The five major studios in the Golden Era were Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer, Warner Bros., 20th Century Fox, RKO, and Paramount Pictures. They were known in the entertainment business as “The Big Five,” or “The Studios.” Their practices and management were known as the studio system, and they held most of the power in Hollywood. That is, until 1948, when a Supreme Court ruling against Paramount declared the studio system a monopoly, which was against the law. That decision effectively ended the Golden Era of Hollywood.
Formed in 1924 as a combination of Metro Pictures Corporation, Goldwyn Pictures Corporation, and Louis B. Mayer Pictures, MGM became the predominant and most distinguished of the movie studios. With a hugely talented roster of stars, including Clark Gable, Jimmy Stewart, Judy Garland, Fred Astaire, Ginger Rogers, Gene Kelly, and Greta Garbo, the studio produced glamorous and popular feature films that were profitable even during the Great Depression. These films included
Leo the Lion, who roars at the beginning of all MGM films, has been portrayed over the years by five different lions. The original lion, Slats, was trained to growl rather than roar. He toured with MGM promoters for two years, and survived two serious accidents while on tour.
With television becoming more and more popular in the late 1950s, the studio began losing money. MGM was sold several times, and went through many changes over the next several decades. Purchased by Sony in 2004, the studio has returned to producing its own films, and a new era has begun for MGM and its mascot, Leo the Lion.
Founded in 1918 by four brothers, Harry, Jack, Albert, and Sam Warner, Warner Bros. studio began its rise to prominence with a series of movies starring a German shepherd named Rin Tin Tin. One of the Warner's biggest accomplishments was producing
In the early 1930s Warner Bros. produced many gangster movies starring such actors as James Cagney and Edward G. Robinson. Later it moved to dramas and adaptations of bestsellers, starring A-list actors Bette Davis, Joan Crawford, Humphrey Bogart, and Errol Flynn. It also purchased an animation studio in the mid-forties, and not long after, Bugs Bunny became a renowned Warner Bros. star. More recently, the studio has produced films for television, and cinematic blockbusters such as the
20th Century Fox
The studio came about as the result of a 1935 merger between Fox Film Corporation and Twentieth Century Pictures. With the merger, the studio signed Henry Fonda, Tyrone Power, Betty Grable, and then-seven-year-old Shirley Temple. Known for its musicals and other light entertainment, Fox became the third most profitable studio by the end of World War II.
By the 1960s, Fox was in trouble. A lavish and seriously over-budget
Radio-Keith-Orpheum Pictures, known as RKO, was formed in 1928. One of the most important studios during the Golden Era, RKO introduced the world to films such as
Paramount Pictures became the first successful feature film distribution company when it opened its doors in 1914. Thirteen years later, Paramount built its Hollywood studios, and today it is the only studio left in Hollywood proper that still occupies the same space it did in 1927. Douglas Fairbanks, Rudolph Valentino, Mary Pickford, and Gloria Swanson were just a few of Paramount's early movie stars. In 1928, the studio received the very first Best Picture Oscar for its film