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Universal Pictures (legally Universal City Studios LLC, also known as Universal Studios, or simply Universal; common
metonym Metonymy () is a figure of speech A figure of speech or rhetorical figure is a word or phrase that entails an intentional deviation from ordinary language use in order to produce a rhetoric Rhetoric () is the Art (skill), art of pe ...
: Uni, and formerly named Universal Film Manufacturing Company and Universal-International Pictures Inc.) is an American
film production Filmmaking (film production) is the process by which a motion picture A film, also called a movie, motion picture or moving picture, is a work of visual art used to simulate experiences that communicate ideas, stories, perceptions, fe ...
and
distribution company Distribution (or place) is one of the four elements of the marketing mix The term "marketing mix" is a foundation model for businesses, historically centered around product, price, place, and promotion (also known as the "4 Ps"). The marketing ...
owned by
Comcast Comcast Corporation (formerly known as American Cable Systems and Comcast Holdings)Before the AT&T AT&T Inc. is an American multinational Multinational may refer to: * Multinational corporation, a corporate organization operating in multi ...
through the NBCUniversal Film and Entertainment division of
NBCUniversal NBCUniversal Media, LLC, traded as NBCUniversal (formerly known as NBC Universal, Inc. from 2004 to 2011), is an American multinational Multinational may refer to: * Multinational corporation, a corporate organization operating in multiple countr ...
. Founded in 1912 by
Carl Laemmle Carl Laemmle (; born Karl Lämmle; January 17, 1867 – September 24, 1939) was a German-American film producer and the co-founder and, until 1934, owner of Universal Pictures Universal Pictures (legally Universal City Studios LLC, also kn ...
,
Mark Dintenfass The Vim Comedy Company was a short-lived movie studio in Jacksonville, Florida and New York City. Vim bought out Siegmund Lubin's Lubin Manufacturing Company Jacksonville, Florida facilities at 750 Riverside Avenue in 1915 after that company ...
,
Charles O. Baumann
Charles O. Baumann
, Adam Kessel, Pat Powers, William Swanson,
David Horsley David Horsley (March 11, 1873 – February 23, 1933) was an English pioneer of the film industry. He founded the Centaur Film Company and its West Coast branch, the Nestor Film Company The Nestor Film Company, originally known as the Nestor Moti ...
, Robert H. Cochrane, and
Jules Brulatour Pierre Ernest Jules Brulatour (April 7, 1870 – October 26, 1946) was a pioneering executive figure in American silent cinema. Beginning as American distribution representative for Lumiere Brothers raw film stock in 1907, he joined producer Car ...
, it is the oldest surviving film studio in the
United States The United States of America (U.S.A. or USA), commonly known as the United States (U.S. or US) or America, is a country Continental United States, primarily located in North America. It consists of 50 U.S. state, states, a Washington, D.C., ...

United States
; the world's fifth oldest after Gaumont,
Pathé Pathé or Pathé Frères (, styled as PATHÉ!) is the name of various French French (french: français(e), link=no) may refer to: * Something of, from, or related to France France (), officially the French Republic (french: link=no, Ré ...
,
Titanus Seat at Via Sommacampagna 28 in Roma Titanus is an Italian film production Filmmaking (or, in any context, film production) is the process by which a film is made. Filmmaking involves a number of complex and discrete stages including an initial ...
, and
Nordisk Film Main gate of Nordisk Film in 2008 Nordisk Film A/S (lit. "Nordic Film") is a Danish entertainment company established in 1906 in Copenhagen by filmmaker Ole Olsen (filmmaker), Ole Olsen. It is the fourth oldest film studio in the world behind t ...
; and the oldest member of
Hollywood Hollywood is a neighborhood A neighbourhood (British English, Hiberno-English, Hibernian English, Australian English and Canadian English) or neighborhood (American English; American and British English spelling differences, see spelling ...

Hollywood
's "Big Five" studios in terms of the overall film market. Its
studios A studio is an artist or worker's workroom. This can be for the purpose of acting, architecture, painting, pottery (ceramics), sculpture, origami, woodworking, scrapbooking, photography, graphic design, filmmaking, animation, industrial design, ra ...
are located in
Universal City, California upright=1.10, View across Universal City, with Burbank studio district in background Universal City is an unincorporated area File:Entering Heinola, Minnesota.jpg, Sign at Heinola, Minnesota, Heinola, an unincorporated community in Otter Ta ...
, and its corporate offices are located in
New York City New York, often called New York City to distinguish it from New York State New York is a state State may refer to: Arts, entertainment, and media Literature * ''State Magazine'', a monthly magazine published by the U.S. Department of ...

New York City
. In 1962, the studio was acquired by
MCA MCA may refer to: Astronomy * Mars-crossing asteroid, an asteroid whose orbit crosses that of Mars Aviation * Minimum crossing altitude, a minimum obstacle crossing altitude for fixes on published airways * Medium Combat Aircraft, a 5th gener ...
, which was re-launched as NBCUniversal in 2004.
Woody Woodpecker Woody Woodpecker is a cartoon anthropomorphic woodpecker that has appeared in theatrical short films produced by the Walter Lantz Studio and distributed by Universal Studios Universal Pictures (legally Universal City Studios LLC, also kno ...
, who was created in 1940 by
Walter Lantz Walter Lantz (April 27, 1899 – March 22, 1994) was an American cartoonist A cartoonist (also comic strip creator, comic book artist, graphic novel artist, or comic book illustrator) is a visual artist who specializes in drawing cartoons (indi ...
and
Ben Hardaway Joseph Benson Hardaway (May 21, 1895 – February 5, 1957) was an American storyboard A storyboard is a graphic organizer that consists of illustrations or images displayed in sequence for the purpose of pre-visualising a motion picture, anima ...
, serves as the mascot of the company. Universal Pictures is a member of the
Motion Picture Association The Motion Picture Association (MPA) is an American trade association representing the Major film studios#Present, five major film studios of the United States, as well as the video streaming service Netflix. Founded in 1922 as the Motion Pict ...
(MPA), and was one of the "Little Three" majors during Hollywood's golden age.


History


Early years

Universal Studios was founded by
Carl Laemmle Carl Laemmle (; born Karl Lämmle; January 17, 1867 – September 24, 1939) was a German-American film producer and the co-founder and, until 1934, owner of Universal Pictures Universal Pictures (legally Universal City Studios LLC, also kn ...
, Mark Dintenfass, Charles O. Baumann, Adam Kessel, Pat Powers, William Swanson,
David Horsley David Horsley (March 11, 1873 – February 23, 1933) was an English pioneer of the film industry. He founded the Centaur Film Company and its West Coast branch, the Nestor Film Company The Nestor Film Company, originally known as the Nestor Moti ...
, Robert H. Cochrane and
Jules Brulatour Pierre Ernest Jules Brulatour (April 7, 1870 – October 26, 1946) was a pioneering executive figure in American silent cinema. Beginning as American distribution representative for Lumiere Brothers raw film stock in 1907, he joined producer Car ...
. One story has Laemmle watching a box office for hours, counting patrons and calculating the day's takings. Within weeks of his Chicago trip, Laemmle gave up
dry goods Dry goods is a historic term describing the type of product line a store carries, which differs by region. The term comes from the textile trade, and the shops appear to have spread with the mercantile trade across the British Empire (and Commonw ...
to buy the first several nickelodeons. For Laemmle and other such entrepreneurs, the creation in 1908 of the Edison-backed
Motion Picture Patents Company The Motion Picture Patents Company (MPPC, also known as the Edison Trust), founded in December 1908 and terminated seven years later in 1915 after conflicts within the industry, was a trust of all the major US film companies and local foreign-bran ...
(or the "Edison Trust") meant that exhibitors were expected to pay fees for Trust-produced films they showed. Based on the
Latham Loop#REDIRECT: Latham loop The Latham Loop is used in film projection and image capture. It isolates the filmstrip from vibration and tension, allowing movies to be continuously shot and projected for extended periods. Invention of the Latham loop is u ...
used in cameras and projectors, along with other patents, the Trust collected fees on all aspects of movie production and exhibition, and attempted to enforce a monopoly on distribution. Soon, Laemmle and other disgruntled nickelodeon owners decided to avoid paying Edison by producing their own pictures. In June 1909, Laemmle started the Yankee Film Company with partners Abe Stern and
Julius Stern Julius Stern (8 August 1820 – 27 February 1883) was a Jewish Germany, German musical pedagogue and composer. Biography Stern was born at Wrocław, Breslau. He received his elementary education in music from the violinist Peter Lüstner, and ...
. That company quickly evolved into the Independent Moving Pictures Company (IMP), with studios in
Fort Lee, New Jersey Fort Lee is a borough A borough is an administrative division in various English language, English-speaking countries. In principle, the term ''borough'' designates a self-governing walled town, although in practice, official use of the term ...

