Fox Studios Again Very Active
Roy Pomeroy’s New Producing Concern
Hollywood, Cal. – April 11
“Good stories and good writers first; then good directors, good artists and proper assembly and you have good pictures.”
Thus does Richard Rowland, vice president and ranking head of Fox Film Corporation, list the elements of screen entertainment in his first interview given since he took charge of Movietone City three months ago.
To the uninitiated this may seem an obvious and trite observation; to Hollywood and the writers of pieces for the screen it is novel and important. Seldom are writers publicly recognized in this industry; generally they are classed with studio gatemen – necessary, in a way, but plentiful.
But things are different on the Fox lot now. They changed with the new regime. Hollywood was antagonistic to President E. R. Tinker and Mr. Rowland and the other New Yorkers when they arrived to straighten out the muddled affairs of the concern. As operating head, Mr. Rowland has reversed the situation. The lot is one of the most active in town and pictures that have recently been previewed and a perusal of stories now in preparation show that something has had an inspiring affect on the Fox staff.
This is not Mr. Rowland’s first reorganization venture. He retired at twenty-seven, a millionaire, after selling out his interests to the General Film Company, then the picture trust. Louis B. Mayer got him back in 1914 to whip the old Metro Film Company into shape. Again he retired with a profit to his credit and was again drafted to form First National Pictures. He sold out in 1928 to Warners.
“In the old days almost anything got by,” Mr. Rowland states. “Today the age range of the audience is 18 to 25, but they seem to be smarter. We have to give them real entertainment. If we haven’t good stories, we must give them good showmanship – personalities, ideas, novelties.
“Stories are first, however. I don’t know of any star who wasn’t made by a good story. And given poor stories time after time, the best of them fade away.”
“We search everywhere just for ideas. We have writers who can develop ideas after the studio gets them. We may work months before we get just the right treatment, but it’s an excellent investment.”
There are several examples now in work on the lot. Fox bought “Chandu,” which is getting national circulation on the radio. The radio story is not suitable for pictures, so all Fox bought was an idea.
Another is being developed by Irene Kuhn, one of the writing staff. Mr. Rowland had an idea of topical interest, the nature of which is being guarded quite carefully by the studio. “The writing of this story is essentially a job of reporting. Mrs. Kuhn is a newspaper woman of wide experience, so we sent her out into the sphere of life the story will cover and she will do a reporter’s job in writing the script. We are applying her experience to our business and as far as we’ve gone with the idea, we believe we have an outstanding story.”
Other notes from the Rowland interview include: The public doesn’t just “go to cinema” any more. It shops for personalities or ideas… “Cavalcade,” the Noel Coward play, will be brought to the screen… Fox is going to engage only those who can play a variety of roles. Stars who can play only one character are too expensive; stories for them are too hard to find… “Count of Monte Cristo” and “What Price Glory?” will be remade as talkers.
Stories of timely and topical appeal are popular with the public…Stories are made before they reach the camera. If you depend on making a story on the stage or in the cutting room, you are sure of a failure… Too many people in the industry are trying to remember what they used to do. They should think only of tomorrow…
Pictures should not copy stage plays or Broadway tastes. The medium and the public are not the same… Forget sophistication. Heart throbs, tears and laughter are the elements for pictures… The only reason personalities are accentuated is because of the shortage of good stories.
Third dimension film is the next important step… Color’s only chance is in absolute perfection, as yet but a dream… Pictures should have a wider screen. Fifty millimeters seems the correct film width; not the 75 millimeters of Grandeur.
Since announcement was made a week or so ago by Charles R. Rogers that he was making eight pictures a year independently for Paramount, the independent situation has shown increased activity. Now Roy J. Pomeroy, the man who parted the Red Sea for “Ten Commandments” and who is responsible for many tricks used by the camera, has formed a new concern to make twelve pictures this year at an expense of $3,000,000. Space has been taken on the Metropolitan lot and the first stories are being prepared. There is considerable other activity, but with most of it the conversation outweighs the cash available.
A somewhat tense situation was created this week in the producers’ association when Wheeler and Woolsey jumped from RKO-Radio to Columbia upon the expiration of their contract. RKO immediately called attention to the recently signed agreement, by which studios agreed not to raid one another. Columbia, when the point of ethics was raised, merely pointed out that they had not yet signed the agreement. The raid was made last week; the studio signed this week.
Censorship note: In “Are These Our Children?” one of the most dramatic moments is the pleading of a mother with her son for him to return to the narrow path. As a climax he did and repeated the Lord’s Prayer with her. In Australia the prayer was ordered deleted by the censors. Reason: an unbendable rule that the Deity must not be mentioned in a film.
Marie Dressler is again teamed with Polly Moran in “Prosperity.”
RKO has gone in for “super casts.” This week the studio announced that John Barrymore and Dolores Del Rio would be teamed in an as yet untitled picture. Constance Bennett’s next will be “The Truth About Hollywood.” Two reasons impelled the switch of Miss Bennett from “Unmated” to the new story by Adele Rogers St. Johns. Considerable trouble was encountered in “Unmated,” the yarn of which needed many changes; RKO has had huge success in “Lost Squadron,” an inside story of behind the scenes in Hollywood. It is hoped that the “Truth” story will repeat this.
In conflict with the opinion of Mr. Rowland at Fox, that only experienced screen writers should prepare scripts for filming, RKO has employed a magazine editor without picture experience as story advisor and he has ordered a shipment of magazine writers who have never been inside a studio to be sent to the Coast.
Additions from Broadway who this week began their film careers include Adrianne Allen from “Cynara,” for Paramount’s “Merrily We Go to Hell”; Margaret Perry of “After All” in Metro’s picture of the same name; Phyllis Clare at RKO in “The Roadhouse Murder.”
When it was thought that Ernst Lubitsch would seek other fields, Paramount announced that they had re-signed the director. His success with “One Hour With You” made Paramount come to terms and he will have free reign in future productions, mush as had von Sternberg. On the same lot Richard Rogers, Lorenz Hart and Leo Robin, composers all, were engaged to do musicals for the studio.