which was 5 cents to go in. By 1905 there were 1000 of them in the USA.


The demand for films was growing. The first “film exchange” started in 1902 which was the first form of distribution. these exchanges bought films from the producers (filmmakers) and then rented them to exhibitions (Nickelodeons). By 1907 there were 159 film exchanges in the USA.


In the early days of filmaking as it became more popular, a row over film copyright emerged. Edison realized that he had to do something, but he had not invented actual film itself (that was Eastman) so he patented the sprocket holes in the film by which it was clawed through the camera. Now anyone who wanted to use film with sprocket holes, which was everyone, had to pay.

Other film makers were furious and many refused to pay. Carl Laemmie was particularly annoyed. Edison started sueing anyone who tried to make a fim without paying him.

Edison had joined with Biograph in 1908 and along with 8 leading producer, they set up the MPPC (motion picture patents company) and agreed not to sell or lease film equipment to any distributors who purchase motion pictures from any other company. This meant people were basically forced to use the MPPC equipment and the MPPC could now afford to buy the film exchanges.

By 1910, the MPPC owned 48 film exchanges and set up its own distribution company, The General Film Company, and bought some of the nickelodeons too.


Lammie argued that Edison shouldn’t have a monopoly on the film making industry and the MPPC were ordered to split up. Lammie then decided to move to the other side of America to Los Angeles, (Hollywood) where low tax and lively theaters made it more appealing than other cities. He started Universal Studios in 1915 and 2 years later it was worth $5 million.