Fort Lee, New Jersey
, where many early films in
America's first motion picture industry Fort Lee is a borough A borough is an administrative division in various English language, English-speaking countries. In principle, the term ''borough'' designates a self-governing walled town, although in practice, official use of the term va ...
were produced in the early 20th century. Laemmle broke with Edison's custom of refusing to give billing and screen credits to performers. By naming the movie stars, he attracted many of the leading players of the time, contributing to the creation of the
star system A star system or stellar system is a small number of stars that orbit each other, bound by gravitational attraction. A large group of stars bound by gravitation is generally called a ''star cluster Star clusters are large groups of star ...
. In 1910, he promoted
Florence Lawrence Florence Lawrence (born Florence Annie Bridgwood; January 2, 1886 – December 28, 1938) was a Canadian-American stage performer and film actress. She is often referred to as the "first movie star", and was thought to be the first film actor to b ...

Florence Lawrence
, formerly known as "
The Biograph Girl ''The Biograph Girl'' is a musical Musical is the adjective of music Music is the art of arranging sounds in time through the elements of melody, harmony, rhythm, and timbre. It is one of the universal cultural aspects of all human soc ...
", and actor
King Baggot William King Baggot (November 7, 1879 – July 11, 1948) was an American actor, film director and screenwriter. He was an internationally famous movie star of the silent film era. The first individually publicity, publicized leading man in ...
, in what may be the first instance of a studio using stars in its marketing. The Universal Film Manufacturing Company was incorporated in New York on April 30, 1912. Laemmle, who emerged as president in July 1912, was the primary figure in the partnership with Dintenfass, Baumann, Kessel, Powers, Swanson, Horsley, and Brulatour. The company was established June 8, 1912, formed in a merger of
Independent Moving Pictures The Independent Moving Pictures Company (IMP) was a motion picture studio and production company founded in 1909 by Carl Laemmle. The company was based in New York City New York City (NYC), often simply called New York, is the List of Uni ...
(IMP), the
Powers Motion Picture Company Patrick Anthony "Pat" Powers (8 October 1870 – 30 July 1948) was an American businessman who was involved in the movie and animation industry of the 1910s, 20s, and 30s as a distributor and producer. His firm, Celebrity Pictures, was the fi ...
, Rex Motion Picture Manufacturing Company,
Champion Film Company The Champion Film Company was an independent production company founded in 1909 by Mark M. Dintenfass. The studio was one of the film companies that merged to form Universal Pictures. Champion was the first film production company to establish it ...
,
Nestor Film Company The Nestor Film Company, originally known as the Nestor Motion Picture Company, was an American motion picture A film, also called a movie, motion picture or moving picture, is a work of visual art The visual arts are art forms such a ...
, and the
New York Motion Picture Company The New York Motion Picture Company is a film production and distribution company from 1909 until 1914. It changed names to New York Picture Corporation in 1912. It released films through several different brand names, including 101 Bison, Kay-Be ...
. Eventually all would be bought out by Laemmle. The new Universal studio was a vertically integrated company, with movie production, distribution and exhibition venues all linked in the same corporate entity, the central element of the
Studio system A studio system is a method of filmmaking Filmmaking (film production) is the process by which a motion picture A film, also called a movie, motion picture or moving picture, is a work of visual art The visual arts are art form ...
era. Following the westward trend of the industry, by the end of 1912 the company was focusing its production efforts in the Hollywood area. On March 15, 1915, Laemmle opened the world's largest motion picture production facility, , on a 230-acre (0.9-km2) converted farm just over the
Cahuenga Pass The Cahuenga Pass (; from the indigenous Tongva language The Tongva language (also known as Gabrielino or Gabrieleño) is a Uto-Aztecan language formerly spoken by the Tongva, a Native American people who live in and around Los Angeles, Califor ...
from Hollywood. Studio management became the third facet of Universal's operations, with the studio incorporated as a distinct subsidiary organization. Unlike other movie moguls, Laemmle opened his studio to tourists. Universal became the largest studio in Hollywood, and remained so for a decade. However, it sought an audience mostly in small towns, producing mostly inexpensive
melodrama A modern melodrama is a dramatic work wherein the plot, typically sensationalized and for a strong emotional appeal, takes precedence over detailed characterization. Melodramas typically concentrate on dialogue that is often bombastic or excess ...
s,
westerns Western is a genre of fiction Fiction generally is a narrative form, in any media (communication), medium, consisting of people, events, or places that are imagination, imaginary—in other words, not based strictly on history or fact.Willi ...
and serials. In 1916,
Universal Universal is the adjective for universe. Universal may also refer to: Companies * NBCUniversal, a media and entertainment company ** Universal Animation Studios, an American Animation studio, and a subsidiary of NBCUniversal ** Universal TV, a te ...
formed a three-tier branding system for their releases. Universal, unlike the top-tier studios, did not own any theaters to market its feature films. By branding their product, Universal gave theater owners and audiences a quick reference guide. Branding would help theater owners make judgments for films they were about to lease and help fans decide which movies they wanted to see. Universal released three different types of feature motion pictures: * Red feather Photoplays – low-budget feature films * Bluebird Photoplays – mainstream feature release and more ambitious productions * Jewel – prestige motion pictures featuring high budgets using prominent actors
Directors included Jack Conway,
John Ford John Martin Feeney (February 1, 1894 – August 31, 1973), known professionally as John Ford, was an American film director and naval officer. He is renowned both for Western (genre), Westerns such as ''Stagecoach (1939 film), Stagecoach'' (19 ...

John Ford
, Rex Ingram, Robert Z. Leonard,
George Marshall George Catlett Marshall Jr. (December 31, 1880 – October 16, 1959) was an American soldier and statesman. He rose through the United States Army to become Chief of Staff of the United States Army, Chief of Staff under presidents Franklin D. Ro ...
and
Lois Weber Florence Lois Weber (June 13, 1879 – November 13, 1939) was an American silent film A silent film is a film with no synchronized Sound recording and reproduction, recorded sound (and in particular, no audible dialogue). In silent films for ...
, one of the few women directing films in Hollywood. Despite Laemmle's role as an innovator, he was an extremely cautious studio chief. Unlike rivals
Adolph Zukor Adolph Zukor (January 7, 1873 – June 10, 1976) was an Austro-Hungarian-born American film producer best known as one of the three founders of Paramount Pictures Paramount Pictures Corporation (common : Par) is an American film and televi ...
, William Fox, and
Marcus Loew Marcus Loew (May 7, 1870 – September 5, 1927) was an American business magnate and a pioneer of the motion picture industry who formed Loews Cineplex Entertainment, Loew's Theatres and the Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer film studio (MGM). Life and ca ...
, Laemmle chose not to develop a theater chain. He also financed all of his own films, refusing to take on debt. This policy nearly bankrupted the studio when actor-director
Erich von Stroheim Erich Oswald Hans Carl Maria von Stroheim (born Erich Oswald Stroheim; September 22, 1885 – May 12, 1957) was an Austrian-American director, actor and producer, most noted as a film star and avant-garde, visionary director of the silent era. H ...
insisted on excessively lavish production values for his films ''
Blind Husbands ''Blind Husbands'' is a 1919 American drama film In film and television show, television, drama is a category of narrative fiction (or docudrama, semi-fiction) intended to be more serious than humour, humorous in tone. Drama of this kind is u ...

