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Independent and Unit Production - CASE STUDY:CAPRA ,WYLER,STEVENS,AND LIBERTY FILMS

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Like the major studio powers, Hollywood’s major independent producers saw their fortunes swing wildly in the late 1940s. During the immediate postwar period, independents enjoyed tremendous success. Never had industry conditions been better suited to their interests, and never had so many filmmakers sought commercial and creative autonomy. The independent ranks included low-budget specialists like Sol Wurtzel and the team of William Pine and William Thomas as well as mid-range producers like Mark Hellinger and Jack Skirball. But the prestige-level independents garnered the lion’s share of the publicity and the revenues in the peak postwar period, in fact, most of the runaway hits released just after the war were independent productions, notably THE BELLS OF ST.MARY’S (McCarey for RKO) and SPELLBOUND (Selznick-Hitchcock for UA) in late 1945, and then in 1946 THE BEST YEARS OF OUR LIVES (Goldwyn-Wyler for RKO) and DUEL IN THE SUN (Selznick-Vidor SRO), the two biggest hits of the decade.

The clearest signal of Hollywood’s independent-minded shift at the peak of the war boom was the 1946 Universal-International merger, which brought the studio’s management, production, and marketing operations in line with the independent movement. But there were scores of other moves to independence in that heady “the sky’s the limit” era. In November 1946, as the merger was finalized, the Wall Street Journal ran a pageone story on Hollywood’s independent outbreak. “Stimulated by the ravenous demand at the box-office and the prospects of a ‘freer’ market for their pictures,” wrote the Journal, “these newcomer studios have swollen the industry to grotesque proportions.” While Hollywood once could support no more than about thirty independents, now over a hundred independents described themselves as “permanent producing companies,” along with the dozens of “single-picture corporations” formed by top talent for tax purposes. The power behind most of these efforts was the “bankable” talent, including stars like Bing Crosby, Edward G. Robinson, Rosalind Russell, and Joan Bennett and producerdirectors like Leo McCarey, John Ford, and Howard Hawks.

Because the studio-distributors and large unaffiliated chains continued to control the industry, however, the term “independent filmmaker” still was essentially a misnomer. As Walter Wanger put it, “The independent producer is a man who is dependent on the exhibitors, the studios and the banks.” 47 Traditionally, most of the independents enjoyed a privileged arrangement with a studio—as did Wanger with Universal. But now there were signs of real change, especially among the more powerful (and well-financed) independent producers who challenged the established marketing and promotional practices for prestige-level productions.

One clear signal was Howard Hughes’s THE OUTLAW , which finally went into wide-spread release in 1946 after years of wrangling with the PCA, the Legion of Decency, local censors, and the courts. With UA as distributor, Hughes handled the sales and promotion personally, proving remarkably deft at exploiting the picture in a city-by-city campaign that extended into 1948, eventually returning $5 million. Another independent production with an innovative marketing strategy was Rank’s HENRY V, which was handled as a road-show special by a three-person team which took the picture from one major market to another, eventually netting some $2 million in the United States.

Selznick’s DUEL IN THE SUN , a Western with strong psychosexual themes that also was targeted at more sophisticated “adult” audiences, was the object of perhaps the most significant marketing innovation in the immediate postwar era. While completing the film, Selznick became embroiled in a dispute (and extensive legal difficulties) with the UA owners Charlie Chaplin and Mary Pickford, a conflict that resulted in Selznick leaving his longtime distributor. In late 1946, he created Selznick Releasing Organization (SRO) to handle the nationwide distribution of DUEL IN THE SUN. In fact, Selznick engineered DUEL from the very outset with the postwar marketplace in mind—and in the process he came up with a veritable blueprint for the calculated blockbusters of the 1950s and beyond. As he later confided to Louis B. Mayer: “I set out to make this picture partially as a challenge, partially as an exercise in making a big grossing film.” 49 He succeeded, of course, though more because of his creation of SRO and unique promotion and release strategy than the quality of the film. After a heavily promoted and highly successful opening at the Egyptian and Vogue Theaters in Los Angeles over Christmas 1946, Selznick sent the picture into a massive road-show release accompanied by aggressive advertising in national magazines and radio as well as the press. DUEL IN THE SUN played some 8,000 road-show dates, nearly twice the number of GONE WITH THE WIND , and in far less time. Within six months, it had already played 2,000 dates and was the talk of the industry.

