Saturday, October 11, 2008
DIMES BUY 25 MILLION MOVIETONE CITY PLANT
Hollywood, Jan. 30
Seventeen years ago, almost to the day, from the time that the Fox company began making pictures in California, the entire production facilities of the organization were moved to the new studios at Movietone City. The former center of operations at Western avenue have been abandoned. “Dance Team,” the James Dunn-Sally Eilers romance, was among the last to be filmed there. After some scenes of “First Cabin,” “Charlie Chan’s Chance,” “The Gay Bandit,” and “Disorderly Conduct” were taken, the old sets were dismantled.
In the year 1914 William Fox went to Hollywood to produce pictures. He built a studio on Edendale Road, opposite the Mack Sennett plant. It was little more than a big barn. A large wooden platform for outdoor work was also constructed. The two were surrounded by a high fence. The studio was not equipped with artificial lighting. Production was suspended on cloudy days. William Farnum, a leading attraction in pictures at that time, was signed at $200 a week. There were less than 100 employees.
Then the New York branch of the Fox production department made a photoplay from Kipling’s poem, “The Vampire,” called “A Fool There Was.” Theda Bara originated the vampire type in this film, which was very successful. The word “vamp” became a part of American speech.
From the profits of “A Fool There Was,” Fox was able to bring Theda Bara to Hollywood and take larger production quarters. He bought six and one half acres at Sunset boulevard and Western avenue and began to erect substantial sets.
The company still lacked the money to build a studio in the desired style. The immense popularity of Tom Mix and his cowboy pictures with the younger generation attended to that. Other stars on the Fox roster were John Gilbert at $100 a week; Betty Blythe, Miriam Cooper, Gladys Rockwell and Milton Sills. But Tom Mix was the most profitable. The coins of the kids built the Western avenue studio.
A definite step toward the building of the present film city was taken when Winfield Sheehan, now vice-president of the company, was assigned by Fox to take charge of picture production. He saw that the increased output necessary to supply Fox theaters was impossible in crowded Hollywood. Then miles away toward the sea was Tom Mix’s ranch, 108 acres of rolling country. Sheehan bought it. That is where Movietone City now stands.
Small residences are even to be found behind the 14-foor wall, three miles in length. One of these is the thatched Irish cottage used by Janet Gaynor. It was built originally for John McCormick. Another is the Mexican adobe cabin of Will Rogers. There are exterior sets representing every country on the globe. Flowers, trees and plants were imported to insure complete accuracy on these sets.
Ten pictures a year were made in the old barn. Movietone City will produce 48 films annually.