When Paramount Pictures (originally called Famous Players Studios) was founded in 1912, people were still unsure of the moneymaking potential in film. The product was generally a 10-12 minute one-reel short and sound was still 18 years away. Then founder Adolph Zukor came along and revolutionized the industry.
Zukor adopted multi-reel film as his base product (William Fox of Fox Pictures would also do so about the same time), creating the advent of the feature film. Believing that the star made the film, Zukor would sign on iconic actors such as Mary Pickford, Douglas Fairbanks (both became co-founders of United Artists), Gloria Swanson (Sunset Blvd.), Rudolph Valentino (the most famous actor whose films you cannot name ever), and Clara Bow (the original ‘it’ girl).
Today Paramount is America’s oldest existing studio, and the only one that still calls Hollywood its home. As a Los Angeles-based company, we at Press Pass LA appreciate this and as a small homage here is a top ten (not 100, even though it is the centennial) all time films from Paramount Pictures:
10. The Loves of Queen Elizabeth (1912) – Famous Player’s Company’s first film. Made $80,000 off of an $18,000 investment by Zukor, and so it began.
9. Stalag 17 (1953) – Comedy/drama about a WWII POW camp, released ten years before The Great Escape
8. Shane (1953) – One of the greatest westerns ever, beautiful cinematography by George Stevens.
7. Once Upon a Time in the West (1968) – Henry Fonda is a bastard in Sergio Leone’s most complete film.
6. Indiana Jones Trilogy (1979, 1984, 1989) – To count the fourth abomination in this would knock it out of the top 100 altogether.
5. Chinatown (1974) – Best. Script. Ever.
4. Rear Window (1954) – I could have made a top ten just from the Hitchcock films.
3. Psycho (1960) – Every psychological thriller since has stolen something from this film.
2. Sunset Boulevard (1950) – Love that seedy underbelly of Hollywood. Billy Wilder’s finest achievement.
1. The Godfather I and The Godfather II (1972, 1974) – Again, cannot include the latter film and call it #1. Producer Roberts Evans has three films in my top five.
*Personal favorites worth mentioning, in no particular order:
1. Star Trek II (1982)– KHAANN!!!! KHHHAAAAAANNNNN!!!!!!!
2. The Warriors (1979) – Gangs of New York for the counter-cultured.
3. Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory (1971) – Before Danny Elfman and Johnny Depp made it creepy and off-putting.
4. Friday the 13th Series – yes, they are mostly awful, but there are so many of them and they just keep coming.
5. Wayne’s World (1992) – The most quotable movie since Ghostbusters.
One last mention, Paramount studios is the ONLY major studio to reach the milestone of turning 100. To celebrate, please download the free app ‘Paramount Pictures 100 Years of Movie Magic’ on iTunes.