Variety ran a story on what it termed the “blitz booking” of DUEL , “the policy of opening a picture simultaneously in as many houses as possible in each situation.” 51 While Variety’s view was upbeat, Bosley Crowther of the New York Times was less sanguine. He described DUEL IN THE SUN as “spectacularly disappointing” after its simultaneous May 1947 opening in thirty-eight Loew’s theaters in the New York City area. Crowther also noted in his review that “a new sales technique in the film business has been cleverly evolving from scientific audience research.” If the publics “want to see” scores higher than the reactions of preview audiences to the film itself, wrote Crowther, “you sell your picture in a hurry before the curious have a chance to get wise.”

As these developments indicated, movie exhibition and distribution were being radically redefined in 1946-1947. Because of the government’s antitrust campaign (and related litigation) and other factors, the postwar era saw the steady dismantling of the studios’ long-established sales practices—block booking and blind bidding, the myriad pooling, franchise, and cross-licensing arrangements—as well as the modification of run-zone-clearance constraints. Consequently, movie distribution was becoming an increasingly wide-open affair. The major independents recognized that the movie marketplace was undergoing a massive deregulation, and they devised ways to exploit it. Hughes, Rank, and Selznick all demonstrated that specialized films, particularly those geared for the first-run market, could be handled efficiently and profitably on a marketby-market and a theater-by-theater basis.

While high-end independent films were returning top dollar at the box office, they were also the costliest productions of the period. Selznick spent a reported $5 million on DUEL IN THE SUN , making it the most expensive picture in Hollywood history to date, while costs on both THE BEST YEARS OF OUR LIVES and Capra’s initial postwar effort, IT’S A WONDERFUL LIFE , were about $3 million. 53 These costs were far beyond the industry average in 1946 of $665,000, and well beyond what companies like MGM and Paramount were spending even on their top features. Extravagance and waste contributed to these record budgets, although inflation and the difficulty of operating efficiently outside of a studio-factory left their mark as well. And as the market began to decline in 1947 and credit became tighter, the prospects for independent production grew increasingly dismal.

Thus, 1947 was the oddest and most contradictory year ever for independent filmmakers. Variety reported in its year-end survey that 1947 saw “the greatest number of new indie production units come into being in the history of Hollywood,” with more than one hundred new companies formed. 54 But industry conditions no longer favored independent production—or freelance status, for that matter—and by year’s end many of the newly liberated filmmakers were returning to the relative security of studio affiliation. The primary reasons for this reversal were financial, and they extended well beyond the concerns about rising costs and falling attendance.

One key reason was taxes. In July 1946, the Internal Revenue Service closed the legal loophole which rendered the single-picture corporation so attractive as an incometax dodge. In the words of Commissioner Joseph D. Nunan Jr., “We have ruled that where single pictures are incorporated and the profits for the pictures are divided by liquidation of the corporation, that those profits will be taxed to the individuals concerned as ordinary income at ordinary tax rates instead of as capital gains at a 25 per cent rate.” The ruling applied to established independents as well as to the more recent entrepreneurs, and in fact, Goldwyn’s “collapsible corporations” were cited by Nunan as prime targets for an IRS audit. The new IRS regulation also was retroactive to 24 July 1943, with back taxes subject to accruing interest of 6 percent—although offending parties would not be subject to criminal penalty.

Expecting Hollywood “corporations” to fight the ruling (they did), the Treasury Department also sponsored new legislation in Congress to legally close the capital gains loophole. By 1947, it was clear not only that the capital gains ruling would hold but that the economic conditions in the industry simply put too high a price on freelance status for most filmmakers. Variety reported that “with financial backing getting increasingly difficult to obtain and the film industry beset by uncertainties both domestically and abroad,” the “moneymoon” was over for independents, who now had to “backtrack” to the studios. 56 The point was reinforced time and again that year as freelancers and independents sought out permanent financing and distribution deals with major studios. Cagney, for instance, returned to Warners in 1947 after running into trouble financing his UA unit, and he worked out an arrangement whereby he alternated percentage deals and flat salary on each Warners picture. Both Frank Capra and Leo McCarey moved their independent operations—Liberty Films and Rainbow Productions, respectively—from a quasi-independent deal with RKO to a more stable setup with Paramount in 1947, and McCarey announced that it was only a matter of time before all the major studios became “combines” for independent filmmakers.

