Hollywood Renegades Archive

The Society of Independent Motion Picture Producers

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THE SIMPP RESEARCH DATABASE

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Benedict Bogeaus

and The General Service Studio (Hollywood Center Studio)

SIMPP Member (1944-1958)

Excerpt from Hollywood Renegades by J. A. Aberdeen


The 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 off."

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 Metropolitan Studios.

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.

Hollywood 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 Center Studios.

 

CLICK HERE for the official history of the Hollywood Center Studio (1919-1999)

 


SOURCES:

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, 1968.

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. 

See Bibliography.

 

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