and The General Service Studio (Hollywood Center Studio)
SIMPP Member (1944-1958)
Excerpt from Hollywood Renegades by J. A. Aberdeen
Metropolitan Studios (1921), later known as the General Service
Studio, where many independent producers shot their films.
Another SIMPP addition in 1944, Benedict Bogeaus, rose out of obscurity to
the forefront of the independent movement in only a few short years. A Chicago
native born in 1904, Ben Bogeaus began as a real estate investor who ventured
into several business enterprises, including radio manufacturing, zipper-making,
and eventually film production. He divided his time between America and Europe,
claiming to have made and lost several fortunes during his life. He experimented
with films in France and Germany, then came to Hollywood in 1940 hoping to find
a film-related business opportunity. Following a stint as a manufacturer of a
portable film development system ideal for wartime use, he established himself
as an ace independent producer with his first four filmsóThe Bridge of San
Luis Rey (1944), Dark Waters (1944), Captain Kidd (1945), and The
Diary of a Chambermaid (1946).
Strictly speaking, his film budgets fell below the A-category, but the
features yielded unusually high profits by utilizing name stars and efficient
production value to belie the movies' actual costs. "All independent
producers go broke sooner or later," Bogeaus later remarked. "It's
because they try to make artistic pictures. I make good commercial ones. It pays
One of Bogeaus' lasting legacies was as landlord of the General Service
Studio in Hollywood which played a key role in the independent movement. The
General Service Studio, originally known as Hollywood Studios, Inc., was built
in 1919 by a former Chaplin employee John Jasper. General Service neither
produced nor distributed; it was simply an open film facility with space for
rent to producers who wanted to stay off the major studio backlots. The General
Service property was located in Hollywood on Santa Monica Boulevard on the
corner of Las Palmas, just a few blocks east of old United Artists (Samuel
Goldwyn) lot. The General Service was a popular production facility even before
Bogeaus. Harold Lloyd, who went independent in 1922, made films on the lot
before he purchased his own studio situated on a hill overlooking Santa Monica
Boulevard. In 1926, Howard Hughes filmed his
earliest movies at the General Service lot, which at the time was known as the
The ownership and the name of the studio lot changed several times in the
1920s and 1930s. In fact, it was not known as the General Service Studio until
1933 when the powerful Western Electric division of AT&T acquired the
sound-equipped lot to add to its extensive holdings that dominated early talking
films. To avoid antitrust scrutiny, Western Electric transferred the property to
another of its subsidiaries known as General Service. The government busted
Western Electric's talkie empire, and ordered AT&T to sell General Service
in 1941. At the time, Benedict Bogeaus was one of the independent producers
leasing space on the lot, along with others like Alexander Korda who made The
Thief of Bagdad (1940) there.
Bogeaus outbid Edward Small for control of the
studio in the spring of 1942 after General Service was put on the market.
Actually, Bogeaus underbid Small, acquiring control of the property for $460,000
(and $200,000 of liabilities) by promising to allow the government to use the
facility for defense purposes. Under Bogeaus' control, General Service soon
became a popular alternative to the more stately Goldwyn lot that usually
operated at capacity. By 1945 the General Service Studio housed 21 independent
producers, most of whom released their films through United Artists, and many of
whom became members of SIMPP.
Benedict Bogeaus undertook an aggressive expansion of the studio property
during the postwar period, which turned out unexpectedly useful to the new wave
of television producers that came to inhabit the lot.
In July 1946, Bogeaus invited William Cagney to
become a one-fifth owner of the General Service Studio. In 1947 Bogeaus and
Cagney began to sell their interests in the General Service Studios to their
managers, the Nasser brothers. By 1950 James, George, and Ted Nasser gained
control of General Service, and began to focus on television production. Tenants
included Lucille Ball and Desi Arnaz, Ozzie and Harriet Nelson, and George Burns
and Gracie Allen (Burns remained on the lot until his death at age 100 in 1996).
The Arnazes used the General Service Studios as their Desilu headquarters
between 1951 and 1953. The remodeled Stage 2, called the Desilu Playhouse,
became the location for the filming of the earliest episodes of the seminal I
Love Lucy television series.
Reporter - April 22, 1949 headline after the near takeover of United
Artists by the Nasser Brothers.
The Nassers controlled the studio for the next three decades, with the
exception of a few years in the late 1970s when the property was purchased by a
Texas oil and gas firm which renamed the studio Hollywood General.
In 1979 independent producer-director Francis Ford Coppola bought the studio,
and moved from his rented space on the Samuel Goldwyn lot. Coppola purchased
Hollywood General for $6.7 million to become the nucleus of the Zoetrope Studio.
His ambitious plans suffered financial setbacks, and Coppola sold the lot in
1984 to a Canadian development company that renamed the property the Hollywood
CLICK HERE for the
official history of the Hollywood Center Studio (1919-1999)
Benedict Bogeaus biographical information: Bill Peirce, Jr.,
"Biography: Benedict Bogeaus," (press release), c. 1946, AMPAS;
"Producer Bogeaus Dies After Stroke," Los Angeles Herald-Examiner,
August 24, 1968; UPI, "Benedict Bogeaus, 64, Is Dead; An Independent Film
Producer," NYT, August 25, 1968; "Ben Bogeaus, 64, Dies of
Heart Attack," DV, August 26, 1968; Thomas M. Prior, "Rags to
Riches: Or the Hectic Saga of Benedict Bogeaus, Producer and Many of Many
Affairs," NYT, November 25, 1945, sec. X, p. 3. "Bogeaus Joins
U. A.," HR, July 24, 1942, p. 1.
"All independent producers": quoted in UPI,
"Producer Bogeaus Is Dead," Hollywood Citizen-News, August 24,
History of the General Service Studio, now known as the
Hollywood Center Studios: "The Beginning," Hollywood
Center Studios; Schumacher, Francis Ford Coppola, pp. 268-269;
Harold Lloyd information from Dardis, Harold Lloyd, pp. 140-141.
"Premium," NYT, April 13, 1947; Sanders and Gilbert, Desilu,
pp. 43, 76; Cowie, Coppola, pp. 148, 161.