Blind Husbands
'' (1919) and ''
Foolish Wives ''Foolish Wives'' is a 1922 American erotic film, erotic silent film, silent drama film produced and distributed by Universal Pictures under their Super-Jewel banner and written and directed by Erich von Stroheim. The drama features von Stroheim, ...
'' (1922), but Universal shrewdly gained a return on some of the expenditure by launching a sensational
ad campaign The terms (AD) and before Christ (BC) are used to label or number years in the Julian and Gregorian calendar The Gregorian calendar is the calendar used in most of the world. It was introduced in October 1582 by Pope Gregory XIII as a ...
that attracted moviegoers.
Character actor A character actor is a supporting actor who plays unusual, interesting, or Eccentricity (behavior), eccentric character (arts), characters.28 April 2013, The New York Acting SchoolTen Best Character Actors of All Time Retrieved 7 August 2014, "..a ...
Lon Chaney Leonidas Frank "Lon" Chaney (April 1, 1883 – August 26, 1930) was an American stage and film actor, make-up artist, director and screenwriter. He is regarded as one of the most versatile and powerful actors of cinema, renowned for hi ...
became a drawing card for Universal in the 1920s, appearing steadily in dramas. His two biggest hits for Universal were ''
The Hunchback of Notre Dame ''The Hunchback of Notre-Dame'' (french: Notre-Dame de Paris, translation=''Our Lady of Paris'', originally titled ''Notre-Dame de Paris. 1482'') is a French Gothic novel A novel is a relatively long work of narrative A narrative, story ...
'' (1923) and ''
The Phantom of the Opera ''The Phantom of the Opera'' (French: ''Le Fantôme de l'Opéra''), is a novel by French author Gaston Leroux. It was first published as a serial in ''Le Gaulois'' from 23 September 1909 to 8 January 1910, and was released in volume form in late ...

The Phantom of the Opera
'' (1925). During this period Laemmle entrusted most of the production policy decisions to
Irving Thalberg Irving Grant Thalberg (May 30, 1899 – September 14, 1936) was an American film producer during the early years of motion pictures. He was called "The Boy Wonder" for his youth and ability to select scripts, choose actors, gather productio ...

Irving Thalberg
. Thalberg had been Laemmle's personal secretary, and Laemmle was impressed by his cogent observations of how efficiently the studio could be operated. Promoted to studio chief, Thalberg was giving Universal's product a touch of class, but
MGM Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer Studios Inc. (also known as Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer Pictures or MGM) is an American media company, founded in 1924, that produces and distributes feature films and television programs. It is based in Beverly Hills, California ...

MGM
's head of production Louis B. Mayer lured Thalberg away from Universal with a promise of better pay. Without his guidance Universal became a second-tier studio, and would remain so for several decades. In 1926, Universal opened a production unit in Germany, Deutsche Universal-Film AG, under the direction of
Joe Pasternak Joseph Herman Pasternak (born József Paszternák; September 19, 1901 – September 13, 1991) was a Hungarian-born American film producer in Hollywood Hollywood is a neighborhood in the Central Los Angeles, central region of Los Angeles, Cali ...

Joe Pasternak
. This unit produced three to four films per year until 1936, migrating to Hungary and then Austria in the face of
Hitler Adolf Hitler (; 20 April 188930 April 1945) was an Austrian-born German politician who was the dictator of Nazi Germany, Germany from 1933 to 1945. Adolf Hitler's rise to power, He rose to power as the leader of the Nazi Party, becoming Cha ...
's increasing domination of central Europe. With the advent of sound, these productions were made in the German language or, occasionally, Hungarian or Polish. In the U.S., Universal Pictures did not distribute any of this subsidiary's films, but at least some of them were exhibited through other, independent, foreign-language film distributors based in New York, without benefit of English subtitles. Nazi persecution and a change in ownership for the parent Universal Pictures organization resulted in the dissolution of this subsidiary. In the early years, Universal had a "clean picture" policy. However, by April 1927, Carl Laemmle considered this to be a mistake as "unclean pictures" from other studios were generating more profit while Universal was losing money.


Oswald the Lucky Rabbit

In early 1927, Universal had been negotiating deals with cartoon producers since they wanted to get back into producing them. On March 4,
Charles Mintz Charles Bear Mintz (November 5, 1889 – December 30, 1939)''Social Security Death Index, 1935–2014''. Social Security Administration The United States Social Security Administration (SSA) is an Independent agencies of the United States gove ...
signed a contract with Universal in the presence of its vice president, R. H. Cochrane. Mintz's company, Winkler Pictures, was to produce 26 "
Oswald the Lucky Rabbit Oswald the Lucky Rabbit (also known as Oswald the Rabbit or Oswald Rabbit) is a cartoon character created in 1927 by Walt Disney for Universal Pictures. He starred in several animated short films released to theaters from 1927 to 1938. Twenty-sev ...
" cartoons for Universal.
Walt Disney Walter Elias Disney (; December 5, 1901December 15, 1966) was an American entrepreneur, animator, writer, voice actor, and film producer. A pioneer of the American animation industry, he introduced several developments in the production of ...
and
Ub Iwerks Ubbe Ert Iwwerks (March 24, 1901 – July 7, 1971), known as Ub Iwerks (), was an American animator, cartoonist, character designer, Invention, inventor, and special effects technician, who designed Oswald the Lucky Rabbit and Mickey Mouse. ...
created the character and the Walt Disney Studio provided the animation for the cartoons under Winkler's supervision. The films enjoyed a successful theatrical run, and Mintz would sign a contract with Universal ensuring three more years of Oswald cartoons. However, after Mintz had unsuccessfully demanded that Disney accept a lower fee for producing the films, Mintz took most of Walt's
animators An animator is an artist An artist is a person engaged in an activity related to creating art, practicing the arts, or demonstrating an art. The common usage in both everyday speech and academic discourse refers to a practitioner in the visual ...
to work at his own studio. Disney and Iwerks would create
Mickey Mouse Mickey Mouse is a cartoon A cartoon is a type of illustration that is typically drawn, sometimes animated, in an unrealistic or semi-realistic style. The specific meaning has evolved over time, but the modern usage usually refers to ei ...
in secret while they finished the remaining Oswald films they were contractually obligated to finish. Universal subsequently severed its link to Mintz and formed its own in-house animation studio to produce Oswald cartoons headed by
Walter Lantz Walter Lantz (April 27, 1899 – March 22, 1994) was an American cartoonist A cartoonist (also comic strip creator, comic book artist, graphic novel artist, or comic book illustrator) is a visual artist who specializes in drawing cartoons (indi ...
. In February 2006,
NBCUniversal NBCUniversal Media, LLC, traded as NBCUniversal (formerly known as NBC Universal, Inc. from 2004 to 2011), is an American multinational Multinational may refer to: * Multinational corporation, a corporate organization operating in multiple countr ...
sold all the Disney-animated Oswald cartoons, along with the rights to the character himself, to
The Walt Disney Company The Walt Disney Company, commonly just Disney (), is an American multinational entertainment Entertainment is a form of activity that holds the attention and interest In finance Finance is the study of financial institutions, ...
. In return, Disney released
ABC ABC are the first three letters of the Latin script known as the alphabet. ABC or abc may also refer to: Arts, entertainment, and media Broadcasting * American Broadcasting Company, a commercial U.S. TV broadcaster ** Disney–ABC Television ...
sportscaster
Al Michaels Alan Richard Michaels (born November 12, 1944) is an American television sportscaster. Now employed by NBC Sports after nearly three decades (1976–2006) with ESPN on ABC, ABC Sports, Michaels is known for his many years calling play-by-play o ...

Al Michaels
from his contract so he could work on NBC's recently acquired Sunday night NFL football package. Universal retained ownership of the remaining Oswald cartoons.


Keeping leadership of the studio in the family

In 1928, Laemmle, Sr. made his son, Carl, Jr. head of Universal Pictures as a 21st birthday present. Universal already had a reputation for
nepotism Nepotism is a form of favoritism which is granted to relatives and friends in various fields, including business, politics, entertainment, sports, fitness, religion, and other activities. The term originated with the assignment of nephews to im ...
—at one time, 70 of Carl, Sr.'s relatives were supposedly on the payroll. Many of them were nephews, resulting in Carl, Sr. being known around the studios as "Uncle Carl."
Ogden Nash Frederic Ogden Nash (August 19, 1902 – May 19, 1971) was an American poet well known for his Light poetry, light verse, of which he wrote over 500 pieces. With his unconventional rhyme, rhyming schemes, he was declared the country's best-known ...
famously quipped in rhyme, "Uncle Carl Laemmle/Has a very large faemmle." Among these relatives was future Academy Award-winning director/producer
William Wyler William Wyler (; born Willi Wyler (); July 1, 1902 – July 27, 1981) was a Swiss-German-American film director and producer who won the Academy Award for Best Director three times, those being for ''Mrs. Miniver'' (1942), ''The Best Years of O ...
. "Junior" Laemmle persuaded his father to bring Universal up to date. He bought and built theaters, converted the studio to sound production, and made several forays into high-quality production. His early efforts included the critically panned
part-talkie A part-talkie is a partly, and most often primarily, silent film A silent film is a film with no synchronized Sound recording and reproduction, recorded sound (and in particular, no audible dialogue). In silent films for entertainment, the plot ...
version of
Edna Ferber Edna Ferber (August 15, 1885 – April 16, 1968) was an American novelist, short story writer and playwright. Her novels include the Pulitzer Prize-winning ''So Big (novel), So Big'' (1924), ''Show Boat (novel), Show Boat'' (1926; made into the c ...