With the declining market and Britain’s ad valorem tax, the return to the studio fold gained momentum in late 1947. In November, the Wall Street Journal and Variety ran stories, under virtually identical headlines, noting the “open door” policy at Warner Bros., 20th Century-Fox, and Columbia, studios that had not previously catered to independents. And interestingly enough, the three studios previously geared to independents—UA, RKO, and Universal—were now the three least attractive prospects for independents seeking a home. Economic conditions had forced Universal, as mentioned earlier, to resume a more modest market strategy and to phase out its in-house independent units. Hughes closed RKO for “reorganization” in mid-1948 and was not actively promoting tie-ups with independents.

Meanwhile, UA, after spearheading Hollywood’s independent movement for three decades, was foundering badly in the late 1940s. As Tino Balio aptly summarizes UA’s plight: “Nearly all of the majors were beginning to accommodate independents by providing financing, studio space, and attractive distribution terms. UA now had nothing unique to offer producers, and discontent with the company was heightened by the continuous quarrels of the owners. UA failed to attract any producer of distinction during the postwar period.”

The 1948 flap between UA and Hawks over RED RIVER was a case in point. After completing his contract with Warners in 1946, Hawks signed with UA. While preparing and producing RED RIVER , a Western starring John Wayne and Montgomery Clift, Hawks grew increasingly concerned about UA’s response (or lack thereof) to worsening market conditions and about their handling of the film. On completing RED RIVER , Hawks announced that UA’s distribution terms and promotional plans for the film were unacceptable, and he refused to deliver it to UA for release. He later acquiesced, but only on the condition that the film be handled by Gradwell Sears, who had recruited Hawks to UA but had been kicked upstairs to an ineffectual board position during one of UA’s frequent management squabbles. RED RIVER went on to earn $4.5 million and was among the top hits of the year; it was also Hawks’s only project with UA.

Like many independent producer-directors, Hawks reverted to freelance director status in the late 1940s, choosing to work for hire rather than deal with the risks and hassles of independent production. In 1948, he reteamed with the producer Sam Goldwyn, sacrificing supervisory control for an astounding weekly salary of $25,000 to direct A SONG IS BORN , a remake of his 1941 Goldwyn hit BALL OF FIRE. Then, in 1949, Hawks directed I WAS A MALE WAR BRIDE at Fox for the in-house independent Sol C. Siegel. Once the dust had settled from the Paramount decree and the industry had stabilized, Hawks returned to independent producer-director status with his own company.

This pattern was followed by a number of top producer-directors (notably John Huston at MGM and Capra, Wyler, and Stevens at Paramount) in the late 1940s—settling in with a major studio as a highly paid director but without real autonomy or genuine independent status. Several top filmmakers like Leo McCarey and Charlie Chaplin simply remained inactive in the late 1940s. Others like Alfred Hitchcock maintained their independence until financial conditions forced them to retrench. Hitchcock had created Transatlantic Pictures in 1947 after he left Selznick, but after two disappointments (ROPE in 1948 and UNDER CAPRICORN 1949), he dissolved the company and signed as an in-house independent at Warners, which had released his Transatlantic productions.

Still others like John Ford and Orson Welles managed to maintain their independence, but only by radically lowering their sights. Welles began the postwar era at Columbia, where he teamed with his soon-to-be ex-wife Rita Hayworth for THE LADY FROM SHANGHAI. Welles wrote, produced, and directed the film in 1946, but it was shelved for nearly two years by the studio boss Harry Cohn, who found it incomprehensible. After extensive reediting, Columbia released the film in 1948 to a disappointing popular and critical response. Welles, meanwhile, produced and directed a highly inventive adaptation of MACBETH for Republic in 1948 (via his Mercury Productions); he shot it in twenty-three days for under $200,000. But MACBETH also fared badly, leaving Welles unemployable in Hollywood as a producer-director, although he still was being offered up to $100,000 per film as an actor. Welles had no interest in devoting himself to acting—or in becoming a Hollywood star, for that matter—so he set out for Europe. His next significant opportunity, as it happened, was acting in Carol Reed’s THE THIRD MAN.

Ford also closed out the decade at Republic Pictures in order to maintain his independence. In 1946, he completed a long-term contract at Fox with MY DARLING CLEMENTINE, and over the next few years he turned out a succession of independent productions through Argosy Pictures with his partner and coproducer Merian C. Cooper. Ford and Cooper kept Argosy afloat by moving from MGM (THREE GODFATHERS , 1948) to the struggling RKO (THE FUGITIVE , 1947; FORT APACHE , 1948; SHE WORE A YELLOW RIBBON , 1949), and finally to Republic in 1949, where their initial productions (R IO GRANDE and WAGON MASTER , both 1950) launched Republics risky, extravagant move to A-class films on million-dollar budgets.

