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Pickford, Fairbanks Goldwyn Studio Photos

HAMPTON, PICKFORD, FAIRBANKS AND GOLDWYN

Jesse Hampton Studios

In 1918, pioneer film producer, Jesse D. Hampton moved from the studio he rented on Fleming Street and built a new facility at Santa Monica Boulevard and Formosa Avenue.  Surrounded by hundreds of vacant acres in South Hollywood, the new studio included two large glass stages, offices and a small outdoor set at the rear of the property.  Employing some of the top stars of the day including, Blanche Sweet, J. Warren Kerrigan, Lois Wilson, H.B. Warner and William Desmond, Hampton produced or directed a couple of dozen films with names such as “The Prodigal Liar” and “The Drifters.” 

Photo of Jesse Hampton Studio

Pickford – Fairbamks Studios

In 1922, after using the facility for three years, Jesse Hampton sold his studio to Douglas Fairbanks and Mary Pickford who immediately changed its name to Pickford-Fairbanks Studio. It was at this facility that Douglas Fairbanks made some of his most memorable swashbuckling movies, including “Robin Hood” and “The Thief of Bagdad”.  Some of the other films made at the studio were “Sparrows” and Taming of the Shrew” , both starring Mary Pickford.

After leaving Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer, Samuel Goldwyn formed Goldwyn, Inc. Ltd. in 1924 and rented space at the Pickford-Fairbanks Studio at 1041 North Formosa Avenue in Hollywood.  In Goldwyn’s new company there were neither partners, directors, nor outstanding stock.  Convinced he could never get along with partners or boards of directors, Goldwyn simply maintained 100% control, sharing power only with his wife, Frances.

The hollywoodphotographs.com website is the largest collection of old and vintage Hollywood photos in the world. There are over 12,000 vintage and old Hollywood photographs on the website.

Pickford-Fairbanks Studio photo

United Artist

In 1926, Goldwyn was invited to become one of the owners/partners of United Artists, a cooperative that had  originally been formed by Mary Pickford, Douglas Fairbanks, D.W. Griffith and Charles Chaplin to distribute their independent productions.  At the time Goldwyn decided to cast his lot with United Artists, Joseph Schenck had replaced D.W. Griffith as one of the owners.  In 1927, the Pickford-Fairbanks Studio name was changed to the United Artists Studio.  Several years later, British film producer Alexander Korda became a member/owner of United Artists.  As member/owners, they would share equally in the profits of the company but would remain completely autonomous regarding their own productions.  This arrangement seemed equitable and fair; however, it wasn’t long before there was strife between the owners.

The main bone of contention was that Goldwyn felt there was an unfair distribution of the profits.  Each partner was sharing equally, but their output wasn’t equal.  Between them, Douglas Fairbanks and Mary Pickford made only six films and Chaplin only one picture during Goldwyn’s first five years as a member/owner of United Artists.  Meanwhile, Sam was cranking out three or four quality films a year.  As a result, Goldwyn and Korda attempted, in 1937, to buy the three-fifths of United Artists owned by Pickford, Fairbanks and Chaplin for $6 million.  But when their effort became bogged down by what seemed like insurmountable legal obstacles raised by Chaplin’s lawyer, Goldwyn and Korda gave up the fight.

Warner Bros. Studio photo

Samuel Goldwyn Studios

When United Artists decided to move its headquarters back to New York in 1939, Goldwyn instructed his telephone operators to answer their switchboards with “Samuel Goldwyn Studios” instead of “United Artists” as they had done for thirteen years.  An hour later, workmen appeared outside the main entrance, where they took down the worn brass plated letters that spelled United Artists and replaced it with THE SAMUEL GOLDWYN STUDIOS.

As production increased, he gradually took over the whole lot as if it was his own, erecting new buildings and sound stages as he saw fit, and in general, contributing to the improvement of the property.

During the 1940s Goldwyn wanted to own the property himself and so, over the years, he gradually started buying up the land holdings from whoever was willing to sell to him -- namely, Alexander Korda and Joe Schenck.

Acquiring the property by bits and pieces was no simple matter, for there were always holdouts.  But by January 1949, he was finally able to purchase the interest in the studio held by the next-to-last holdout, Lady Sylvia Ashley, Fairbank’s widow.  This acquisition made him the co-owner of the property with Mary Pickford.  Unfortunately, it didn’t make his holdings quite equal to hers.  Over the years, the wily Miss Pickford had also been picking up fractions of the land holdings of the other member/owners.  So by 1949, when Sam concluded his deal with Lady Ashley, Miss Pickford owned 41/80 compared to Goldwyn’s 39/80.  This wasn’t much of a difference, but it was enough to give Miss  Pickford a controlling interest and Sam a sour stomach, for now he had to pay her the $2000 a month rent.

After years of legal battling for control of the studio, Judge Paul Nourse ordered the property put up for sale.   However, the sale did not take place for an additional six years due to legal maneuvering and restraining orders filed by the two adversaries.  Finally, on April 20, 1955, the auction was held with only Goldwyn and Pickford as bidders.  When it was all over, Goldwyn acquired the studio with a successful bid of $1,920,000 -- just $20,000 higher than America’s Sweetheart’s bid.  Forty-one eightieths of the $1,920,000 went to Mary Pickford while Goldwyn kept the rest and the studio.  It was a long, rigorous battle between the two friendly enemies and it cost a small fortune in legal fees.  But to Goldwyn it was worth it, for the studio was finally all his.

Early movie studio photograph

Television at Goldwyn Studios

In his own masterful way, Goldwyn continued film production until his retirement in 1959 at which time he rented his studio to independent film and television companies.  Among the shows produced on the lot were “The Fugitive”, “Cannon” and “Barnaby Jones.”  During his nearly 50 year career, Goldwyn left the American cinema an unmatched legacy of classic films including “The Pride of the Yankees”, “The Little Foxes”, “The Best Years of Our Lives”, “Up In Arms”, and Wuthering Heights.”  In addition, he was credited with introducing and developing the film careers of such stars as Ronald Colman, Vilma Banky, Eddie Cantor, David Niven, Robert Montgomery, Betty Grable, Paulette Goddard, Laurence Olivier and many others.

Warner Bros.

In 1974, after several months of illness, one of Hollywood’s most beloved film pioneers, Samuel Goldwyn,  passed away.   Frances Goldwyn, Samuel Goldwyn’s wife, who died in 1976, willed the studio to the Motion Picture and Television Fund, a charitable organization.  The fund administrators considered the possibility of operating the studio, but in the end decided to sell.  In April 1980, the studio was sold to Warner Bros., Inc. who renamed the historic film factory to Warner Hollywood Studio.  It continued to be operated as a rental studio with such television shows being filmed there as “Dynasty”, “Matt Houston”, “Love Boat” and numerous “Movies of the Week.”  The historic studio was last sold to B.A. Studios and today it’s known simply as “The Lot.”

Old Hollywood Photos

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