Edna Ferber
's novel ''
Show Boat ''Show Boat'' is a musical Musical is the adjective of music Music is the art of arranging sounds in time through the elements of melody, harmony, rhythm, and timbre. It is one of the universal cultural aspects of all human societies. ...
'' (1929), the lavish musical ''
Broadway Broadway may refer to: Theatre * Broadway Theatre (disambiguation) * Broadway theatre, theatrical productions in professional theatres near Broadway, Manhattan, New York City, U.S. ** Broadway (Manhattan), the street **Broadway Theatre (53rd Str ...
'' (1929) which included
Technicolor Technicolor is a series of color motion picture processes, the first version dating to 1916, and followed by improved versions over several decades. It was the second major color process, after Britain's Kinemacolor Kinemacolor was the firs ...

Technicolor
sequences; and the first all-color musical feature (for Universal), ''
King of Jazz '' King of Jazz'' is a 1930 American pre-Code '' (1931) were able to feature criminal, anti-hero protagonists. File:LegsTurntab42ndStTrailer.jpg, upright=1.5, ''42nd Street (film), 42nd Street'' (1933) made concessions to the Hays Code i ...
'' (1930). The more serious ''
All Quiet on the Western Front ''All Quiet on the Western Front'' (german: Im Westen nichts Neues, lit=Nothing New in the West) is a novel by Erich Maria Remarque, a German veteran of World War I World War I or the First World War, often abbreviated as WWI or WW1, wa ...
'' (1930), won its year's
Best PictureThis is a list of categories of awards commonly awarded through organizations that bestow film awards, including those presented by various film, festivals, and people's awards. Best Actor/Best Actress *See Best Actor#Film awards, Best Actress#Fi ...
Oscar Oscar, OSCAR, or The Oscar may refer to: People * Oscar (given name) Oscar or Oskar is a masculine given name of Irish origin. Etymology The name is derived from two elements in Irish: the first, ''os'', means "deer"; the second element, ' ...
. Laemmle, Jr. created a niche for the studio, beginning a series of
horror film A horror film is one that seeks to elicit fear Fear is an intensely unpleasant emotion Emotions are mental state, psychological states brought on by neurophysiology, neurophysiological changes, variously associated with thoughts, fee ...
s which extended into the 1940s, affectionately dubbed
Universal Horror Universal Classic Monsters is a home video line introduced in the 1990s by Louis Feola to reintroduce the horror films as a connected series. The series includes ''Dracula (Universal film series), Dracula'', ''Frankenstein (Universal film series), ...
. Among them are ''
Dracula ''Dracula'' is a novel by Bram Stoker Abraham Stoker (8 November 1847 – 20 April 1912) was an Irish author, best known today for his 1897 Gothic Gothic or Gothics may refer to: People and languages *Goths or Gothic people, the ...
'' (1931), ''
Frankenstein ''Frankenstein; or, The Modern Prometheus'' is an 1818 novel A novel is a relatively long work of narrative A narrative, story or tale is any account of a series of related events or experiences, whether nonfiction Nonfiction (also ...
'' (1931), '' The Mummy'' (1932) and ''
The Invisible Man ''The Invisible Man'' is a science fiction File:Imagination 195808.jpg, Space exploration, as predicted in August 1958 in the science fiction magazine ''Imagination (magazine), Imagination.'' Science fiction (sometimes shortened to sci-fi or ...
'' (1933). Other Laemmle productions of this period include '' Imitation of Life'' (1934) and ''
My Man Godfrey ''My Man Godfrey'' is a 1936 American screwball comedy film Screwball comedy is a subgenre of the romantic comedy genre that became popular during the Great Depression, originating in the early 1930s and thriving until the early 1940s. It sat ...

My Man Godfrey
'' (1936).


The Laemmles lose control

Universal's forays into high-quality production spelled the end of the Laemmle era at the studio. Taking on the task of modernizing and upgrading a film conglomerate in the depths of the depression was risky, and for a time Universal slipped into
receivership In law Law is a system A system is a group of Interaction, interacting or interrelated elements that act according to a set of rules to form a unified whole. A system, surrounded and influenced by its environment, is described by it ...
. The theater chain was
scrapped Scrap consists of recyclable materials left over from product manufacturing and consumption, such as parts of vehicles, building supplies, and surplus materials. Unlike waste Waste (or wastes) are unwanted or unusable materials. Waste is ...
, but Carl, Jr. held fast to distribution, studio and production operations. The end for the Laemmles came with a lavish version of ''
Show Boat ''Show Boat'' is a musical Musical is the adjective of music Music is the art of arranging sounds in time through the elements of melody, harmony, rhythm, and timbre. It is one of the universal cultural aspects of all human societies. ...
'' (1936), a remake of its earlier 1929
part-talkie A part-talkie is a partly, and most often primarily, silent film A silent film is a film with no synchronized Sound recording and reproduction, recorded sound (and in particular, no audible dialogue). In silent films for entertainment, the plot ...
production, and produced as a high-quality, big-budget film rather than as a
B-picture A B movie or B film is a low-budget commercial motion picture A film, also called a movie, motion picture or moving picture, is a work of visual art The visual arts are art forms such as painting Painting is the practice ...
. The new film featured several stars from the Broadway stage version, which began production in late 1935, and unlike the 1929 film was based on the Broadway musical rather than the novel. Carl, Jr.'s spending habits alarmed company stockholders. They would not allow production to start on ''Show Boat'' unless the Laemmles obtained a loan. Universal was forced to seek a $750,000 production loan from the Standard Capital Corporation, pledging the Laemmle family's controlling interest in Universal as
collateral Collateral may refer to: Business and finance * Collateral (finance) In loan agreement, lending agreements, collateral is a Borrower, borrower's pledge (law), pledge of specific property to a lender, to Secured loan, secure repayment of a loan. ...
. It was the first time Universal had borrowed money for a production in its 26-year history. The production went $300,000 over budget; Standard called in the loan, cash-strapped Universal could not pay, Standard foreclosed and seized control of the studio on April 2, 1936. Although Universal's 1936 ''Show Boat'' (released a little over a month later) became a critical and financial success, it was not enough to save the Laemmles' involvement with the studio. They were unceremoniously removed from the company they had founded. Because the Laemmles personally oversaw production, ''Show Boat'' was released (despite the takeover) with Carl Laemmle and Carl Laemmle Jr.'s names on the credits and in the advertising campaign of the film. Standard Capital's J. Cheever Cowdin had taken over as president and chairman of the board of directors, and instituted severe cuts in production budgets. Joining him were British entrepreneurs C.M. Woolf and J. Arthur Rank, who bought a significant stake in the studio. Gone were the big ambitions, and though Universal had a few big names under contract, those it had been cultivating, like
William Wyler William Wyler (; born Willi Wyler (); July 1, 1902 – July 27, 1981) was a Swiss-German-American film director and producer who won the Academy Award for Best Director three times, those being for ''Mrs. Miniver'' (1942), ''The Best Years of O ...
and
Margaret Sullavan Margaret Brooke Sullavan (May 16, 1909 – January 1, 1960) was an American actress of stage and film. Sullavan began her career onstage in 1929. In 1933, she caught the attention of movie director John M. Stahl and had her debut on the screen ...
, left. Meanwhile, producer
Joe Pasternak Joseph Herman Pasternak (born József Paszternák; September 19, 1901 – September 13, 1991) was a Hungarian-born American film producer in Hollywood Hollywood is a neighborhood in the Central Los Angeles, central region of Los Angeles, Cali ...

Joe Pasternak
, who had been successfully producing light musicals with young sopranos for Universal's German subsidiary, repeated his formula in America. Teenage singer
Deanna Durbin Edna Mae Durbin (December 4, 1921 – April 17, 2013), known professionally as Deanna Durbin, was an actress and singer. She appeared in musical films Musical film is a film genre in which songs by the characters are interwoven into the nar ...