Clearly the postwar picture was growing increasingly bleak for independents, especially producer-directors and small-time independents operating on a picture-by-picture basis. A Variety story in May 1948, under the headline “Bell Tolls for Indie Producers,” noted that “all but the biggest” independents—that is, Goldwyn, Selznick, Chaplin, and Disney—were simply unable to secure financing. 63 in fact, even these major independents were struggling in the late 1940s.

As noted earlier, Selznick enjoyed tremendous success in 1946, not only with DUEL IN THE SUN but also with the highly lucrative sale of NOTORIOUS and several other packages to RKO. But he followed those with two ambitious, costly failures: THE PARADINE CASE (1948), a final project with Hitchcock, and A PORTRAIT OF JENNY bloated vehicle for Jennifer Jones and Joseph Cotten, his top contract stars, that lost virtually all of its $4 million production cost. That picture effectively ended Selznick’s career as a major independent in Hollywood. In 1949, he decided to seek production opportunities in England—on THE THIRD MAN , in fact, for which he arranged the financing and the U.S. distribution.

Sam Goldwyn fared somewhat better in the postwar era, beginning with the tremendous success of THE BEST YEARS OF OUR LIVES in 1946. Besides its $10 million rentals, the picture won six Oscars, including best picture and best director (for William Wyler), along with the Academy’s prestigious Thalberg Award to Goldwyn as the industry’s top producer. But after BEST YEARS , Goldwyn’S key employee and longtime collaborator William Wyler left to join Liberty Films. Then, in 1948, Goldwyn suffered another huge loss when the cinematographer Gregg Toland, who had shot almost all of Goldwyn’s sound films (thirty-seven in all), died suddenly at age 44. Goldwyn increased his output to a steady two pictures per annum in the late 1940s, but none was of any real consequence commercially or critically, and by 1950 Goldwyn was easing into semiretirement.

Disney struggled throughout the late 1940s to regain its prewar form, but with little success. The company produced no features in the late 1940s, concentrating instead on package films—compilations of up to ten animated shorts combined into a feature-length release. Disney’s initial postwar release, for instance, was MAKE MINE MUSIC (1946), a seventy-minute, ten-cartoon package which included a few excellent pieces like “Casey at the Bat” and “Peter and the Wolf” but was scarcely on a par with its prewar features. By 1949, Disney showed signs of recovery with the release of ICHABOD AND MR.TOAD , comprising two exceptional longer animated works, while it had in production two full-length features, CINDERELLA and TREASURE ISLAND (both 1950)—the latter marking its move into live-action feature films.

In 1949, however, the resurgence of Disney or any other independent appeared to be a long way off. As Fortune reported in April: “Independent production, which boomed up to more than a hundred working units in 1946 and 1947, is substantially wiped out. If the independent is producing he has cut costs, like everyone. But more likely he has suspended operations and is waiting for the market to stabilize.” 67 In June, the Wall Street Journal reported that only about one-third of Hollywood’s eighty-five independent companies “have exposed any negative so far in 1949.” 68 Perhaps the future belonged to independents and freelance talent, given the thrust of the Paramount decree, but the present was discouraging at best, and there was no telling how long it would take for “the market to stabilize.”

CASE STUDY:CAPRA ,WYLER,STEVENS,AND LIBERTY FILMS

The postwar careers of Frank Capra and his two Liberty Films partners, William Wyler and George Stevens, provide illuminating examples of postwar independence in Hollywood. As seen in chapter 2, Capra had been one of the most successful producerdirectors and unit filmmakers in Hollywood’s classical era, and he parlayed that success into self-styled independence in 1940-1941. Capra had made films very much on his own terms both financially and creatively before joining the military, and he was determined to resume what he termed his “one man, one film” crusade once the war ended. Thus, in late 1944, Capra and the former Columbia executive Sam Briskin, Capra’s unit manager during his studio days, created Liberty Films, and by late 1945 they had lined up Wyler and Stevens as partners.

Wyler signed on while he was preparing THE BEST YEARS OF OUR LIVES for Goldwyn in mid-1945. Wyler had been with Goldwyn for ten years and now enjoyed an excellent profit-participation arrangement—in fact, he was set to receive 20 percent of the net profits on BEST YEARS. But despite Goldwyn’s inducements to renew his contract, Wyler was determined to strike out on his own with Capra.

