History of MGM Studios

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Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer was the largest and best known Hollywood studio, next to Fox, Warner Bros, and Universal. It was founded by the merger of several small companies (Metro Pictures, Goldwyn Pictures, and Louis B. Mayer Productions) in 1924. Despite having Samuel Goldwyn’s name on the logo, the man left the Goldwyn company even before the merger. Thus, MGM was headed by Louis B. Mayer and Irving Thalberg.

The Early Days of MGM

In the beginning, Metro Pictures provided the leading stars and directors. Goldwyn provided the studio at Culver City and the roaring lion logo adopted by the company. Mayer provided his own small band of stars and was essentially the head of the studio until his death in 1927.

The company was best known for its continuous stream of new and upcoming stars and was well known for the quality and loyalty of their people. There were even technicians who worked in the company for over 30 years. However, the company was devoted more to the craft of filmmaking, rather than the art of it, and so most of its directors left after a relatively short time. Names like Stroheim, Ingram, Stiller, and Sjöström left the company, taking their creativity with them.

Effectively, MGM remained a B-Movie powerhouse, despite the quality and the mantra Mayer instilled in the company: “If it’s an MGM film, it has to look like an MGM film”. However, there were a few surprises MGM provided, such as the movies The Wind by Sjöström and Gish, The Crowd by Vidor, and Freaks by Browning.

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