Deanna Durbin
starred in Pasternak's first American film, ''
Three Smart Girls ''Three Smart Girls'' is a 1936 American musicalMusicAL was a 24-hour Albania Albania ( ; sq, Shqipëri or Shqipëria), officially the Republic of Albania ( sq, Republika e Shqipërisë), is a country in Southeast Europe, Southeastern Europ ...
'' (1936). The film was a box-office hit and reputedly resolved the studio's financial problems. The success of the film led Universal to offer her a contract, which for the first five years of her career produced her most successful pictures. When Pasternak stopped producing Durbin's pictures, and she outgrew her screen persona and pursued more dramatic roles, the studio signed 13-year-old
Gloria Jean Gloria Jean (born Gloria Jean Schoonover, April 14, 1926 – August 31, 2018) was an American actress and singer who starred or co-starred in 26 feature films from 1939 to 1959, and made numerous radio, television, stage, and nightclub appearanc ...
for her own series of Pasternak musicals from 1939; she went on to star with
Bing Crosby Harry Lillis "Bing" Crosby Jr. (May 3, 1903 – October 14, 1977) was an American singer, comedian and actor. The first multimedia star, Crosby was one of the most popular and influential musical artists of the 20th century. He was a leader ...

Bing Crosby
, W. C. Fields, and
Donald O'Connor Donald David Dixon Ronald O'Connor (August 28, 1925 – September 27, 2003) was an American dancer, singer and actor. He came to fame in a series of films in which he co-starred with Gloria Jean Gloria Jean (born Gloria Jean Schoonover, April 1 ...
. A popular Universal film of the late 1930s was ''
Destry Rides Again ''Destry Rides Again'' is a 1939 American Western Western may refer to: Places *Western, Nebraska, a village in the US *Western, New York, a town in the US *Western Creek, Tasmania, a locality in Australia *Western Junction, Tasmania, a l ...
'' (1939), starring
James Stewart James Maitland Stewart (May 20, 1908 – July 2, 1997) was an American actor and military pilot. Known for his distinctive drawl and everyman screen persona, Stewart's film career spanned 80 films from 1935 to 1991. With the strong morality h ...

James Stewart
as Destry and
Marlene Dietrich Marie Magdalene "Marlene" DietrichBorn as Maria Magdalena, not Marie Magdalene, according to Dietrich's biography by her daughter, Maria Riva ; however Dietrich's biography by Charlotte Chandler cites "Marie Magdalene" as her birth name . (, ; 2 ...

Marlene Dietrich
in her comeback role after leaving
Paramount Paramount may refer to: Entertainment and music companies * Paramount Pictures Paramount Pictures Corporation (common metonym: Par) is an American film and television production company, production and Distribution (marketing), distribution c ...

Paramount
. By the early 1940s, the company was concentrating on lower-budget productions that were the company's main staple: westerns, melodramas, serials and
sequels A sequel is a work of literature Literature broadly is any collection of Writing, written work, but it is also used more narrowly for writings specifically considered to be an art form, especially prose fiction, drama, and poetry. In recent ...
to the studio's horror pictures, the latter now solely B pictures. The studio fostered many series:
The Dead End Kids The Dead End Kids were a group of young actors from New York City New York City (NYC), often simply called New York, is the List of United States cities by population, most populous city in the United States. With an estimated 2019 populat ...
and
Little Tough Guys The Little Tough Guys (later billed as 'The Dead End Kids and Little Tough Guys') were a group of actors who made a series of films and serials released by Universal Studios Universal Pictures (legally Universal City Studios LLC, also known as Un ...
action features and serials (1938–43); the comic adventures of infant Baby Sandy (1938–41); comedies with
Hugh Herbert Hugh Herbert (August 10, 1885 – March 12, 1952) was a motion picture comedian. He began his career in vaudeville Vaudeville (; ) is a theatrical genre of variety entertainment born in France at the end of the 19th century. A vaudeville ...
(1938–42) and
The Ritz Brothers The Ritz Brothers were an American comedy trio who performed extensively on stage, in nightclubs and in films from 1925 to the late 1960s. Although there were four brothers, the sons of Austrian-born Jewish haberdasher Max Joachim and his wife P ...
(1940–43); musicals with
Robert Paige Robert Paige (born John Arthur Paige, December 2, 1911 – December 21, 1987) was an actor and a TV newscaster and political correspondent and Universal Pictures Universal Pictures (legally Universal City Studios LLC, also known as Universa ...
,
Jane Frazee Mary Jane Frehse (July 18, 1915 – September 6, 1985), was an American actress, singer, and dancer. Professional life Jane, age six, and her 12-year-old sister Ruth formed a singing vaudeville Vaudeville (; ) is a of born in France at ...
,
The Andrews Sisters The Andrews Sisters were an American close harmony A chord is in close harmony (also called close position or close structure) if its notes are arranged within a narrow range (music), range, usually with no more than an octave between the top ...
, and The Merry Macs (1938–45); and westerns with
Tom Mix Thomas Edwin Mix (born Thomas Hezikiah Mix; January 6, 1880 – October 12, 1940) was an American film actor and the star of many early Western Western may refer to: Places *Western, Nebraska, a village in the US *Western, New York, a town ...
(1932–33),
Buck Jones Buck Jones (born Charles Frederick Gebhart; December 12, 1891 – November 30, 1942) was an American actor, known for his work in many popular Western (genre), Western movies. In his early film appearances, he was credited as Charles Jones. Ear ...
(1933–36), Bob Baker (1938–39),
Johnny Mack Brown John Brown (September 1, 1904 – November 14, 1974) was an American college football player and film actor billed as John Mack Brown at the height of his screen career. He was mostly in Western films. Early life Born and raised in Dothan, Ala ...
(1938–43); Rod Cameron (1944–45), and
Kirby Grant Kirby Grant (November 24, 1911 – October 30, 1985), born Kirby Grant Hoon Jr., was a long-time B movie A B movie or B film is a low-budget A low-budget film or low-budget movie is a motion picture shot with little to no funding from ...
(1946–47). Universal could seldom afford its own stable of stars, and often borrowed talent from other studios, or hired freelance actors. In addition to Stewart and Dietrich,
Margaret Sullavan Margaret Brooke Sullavan (May 16, 1909 – January 1, 1960) was an American actress of stage and film. Sullavan began her career onstage in 1929. In 1933, she caught the attention of movie director John M. Stahl and had her debut on the screen ...
, and
Bing Crosby Harry Lillis "Bing" Crosby Jr. (May 3, 1903 – October 14, 1977) was an American singer, comedian and actor. The first multimedia star, Crosby was one of the most popular and influential musical artists of the 20th century. He was a leader ...