George Stevens, fresh out of the military with no such commitments, readily signed on with Liberty, officially joining the company on 1 January 1946. The last partner to join, Stevens signed a contract that well illustrates the setup at Liberty Films. He signed on as “Producer-Director and Producer,” with complete authority over all phases of production, from the inception of a project through post-production. A majority of the four partners had to agree on each project, including budget and casting, but thereafter Stevens had “sole control of the production and direction of the photoplay consistent with the budget approved for it.” Liberty paid Stevens a weekly salary of $3,000, and as an equal partner (and stockholder) with Capra, Wyler, and Briskin, he shared in the company’s profits. As with Capra and Wyler, this exclusive contract called for Stevens to deliver three pictures within three years.

The company’s title and its Liberty Bell insignia openly announced that Liberty Films was dedicated to independent filmmaking. Capra secured a line of credit with the Bank of America and a favorable financing and distribution deal with RKO, thus ensuring Liberty’s freedom from studio control and leading the Wall Street Journal to single out the company in 1946 as Hollywood’s “leading true independent.” 72 Liberty would not maintain that status for long, however, owing largely to its founders’ initial postwar productions. At the time of Stevens’s signing, the only Liberty project in the works was Capra’s IT’S A WONDERFUL LIFE. The film was budgeted at $2.36 million and set to start in April 1946. 73 in fact, Capra recalls starting it on the same day, 8 April, that Wyler started BEST YEARS for Goldwyn. 74 Both films were completed and released in late 1946 and competed head to head not only in the marketplace but at the Academy Awards banquet as well—further solidifying the stature of Capra and Wyler as two of the top filmmakers in Hollywood. BEST YEARS was by far the more successful film, and in fact, IT’S A WONDERFUL L IFE represented a setback for Liberty. Although it earned $3.3 million, the film’s $3.2 million cost meant a sizable net loss for Liberty Films.

Capra, meanwhile, planned even more ambitious productions, buying the screen rights to a hit Broadway play, State of the Union, and a recent best-seller, Friendly Persuasion. But RKO balked at the proposed $2.8 million budget on the former, so Capra was forced to shop the project at other studios, including Paramount and MGM. Thanks largely to Spencer Tracy, MGM took it on as a Tracy-Hepburn vehicle. Capra brought STATE OF THE UNION in under budget at $2.8 million, and when it finally was released in 1948 (after MGM held up its release for another Tracy-Hepburn picture, THE SEA OF GRASS 1947), the film fared well commercially, returning $3.5 million. But STATE OF THE UNION did not mark a success for Capra or Liberty Films. The critical response to the film was only lukewarm, and because of MGM’s sizable promotion and distribution costs, the film failed to turn a profit.

The two Capra films were the only ones made under the Liberty Films trademark, and the only truly independent ventures by the company. Capra later described STATE OF THE UNION as “my last independent production,” but in fact Liberty was finished as an independent enterprise even before that film was made. In early 1947, after the weak box-office showing of IT’S A WONDERFUL LIFE and RKO’s refusal to back STATE OF THE UNION —and considering the tighter credit terms and the signs of a market decline—Capra began looking for a studio with deeper pockets and better distribution than RKO. In April, he closed a deal with Paramount, which purchased Liberty Films and paid each partner $1 million for his stake in the company. Paramount assumed each filmmaker’s three-year, three-film commitment at the same salary ($3,000 per week) but severely limited their creative freedom and authority.

Although the three filmmakers were granted producer-director status at Paramount, there was no question of studio control. As Capra described the situation, he was “an employed contract director taking orders.” Thus, Capra’s “one man, one film” campaign was over, and he would look back on the Paramount deal as a watershed in movie history. “The more or less continuous downward slide of Hollywood’s artistic and economic fortunes that began in 1947 was triggered not by the advent of television, not by the intransigence of foreign governments,” wrote Capra in his 1971 biography. “That slide was set in motion by our sale of Liberty Films to Paramount.”

