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Horror films. Deanna Durbin musicals. Francis the talking mule. Ma and Pa Kettle. Ross Hunter weepies. Theme parks. ET. Apollo 13. These are only a few of the many faces of Universal Pictures.
In February 1906 Carl Laemmle, German immigrant and former clothing store manager, opened his first nickelodeon in Chicago. He quickly moved from exhibition to distribution and to film production. A master of publicity and promotions, within ten years “Uncle Carl” had moved his entire operation to southern California, founded a city, and established Universal Pictures as one of the major Hollywood studios.
In time Universal found its niche in horror films featuring Karloff and Lugosi, comedies starring Abbott and Costello and W.C. Fields, and low-budget musicals. But Carl Laemmle Jr. proved less adept than his father at empire building. Eventually he was forced out by financial difficulties, opening the way for a string of studio heads who entered and exited one after another. Thus the age of corporate Hollywood arrived at Universal Pictures earlier than at other studios.
The Universal-International merger in 1946, Decca’s stock takeover in the early 1950s, and MCA’s buyout in 1962 all presaged today’s Hollywood, where the art of the deal often eclipses the art of making movies. Stars and executives have come and gone, shaping and reshaping the studio’s image, but through it all Universal’s revolving globe logo has remained on movie screens around the world. And, unlike several other studios of Hollywood’s golden age, Universal still makes movies today.
"The book is a must-read for Dick's analyses of Universal's silent classics, the wonderful monster movies of the '30s and '40s, and the famous films of the 1950s, some of them directed by Alfred Hitchcock."—Chatham (NJ) Courier, Hanover (NJ) Eagle and Regional Weekly News, Bernardsville
"Dick is to be commended for his fine biographical portrayal of major players, old and new. . . . I have rarely read a more involved and historically detailed account of one major studio."—Independent Publisher
"In this well-written and engaging book, Bernard K. Dick traces the history of Universal Pictures—and the movie industry in general—from its humble origins to its modern status."—Journal of American History
"Engaging history that rescues some reputations and skewers others. It is a history with the labyrinthine intrigue of a good Hollywood film."—Journal of the West
"Fans of Universal Pictures will find a friend in Dick . . . Balancing his personal fondness with solid research, Dick chronicles every phase, high and low, of Universal's history."—Kirkus Reviews
"With roots dating back to the first decade of the century, Hollywood's most venerable studio is an interesting case study."—Library Journal
"No Hollywood history is complete without the inclusion on Bernard Dick's City of Dreams on the reading list."—Midwest Book Review
"Universal's story is a good window on Hollywood, and Dick's movie-going enthusiasm is evident."—Publishers Weekly
The University Press of Kentucky
Place of Publication
Universal Pictures, Carl Laemmle, Movie history, Hollywood
Film and Media Studies
Dick, Bernard F., "City of Dreams: The Making and Remaking of Universal Pictures" (1997). Film and Media Studies. 14.