Bing Crosby
were two of the major names that made a couple of pictures for Universal during this period. Some stars came from radio, including
Edgar Bergen Edgar John Bergen (born Edgar John Berggren; February 16, 1903 – September 30, 1978) was an American actor, comedian, vaudevillian and radio performer, best known for his proficiency in ventriloquism Ventriloquism, or ventriloquy, ...
, W. C. Fields, and the comedy team of
Abbott and Costello Abbott and Costello were an American comedy duo A double act (also known as a comedy duo) is a form of comedy originating in the British music hall tradition, and American vaudeville, in which two comedians perform together as a single act. ...
(
Bud Abbott William Alexander "Bud" Abbott (October 2, 1897 – April 24, 1974) was an American comedian, actor and straight man The straight man is a stock character Stock (also capital stock) is all of the shares into which ownership of a cor ...
and
Lou Costello Louis Francis Cristillo (March 6, 1906 – March 3, 1959), professionally known as Lou Costello, was an American comedian, best known for his double act with straight man Bud Abbott and their routine " Who's on First?" The comedians, who t ...
). Abbott and Costello's military comedy ''
Buck Privates ''Buck Privates'' is a 1941 musicalMusicAL was a 24-hour Albania Albania ( ; sq, Shqipëri or Shqipëria), officially the Republic of Albania ( sq, Republika e Shqipërisë), is a country in Southeast Europe, Southeastern Europe. It is loc ...
'' (1941) gave the former
burlesque A burlesque is a literary, dramatic or musical work intended to cause laughter by caricaturing the manner or spirit of serious works, or by ludicrous treatment of their subjects. William Shakespeare, Shakespeare's Pyramus and Thisbe scene in ''Mi ...
comedians A comedian or comic is a person who seeks to entertain an audience An audience is a group of people who participate in a show or encounter a work of art A work of art, artwork, art piece, piece of art or art object is an artistic creati ...
a national and international profile. During the war years, Universal did have a co-production arrangement with producer
Walter Wanger Walter Wanger (né Feuchtwanger; July 11, 1894 – November 18, 1968) was an American film producer active in filmmaking beginning in the 1910s, concluding with the turbulent production of ''Cleopatra (1963 film), Cleopatra,'' his last film, in ...
and his partner, director
Fritz Lang Friedrich Christian Anton "Fritz" Lang (December 5, 1890 – August 2, 1976) was an Austrian-German-American film director, screenwriter, and occasional film producer and actor.Obituary ', August 4, 1976, p. 63. One of the best-known ''émigr ...
, lending the studio some amount of prestige productions. Universal's core audience base was still found in the neighborhood movie theaters, and the studio continued to please the public with low- to medium-budget films.
Basil Rathbone Philip St. John Basil Rathbone Military Cross, MC (13 June 1892 – 21 July 1967) was an English actor. He rose to prominence in the United Kingdom as a Shakespearean stage actor and went on to appear in more than 70 films, primarily costume dra ...
and
Nigel Bruce William Nigel Ernle Bruce (4 February 1895 – 8 October 1953) was a British character actor A character actor is a supporting actor who plays unusual, interesting, or eccentric characters.28 April 2013, The New York Acting SchoolTen Best C ...
in new ''
Sherlock Holmes Sherlock Holmes () is a fictional detective created by British author Sir Arthur Conan Doyle Sir Arthur Ignatius Conan Doyle (22 May 1859 – 7 July 1930) was a British writer and physician. He created the character Sherlock Holmes ...
'' mysteries (1942–46), teenage musicals with
Gloria Jean Gloria Jean (born Gloria Jean Schoonover, April 14, 1926 – August 31, 2018) was an American actress and singer who starred or co-starred in 26 feature films from 1939 to 1959, and made numerous radio, television, stage, and nightclub appearanc ...
,
Donald O'Connor Donald David Dixon Ronald O'Connor (August 28, 1925 – September 27, 2003) was an American dancer, singer and actor. He came to fame in a series of films in which he co-starred with Gloria Jean Gloria Jean (born Gloria Jean Schoonover, April 1 ...
, and
Peggy Ryan Margaret O'Rene "Peggy" Ryan (August 28, 1924 – October 30, 2004) was an American dancer and actress, best known for starring in a series of movie musicals at Universal Pictures Universal Pictures (legally Universal City Studios LLC, also k ...
(1942–43), and screen
adaptations In biology, adaptation has three related meanings. Firstly, it is the dynamic evolutionary process that fits organisms to their environment, enhancing their Fitness (biology), evolutionary fitness. Secondly, it is a state reached by the popula ...
of radio's ''
Inner Sanctum Mysteries ''Inner Sanctum Mystery'', also known as ''Inner Sanctum'', is a popular old-time radio program that aired from January 7, 1941, to October 5, 1952. It was created by producer Himan Brown and was based on the imprint (trade name), imprint given to ...
'' with
Lon Chaney, Jr. Creighton Tull Chaney (February10, 1906 – July12, 1973), known by his stage name Lon Chaney Jr., was an American actor known for playing Larry Talbot in the film ''The Wolf Man (1941 film), The Wolf Man'' (1941) and its various fictional cross ...
(1943–45).
Alfred Hitchcock Sir Alfred Joseph Hitchcock (13 August 1899 – 29 April 1980) was an English film director, producer, and screenwriter. He is one of the most influential and widely studied filmmakers in the history of cinema. Known as the "Master of S ...
was also borrowed for two films from
Selznick International Pictures The facade of the Selznick International Pictures administration building in Culver City became the trademark of the studio Selznick International Pictures was a Hollywood Hollywood is a neighborhood in the Central Los Angeles, central region ...
: ''
Saboteur Sabotage is a deliberate action aimed at weakening a polity A polity is an identifiable political entity—any group of people who have a collective identity, who are organized by some form of institutionalized social relations, and have a ...
'' (1942) and ''
Shadow of a Doubt ''Shadow of a Doubt'' is a 1943 American psychological thriller film directed by Alfred Hitchcock, and starring Teresa Wright Muriel Teresa Wright (October 27, 1918 – March 6, 2005) was an American actress. She was nominated twice for the ...
'' (1943). As Universal's main product had always been lower-budgeted films, it was one of the last major studios to have a contract with
Technicolor Technicolor is a series of color motion picture processes, the first version dating to 1916, and followed by improved versions over several decades. It was the second major color process, after Britain's Kinemacolor Kinemacolor was the firs ...

Technicolor
. The studio did not make use of the
three-strip Technicolor Technicolor is a series of color motion picture processes, the first version dating to 1916, and followed by improved versions over several decades. It was the second major color process, after Britain's Kinemacolor (used between 1908 and 1914 ...
process until ''
Arabian Nights ''One Thousand and One Nights'' ( ar, أَلْفُ لَيْلَةٍ وَلَيْلَةٌ, ) is a collection of Middle East The Middle East ( ar, الشرق الأوسط, ISO 233 The international standard An international standard is a ...
'' (1942), starring Jon Hall and
Maria Montez María África Gracia Vidal (6 June 1912 – 7 September 1951), known as the Queen Of The Technicolor and Maria Montez, was a Dominican motion picture A film, also called a movie, motion picture or moving picture, is a work of visu ...
. Technicolor was also utilised for the studio's remake of their 1925 horror melodrama, ''
Phantom of the Opera ''The Phantom of the Opera'' (French: ''Le Fantôme de l'Opéra''), is a novel by French author Gaston Leroux. It was first published as a serial in ''Le Gaulois'' from 23 September 1909 to 8 January 1910, and was released in volume form in late ...
'' (1943) with
Claude Rains William Claude Rains (10 November 188930 May 1967) was a British-American film and stage actor whose career spanned almost seven decades. After his American film debut as Dr. Jack Griffin in '' The Invisible Man'' (1933), he appeared in such h ...

Claude Rains
and
Nelson Eddy Nelson Ackerman Eddy (June 29, 1901 – March 6, 1967) was an American singer, baritone and actor who appeared in 19 musical films during the 1930s and 1940s, as well as in opera and on the concert stage, radio, television, and in nightclubs ...
. With the success of their first two pictures, a regular schedule of high-budget, Technicolor films followed.


Universal-International and Decca Records takes control

In 1945, J. Arthur Rank, who already owned a stake in the studio since almost a decade before, hoping to expand his American presence, bought into a four-way merger with Universal, the independent company International Pictures, and producer Kenneth Young. The new combine, United World Pictures, was a failure and was dissolved within one year. Rank and International remained interested in Universal, however, culminating in the studio's reorganization as Universal-International; the merger was announced on July 30, 1946.
William Goetz William B. "Bill" Goetz (March 24, 1903 – August 15, 1969) was an American film producer and studio executive. Goetz was one of the founders of Twentieth Century Pictures, later renamed 20th Century Fox. He served as Fox's vice president and ...
, a founder of International along with Leo Spitz, was made head of production at the renamed Universal-International Pictures, a subsidiary of Universal Pictures Company, Inc. which also served as an import-export subsidiary, and copyright holder for the production arm's films. Goetz, a son-in-law of Louis B. Mayer decided to bring "prestige" to the new company. He stopped the studio's low-budget production of B movies (Hollywood Golden Age)#Bs from major to minor: 1940s, B movies, serial (film), serials and curtailed Universal's horror and "Arabian Nights" cycles. He also reduced the studio's output from its wartime average of fifty films per year (which was nearly twice the major studio's output) to thirty-five films a year. Distribution and copyright control remained under the name of Universal Pictures Company Inc. Goetz set out an ambitious schedule. Universal-International became responsible for the American distribution of Rank's British productions, including such classics as David Lean's ''Great Expectations (1946 film), Great Expectations'' (1946) and Laurence Olivier's ''Hamlet (1948 film), Hamlet'' (1948). Broadening its scope further, Universal-International branched out into the lucrative non-theatrical field, buying a majority stake in home-movie dealer Castle Films in 1947, and taking the company over entirely in 1951. For three decades, Castle would offer "highlights" reels from the Universal film library to home-movie enthusiasts and collectors. Goetz licensed Universal's pre–Universal-International film library to Jack Broeder's Realart Pictures for cinema re-release but Realart was not allowed to show the films on television. The production arm of the studio still struggled. While there were to be a few hits like ''The Killers (1946 film), The Killers'' (1946) and ''The Naked City'' (1948), Universal-International's new theatrical films often met with disappointing response at the box office. By the late 1940s, Goetz was out, and the studio returned to low-budget and series films such as ''Ma and Pa Kettle (film), Ma and Pa Kettle'' (1949), a spin off of the studio's 1947 hit ''The Egg and I (film), The Egg and I'' and The inexpensive ''Francis (1950 film), Francis'' (1950), the first film of a series about a talking mule, became mainstays of the company. Once again, the films of Abbott and Costello, including ''Abbott and Costello Meet Frankenstein'' (1948), were among the studio's top-grossing productions. But at this point Rank lost interest and sold his shares to the investor Milton Rackmil, whose Decca Records would take full control of Universal in 1952. Besides Abbott and Costello, the studio retained the
Walter Lantz Walter Lantz (April 27, 1899 – March 22, 1994) was an American cartoonist A cartoonist (also comic strip creator, comic book artist, graphic novel artist, or comic book illustrator) is a visual artist who specializes in drawing cartoons (indi ...
cartoon studio, whose product was released with Universal-International's films. In the 1950s, Universal-International resumed their series of Arabian Nights films, many starring Tony Curtis. The studio also had a success with monster and science fiction films produced by William Alland, with many directed by Jack Arnold (director), Jack Arnold and starring John Agar. Other successes were the
melodrama A modern melodrama is a dramatic work wherein the plot, typically sensationalized and for a strong emotional appeal, takes precedence over detailed characterization. Melodramas typically concentrate on dialogue that is often bombastic or excess ...
s directed by Douglas Sirk and produced by Ross Hunter, although for film critics they were not so well thought of on first release as they have since become. Among Universal-International's stable of stars were Rock Hudson, Tony Curtis, Jeff Chandler (actor), Jeff Chandler, Audie Murphy, and John Gavin. Although Decca would continue to keep picture budgets lean, it was favored by changing circumstances in the film business, as other studios let their contract actors go in the wake of the 1948 ''U.S. vs. Paramount Pictures, et al.'' decision. Leading actors were increasingly free to work where and when they chose, and in 1950 Music Corporation of America, MCA agent Lew Wasserman made a deal with Universal for his client
James Stewart James Maitland Stewart (May 20, 1908 – July 2, 1997) was an American actor and military pilot. Known for his distinctive drawl and everyman screen persona, Stewart's film career spanned 80 films from 1935 to 1991. With the strong morality h ...