Capra found the constraints at Paramount maddening, particularly what was termed “Balaban’s law.” This decreed that (a) a picture broke even at twice its cost; (b) market projections indicated that $3 million was the top box-office take at the time; and there-fore © the production costs of top films should not exceed $1.5 million. 79 The numerous projects Capra tried in the late 1940s were nixed by the New York office because of cost, including Roman Holiday and Friendly Persuasion. After two years of frustration, he finally agreed to take on two lackluster Bing Crosby comedy-dramas in 1950-1951 (one of which, RIDING HIGH in 1950, was a remake of Capra’s 1934 hit BROADWAY BILL ). In 1951, Capra left Paramount, where he had suffered through what his biographer Joseph McBride aptly describes as “one of the most precipitous collapses in the career of any major American director.” And as Capra readily admitted, he himself was largely to blame despite conditions at the studio and in the industry at large. Although only 54 years old, he had lost faith both in the cinema and in himself, and he retired from active feature filmmaking.

Wyler and Stevens, meanwhile, each managed to turn out only one film in the late 1940s after Liberty’s move to Paramount—far below what they expected or were contracted to produce, but hardly surprising under the circumstances. Like Capra, both struggled to get projects approved and under way at Paramount, although both eventually adapted to changing industry conditions and did quite well at the studio. After BEST YEARS in 1946, Wyler’s next film was THE HEIRESS in 1949, an ambitious adaptation of Henry James’s Washington Square starring Olivia de Havilland and Montgomery Clift. Critically acclaimed and nominated for a half-dozen Oscars, including best picture, best director, and best actress (which de Havilland won), THE HEIRESS did only moderate business. But Wyler was settling in at Paramount and enjoyed considerable success there over the next few years.

Stevens’s stint with Paramount, conversely, was an ongoing struggle with Balaban and the studio brass. His first project, an adaptation of the hit novel and stage play I Remember Mama, was turned down by Paramount in 1947 because of its cost. Stevens took the project to Dore Schary at RKO, where it was a critical hit and earned $3.3 million in 1948. I REMEMBER MAMA cost $3.068 million, however, and failed to break even. 82 “Balaban’s law” also prohibited both of Stevens’s 1948 projects, adaptations of Madame Butterfly and The Young Lions, and in early 1949 he found himself fighting the Paramount powers over yet another project. On 21 January, Stevens received a memo from Sam Briskin informing him that “Liberty Films, Inc., has disapproved your selection of Theodore Dreiser’s An American Tragedy as the story for one of your films.” 83 (Briskin, still technically a Liberty executive, was in fact working for Paramount, which now owned the company.)

Stevens responded in a memo the following day, challenging the studio’s decision and asserting: “I am willing to stake my professional reputation … on my judgment of this property.” Stevens then received a ten-page scolding from the production chief Henry Ginsberg, who asserted the studio’s position in stronger terms. After outlining the troubled history of both the Dreiser novel and a 1931 Paramount adaptation, as well as a recently abandoned Wilder-Brackett adaptation, Ginsberg admonished Stevens: “We refuse to admit that your judgment is better than that of our entire production organization, our sales department, and our New York home office executive’s combined. … We had expected that you would be most appreciative of the time and effort expended not only by me but by everyone including Mr. Balaban in studying the advisability of proceeding with this story.” Citing legal, financial, and censorship problems, Ginsberg again refused to approve the story.

Stevens persisted, and the Paramount powers began to yield when he personally secured commitments from Montgomery Clift, a sudden star after RED RIVER and THE HEIRESS, and Elizabeth Taylor (in her first adult role). In September, he submitted a budget of $1,498,000, barely under the Paramount budget ceiling, and a shooting schedule of forty-five days. By then, Balaban and Ginsberg were sold on the project, now titled “A Place in the Sun,” and they eventually approved a budget of $1.8 million and a sixty-day schedule. 85 A PLACE IN THE SUN was completed in early 1950 but not released until mid-1951. It was a solid commercial and critical hit, earning $3.5 million and four Academy Awards, including a best-director Oscar for Stevens.

In March 1951, Capra officially left Paramount and dissolved Liberty Films. Stevens stayed on to produce and direct SHANE (1953) before leaving Paramount for genuine freelance status. By then, independent production had returned with a vengeance, and, in fact, Wyler and Stevens were among its leading proponents. The studio system, meanwhile, was a thing of the past—at least where the movie industry was concerned. The major studios in the early 1950s responded to court-ordered dis-integration not only by divesting their theaters but by gradually phasing out feature film production, concentrating instead on movie financing and distribution. Meanwhile, the nascent TV industry steadily adopted Hollywood’s factory-oriented system for “telefilm” series production, which became the industry staple in the late 1950s. Thus, factory-oriented studio production persisted, albeit as a mode of TV production, and the independent film production movement that had been taking hold since the early 1940s, after weathering the stormy postwar era, emerged during the 1950s as the dominant form for making feature films.

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