Sam Goldwyn and Walter Wanger Attack the Hollywood Status Quo
Excerpt from Hollywood Renegades by J. A. Aberdeen
Goldwyn, during his anti-trust battles in the 1930s and 40s. (Aberdeen
collection). To purchase Aberdeen photos for reprint purposes click
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, 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."
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.