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Sam Goldwyn and Walter Wanger Attack the Hollywood Status Quo

Excerpt from Hollywood Renegades by J. A. Aberdeen


Sam Goldwyn, during his anti-trust battles in the 1930s and 40s. (Aberdeen collection). To purchase Aberdeen photos for reprint purposes click here.

Sam Goldwyn arrived in New York in November 1946 for the world premiere of The Best Years of Our Lives, his new independently-produced film that would go on to become the year's box office champ and Oscar frontrunner. As usual he looked for an industry issue to rail against as he warmed up the New York press for his promotional blitz. For his publicity angle he drew attention to a contradiction that he experienced while on the east coast. Even though film attendance was at a record high, people complained about the abundance of disappointing features from Hollywood. He claimed that audience members peppered him with the same questions all week: "What's the matter with Hollywood? Why have the pictures been so poor this year?" He called a press conference on November 18, 1946, three days before the opening of his film, to lay blame at the feet of the Hollywood studio system.

During the gathering at the Samuel Goldwyn offices, the producer emphasized several familiar points: that Hollywood paid too much attention on star value and not enough on entertainment value; that a good story was the most essential ingredient in the making of a good film; and that Hollywood simply made too many films, period. "There are not enough good writers with a real story to tell, to write 400 or 500 pictures a year. I have always felt that on the writer hinges the true quality of any picture, no matter who the producer, the director or the stars. Stars are made by good stories, killed by bad ones."

Walter Wanger, United Artists publicity photo from 1938. (Aberdeen collection). To purchase Aberdeen photos for reprint purposes click here.

Walter Wanger, then in New York on a return trip from Europe, joined up with Goldwyn. Wanger addressed the press corp on the same day, and had a similar message as Goldwyn. They both claimed that Hollywood was rich, lazy, and complacent. Also they said that Hollywood suffered from the same thing that plagues any creative entity that no longer needs to struggle and fight for its ideasórapid and unavoidable stagnation.

"Hollywood has long needed the stimulus of outside competition," Goldwyn declared, conveying the crux of his message. To stir Hollywood out of its "fat-cat complacency" had been the mission of many of the SIMPP producers who aspired to cinematic excellence. Goldwyn welcomed competition, and said that the industry was badly in need of "new blood."


SOURCES:

Goldwyn and Wanger denounce the Hollywood studio system before the press on November 18, 1946: "Goldwyn and Wanger Agree Hollywood Films Are Lagging," HR, November 19, 1946, pp. 1, 16; "Goldwyn Decries Heavy Production," NYT, November 19, 1946, p. 41.

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