James Stewart
that would change the rules of the business. Wasserman's deal gave Stewart a share in the profits of three pictures in lieu of a large salary. When one of those films, ''Winchester '73'' (1950), proved to be a hit, the arrangement would become the rule for many future productions at Universal, and eventually at other studios as well.


MCA takes over

In the early 1950s, Universal set up its own distribution company in France, and in the late 1960s, the company also started a production company in Paris, Universal Productions France S.A., although sometimes credited by the name of the distribution company, Universal Pictures France. Except for the two first films it produced, Claude Chabrol's ''Le scandale'' (English title ''The Champagne Murders'', 1967) and Romain Gary's ''Les oiseaux vont mourir au Pérou'' (English title ''Birds in Peru''), it was only involved in French or other European co-productions, including Louis Malle's ''Lacombe, Lucien'', Bertrand Blier's ''Les Valseuses'' (English title ''Going Places (1974 film), Going Places'', 1974), and Fred Zinnemann's ''The Day of the Jackal (film), The Day of the Jackal'' (1973). It was only involved in approximately 20 French film productions. In the early 1970s, the unit was incorporated into the French Cinema International Corporation arm. By the late 1950s, the motion picture business was again changing. The combination of the studio/theater-chain break-up and the rise of television saw the reduced audience size for cinema productions. The MCA Inc., Music Corporation of America (MCA), the world's largest talent agency, had also become a powerful television producer, renting space at Republic Studios for its Revue Productions subsidiary. After a period of complete shutdown, a moribund Universal agreed to sell its 360-acre (1.5 km2) studio lot to MCA in 1958, for $11  million, renamed Revue Studios. MCA owned the studio lot, but not Universal Pictures, yet was increasingly influential on Universal's product. The studio lot was upgraded and modernized, while MCA clients like Doris Day, Lana Turner, Cary Grant, and director
Alfred Hitchcock Sir Alfred Joseph Hitchcock (13 August 1899 – 29 April 1980) was an English film director, producer, and screenwriter. He is one of the most influential and widely studied filmmakers in the history of cinema. Known as the "Master of S ...
were signed to Universal contracts. The long-awaited takeover of Universal Pictures by MCA, Inc. happened in mid-1962 as part of the MCA-Decca Records merger. The company reverted in name to Universal Pictures from Universal-International. As a final gesture before leaving the talent agency business, virtually every MCA client was signed to a Universal contract. In 1964, MCA formed Universal City Studios, Inc., merging the motion pictures and television arms of Universal Pictures Company and Revue Productions (officially renamed as Universal Television in 1966). And so, with MCA in charge, Universal became a full-blown, A-film movie studio, with leading actors and directors under contract; offering slick, commercial films; and a Studio Tour, studio tour subsidiary launched in 1964. Television production made up much of the studio's output, with Universal heavily committed, in particular, to deals with NBC (which much later merged with Universal to form NBC Universal; #NBC Universal, see below) providing up to half of all prime time shows for several seasons. An innovation during this period championed by Universal was the made-for-television movie. In 1982, Universal became the studio base for many shows that were produced by Norman Lear, Norman Lear's Tandem Productions/Embassy Television, including ''Diff'rent Strokes'', ''One Day at a Time (1975 TV series), One Day at a Time'', ''The Jeffersons'', ''The Facts of Life (TV series), The Facts of Life'', and ''Silver Spoons'' which premiered on NBC that same fall. At this time, Hal B. Wallis, who had recently worked as a major producer at Paramount, moved over to Universal, where he produced several films, among them a lavish version of Maxwell Anderson's ''Anne of the Thousand Days'' (1969), and the equally lavish ''Mary, Queen of Scots (1971 film), Mary, Queen of Scots'' (1971). Although neither could claim to be a big financial hit, both films received Academy Award nominations, and ''Anne'' was nominated for
Best PictureThis is a list of categories of awards commonly awarded through organizations that bestow film awards, including those presented by various film, festivals, and people's awards. Best Actor/Best Actress *See Best Actor#Film awards, Best Actress#Fi ...
, Academy Award for Best Actor, Best Actor (Richard Burton), Academy Award for Best Actress, Best Actress (Geneviève Bujold), and Academy Award for Best Supporting Actor, Best Supporting Actor (Anthony Quayle). Wallis retired from Universal after making the film ''Rooster Cogburn (film), Rooster Cogburn'' (1975), a sequel to ''True Grit (1969 film), True Grit'' (1969), which Wallis had produced at Paramount. ''Rooster Cogburn'' co-starred John Wayne, reprising his Oscar-winning role from the earlier film, and Katharine Hepburn, their only film together. The film was only a moderate success. In the early 1970s, Universal teamed up with
Paramount Paramount may refer to: Entertainment and music companies * Paramount Pictures Paramount Pictures Corporation (common metonym: Par) is an American film and television production company, production and Distribution (marketing), distribution c ...

Paramount
to form Cinema International Corporation, which distributed films by Paramount and Universal outside of the US and Canada. Although Universal did produce occasional hits, among them ''Airport (1970 film), Airport'' (1970), ''The Sting'' (1973), ''American Graffiti'' (also 1973), ''Earthquake (1974 film), Earthquake'' (1974), and a big box-office success which restored the company's fortunes: ''Jaws (film), Jaws'' (1975), Universal during the decade was primarily a television studio. When Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer purchased United Artists in 1981, MGM could not drop out of the CIC venture to merge with United Artists overseas operations. However, with future film productions from both names being released through the MGM/UA Entertainment plate, CIC decided to merge UA's international units with MGM and reformed as United International Pictures. There would be other film hits like ''Smokey and the Bandit'' (1977), ''Animal House'' (1978), ''The Jerk'' (1979), ''The Blues Brothers (film), The Blues Brothers'' (1980), ''E.T. the Extra-Terrestrial'' (1982), ''Scarface (1983 film), Scarface'' (1983), ''The Breakfast Club'' (1985), ''Back to the Future'' (also 1985), ''An American Tail'' (1986), ''The Land Before Time (film), The Land Before Time'' (1988), ''Field of Dreams'' (1989), and ''Jurassic Park (film), Jurassic Park'' (1993), but the film business was financially unpredictable. UIP began distributing films by start-up studio DreamWorks Pictures, DreamWorks in 1997, due to connections the founders have with Paramount, Universal, and Amblin Entertainment. In 2001, MGM dropped out of the UIP venture and went with 20th Century Fox's international arm to handle distribution of their titles, an arrangement which remains ongoing.


