As the Dream Fac­tory ap­proaches its 100th birth­day, Liam Burke takes a tour around Tin­sel­town to find out how the old place is hold­ing up

The Irish Times - Friday - The Ticket - - Film -

HOL­LY­WOOD’S re­cent, navel­gaz­ing re­turn to mak­ing films about films – The Artist, Hugo, My Week with Marilyn – may have made movie­go­ers feel like they have a de­gree in film stud­ies. So with Univer­sal, one of the first Hol­ly­wood stu­dios, turn­ing 100 on April 30th, it was a good time to pay a visit to the lots to find out how the Dream Fac­tory is do­ing. In the early years of the 20th cen­tury, mov­ing pic­tures went from be­ing a vaude­ville nov­elty to be­ing shown in ded­i­cated movie palaces or Nick­elodeons. Then, the vast ma­jor­ity of US films were pro­duced along the east coast.

Recog­nis­ing the fi­nan­cial pos­si­bil­i­ties of the nascent in­dus­try, and seek­ing to con­trol it, light bulb in­ven­tor Thomas Edi­son – whose tech­ni­cians had de­vel­oped the Kine­to­scope, a peepshow pre­cur­sor to cinema – set up the Mo­tion Picture Pa­tents Com­pany. To es­cape Edi­son’s cronies, and find a site with year-round sun­shine and a wide va­ri­ety of ter­rains, film pioneers headed west to the un­sus­pect­ing town of Hol­ly­wood, Cal­i­for­nia. Dream Fac­tory was born. The em­pha­sis was on “fac­tory”: ac­tors, writ­ers, di­rec­tors and other creatives were kept un­der re­stric­tive stu­dio con­tracts, and gen­res were used like blue­prints.

Kenny com­pares ac­tors to pro­fes­sional ath­letes, claim­ing that if con­tracts were still in place “Tom Cruise would be on our team”. Un­der this sys­tem, stu­dios would dic­tate what films their staff would make and Car­los Tévez-style be­hav­iour would be pun­ished with con­tract ex­ten­sions and other penal­ties.

One might think that this Ford-like pro­duc­tion would sti­fle creativ­ity, but it al­lowed film-mak­ers to hone their tal­ents and pro­duce the clas­sics by which to­day’s films are mea­sured. Hol­i­day Inn, Dou­ble In­dem­nity and Sunset Boule­vard re­layed from build­ing to build­ing with a ma­chine-like ef­fi­ciency.

To­day, it is tele­vi­sion pro­grammes that more of­ten fill the sound­stages, with Glee, Dr Phil and The Doc­tors all in res­i­dence at Para­mount, while the Warner Bros tour name-checks teen drama Pretty Lit­tle Liars more of­ten than Casablanca.

While it makes sense to give over a sound­stage to a show that might achieve Friend­s­like longevity, it is dis­ap­point­ing to see the stage that once housed Cit­i­zen Kane pre­par­ing for a Hol­ly­wood re­make of ITV’S “banged-up babes” se­ries, Bad Girls.

Clock­wise from above left: Univer­sal Stu­dios; statue at the en­trance to the stu­dios; The Simp­sons and Krusty­land at­trac­tions; the Star­line tour bus stops on the Walk of Fame; the Para­mount Stu­dios tower. Above right, the TMZ tour.

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