Matsushita, Seagram, Vivendi and NBCUniversal

Anxious to expand the company's broadcast and cable presence, longtime MCA head Lew Wasserman sought a rich partner. He located Japanese electronics manufacturer Matsushita Electric (now known as Panasonic), which agreed to acquire MCA for $6.6 billion in 1990. Matsushita provided a cash infusion, but the clash of cultures was too great to overcome, and five years later Matsushita sold an 80% stake in MCA/Universal to Canadian drinks distributor Seagram for $5.7 billion. Seagram sold off its stake in DuPont to fund this expansion into the entertainment industry. Hoping to build an entertainment empire around Universal, Seagram bought PolyGram in 1999 and other entertainment properties, but the fluctuating profits characteristic of Hollywood were no substitute for the reliable income stream gained from the previously held shares in DuPont. To raise money, Seagram head Edgar Bronfman Jr. sold Universal's television holdings, including cable network USA Network, USA, to Barry Diller (these same properties would be bought back later at greatly inflated prices). In June 2000, Seagram was sold to France, French water utility and media company Vivendi, which owned StudioCanal; the conglomerate then became known as Vivendi Universal. Afterward, Universal Pictures acquired the United States distribution rights of several of StudioCanal's films, such as David Lynch's ''Mulholland Drive (film), Mulholland Drive'' (2001) and ''Brotherhood of the Wolf'' (2001) which became the second-highest-grossing French language film in the United States since 1980. Universal Pictures and StudioCanal also co-produced several films, such as ''Love Actually'' (2003) a $40 million-budgeted film that eventually grossed $246 million worldwide. In late 2000, the New York Film Academy was permitted to use the Universal Studios backlot for student film projects in an unofficial partnership. Burdened with debt, in 2004 Vivendi Universal sold 80% of Vivendi Universal Entertainment (including the studio and theme parks) to General Electric (GE), parent of NBC. The resulting media super-conglomerate was renamed
NBCUniversal NBCUniversal Media, LLC, traded as NBCUniversal (formerly known as NBC Universal, Inc. from 2004 to 2011), is an American multinational Multinational may refer to: * Multinational corporation, a corporate organization operating in multiple countr ...
, while Universal Studios Inc. remained the name of the production subsidiary. After that deal, GE owned 80% of NBC Universal; Vivendi held the remaining 20%, with an option to sell its share in 2006. In late 2005, Viacom's Paramount Pictures acquired DreamWorks Pictures, DreamWorks SKG after acquisition talks between GE and DreamWorks stalled. Universal's long-time chairperson, Stacey Snider, left the company in early 2006 to head up DreamWorks. Snider was replaced by then-Vice Chairman Marc Shmuger and Focus Features head David Linde. On October 5, 2009, Marc Shmuger and David Linde were ousted and their co-chairperson jobs consolidated under former president of worldwide marketing and distribution Adam Fogelson becoming the single chairperson. Donna Langley was also upped to co-chairperson. In 2009, Stephanie Sperber founded Universal Partnerships & Licensing within Universal to license consumer products for Universal. GE purchased Vivendi's share in NBCUniversal in 2011.


Comcast era (2011–present)

GE sold 51% of the company to cable provider
Comcast Comcast Corporation (formerly known as American Cable Systems and Comcast Holdings)Before the AT&T AT&T Inc. is an American multinational Multinational may refer to: * Multinational corporation, a corporate organization operating in multi ...
in 2011. Comcast merged the former GE subsidiary with its own cable-television programming assets, creating the current NBCUniversal. Following Federal Communications Commission (FCC) approval, the Comcast-GE deal was closed on January 29, 2011. In March 2013, Comcast bought the remaining 49% of NBCUniversal for $16.7 billion. In September 2013, Adam Fogelson was ousted as co-chairman of Universal Pictures, promoting Donna Langley to sole-chairman. In addition, NBCUniversal International Chairman, Jeff Shell, would be appointed as Chairman of the newly created Filmed Entertainment Group. Longtime studio head Ronald Meyer, Ron Meyer would give up oversight of the film studio and appointed Vice Chairman of NBCUniversal, providing consultation to CEO Steve Burke on all of the company's operations. Meyer retained oversight of Universal Parks and Resorts. Universal's multi-year film financing deal with Elliott Management expired in 2013. In summer 2013, Universal made an agreement with Thomas Tull's Legendary Entertainment, Legendary Pictures to distribute their films for five years starting in 2014 (the year that Legendary's similar agreement with Warner Bros. Pictures ends). In June 2014, Universal Partnerships took over licensing consumer products for NBC and Universal Kids#Sprout, Sprout with the expectation that all licensing would eventually be centralized within NBCUniversal. In May 2015, Gramercy Pictures was revived by Focus Features as a genre label that concentrated on action, sci-fi, and horror films. On December 16, 2015, Amblin Partners announced that it entered into a five-year distribution deal with Universal Pictures by which the films will be distributed and marketed by either Universal or Focus Features. In early 2016, Perfect World Pictures announced a long-term co-financing deal with Universal, which represents the first time a Chinese company directly invest in a multi-year slate deal with a major U.S studio. On April 28, 2016, Universal's parent company, NBCUniversal, announced a $3.8 billion deal to buy DreamWorks Animation. On August 22, 2016, the deal was completed. Universal took over the distribution deal with DreamWorks Animation starting in 2019 with the release of ''How to Train Your Dragon: The Hidden World'', after DreamWorks Animation's distribution deal with 20th Century Fox ended. On February 15, 2017, Universal Pictures acquired a minority stake in Amblin Partners, strengthening the relationship between Universal and Amblin, and reuniting a minority percentage of the DreamWorks Pictures label with DreamWorks Animation. In December 2019, Universal Pictures entered early negotiations to distribute upcoming feature film properties based on the Lego toys. Although the original ''The Lego Movie (franchise), Lego Movie'' characters are still owned by Warner Bros. Pictures, Universal Pictures will serve as distributor of future releases and will develop additional ''Lego'' films. The future of the already in-development films is believed to remain the same. In June, it was announced longtime Universal International Distribution President Duncan Clark would be stepping down. He would transition to a consulting role with the studio in August and would be replaced by Veronika Kwan Vandenberg.


Units

*Universal Pictures International **Universal International Distribution *Universal Pictures Home Entertainment **Universal Home Entertainment, Universal Home Entertainment Productions **Universal 1440 Entertainment **DreamWorks Animation Home Entertainment **Universal Sony Pictures Home Entertainment Australia (joint venture with Sony Pictures Home Entertainment) **Universal Playback **Studio Distribution Services (joint venture with Warner Bros. Home Entertainment) *Focus Features *Universal Pictures International Entertainment **NBCUniversal Entertainment Japan *Working Title Films **WT2 Productions **Working Title Television *Carnival Films *Rede Telecine (10%, joint venture with Canais Globo, Disney, Paramount Pictures and Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer) *Illumination (company), Illumination **Illumination Mac Guff *Universal Animation Studios *DreamWorks Animation **DreamWorks Animation Television **DreamWorks Classics ***Big Idea Entertainment ***Jay Ward Productions#Jay Ward Productions today, Bullwinkle Studios (JV) ***Harvey Entertainment **DreamWorks Theatricals **DreamWorks New Media ***DreamWorksTV, Peacock Kids **DreamWorks Animation, DreamWorks Press *OTL Releasing *Back Lot Music *Universal Brand Development *United International Pictures (50%, joint venture with ViacomCBS's Paramount Pictures) *Amblin Partners (minor stake) (JV) **Amblin Entertainment **Amblin Television **DreamWorks Pictures **Storyteller Distribution


Film library

In addition to its own library, Universal releases the EMKA, Ltd. catalog of 1929–1949 Paramount Pictures, owned by sister company Universal Television.


Film series


Highest-grossing films

Universal was the first studio to have released three billion-dollar films in one year; this distinction was achieved in 2015 with ''Furious 7'', ''Jurassic World'', and ''Minions (film), Minions''. Includes theatrical reissue(s).


See also

*List of television shows produced by Universal Studios *DreamWorks Pictures, DreamWorks


Notes

# International distribution only. Released by Warner Bros. domestically in North America.


References


External links

* {{Authority control Universal Pictures, 1912 establishments in California American companies established in 1912 Entertainment companies established in 1912 Mass media companies established in 1912 French animation studios American film studios Articles containing video clips Cinema of Southern California Companies based in Los Angeles County, California Entertainment companies based in California Film distributors of the United States Film production companies of the United States Former Vivendi subsidiaries Hollywood history and culture NBCUniversal Silent film studios Universal City, California