Universal Pictures - 100 Years Young - 1912-2012

Carl Laemmle

I stated my resolution for the new year for this blog would be to post more and watch more movies.  I began this post at 8am on January 1, and now it's April.  So much for New Year Resolutions!  ;-)

In 1912 cinema was a booming business.  Rapidly growing there were many many film companies on the books.  By 1912 some early pioneers were already fading, Thanhouser was acquired by Mutual in 1912 (and Mutual later aquired Majestic; Mutual did not last long either).   Famous-Players Film Corporation was founded in 1912 (the company later merged with Jesse Lasky and became Paramount Pictures Corpration). Mack Sennett had left D.W. Griffith and Biograph and founded Keystone under the Triangle Corporation Banner (with Griffith and Ince).

1912 also saw the birth of Universal Pictures.  Universal Pictures is still going strong in 2012.  Universal is celebrating their centenary, among other thing, by releasing some wonderful classics on blu-ray.  The excitement is already building for the restoration of the 1931 Dracula (I understand the soundtrack has been most affected by the restoration, in a really good way) and the 1975 Jaws also undergoing a complete restoration.  They've dedicated a website for the 100th anniversary.

Universal infamously through inattention or accident lost most of the negatives of their impressive silent output.  Happily, even though some exist only in badly worn or decomposed prints, plenty of good stuff remains.  Many many well known stars got their start or spent some time working at Universal, including Mary Pickford, Rudolph Valentino, Lon Chaney, and directors like Erich von Stroheim, Clarence Brown and William Wyler.  Universal created some of the most memorable silent films, including The Phantom of the Opera (buy this one, it is the BEST), Foolish Wives, The Man Who Laughs, The Goose Woman and Smoldering Fires.  Like many of the studios, there were plenty of run of the mill programmer pictures in between the Universal-Jewell Super productions, but what remains, some of it is really choice!

Universal brought us the wonderful horror films Dracula, Frankenstein, Bride of Frankenstein, Son of Frankenstein and The Mummy.  They even brought us the always fun and campy as hell Maria Montez and Jon Hall pictures of the 1940s. 

Over the years, Universal has also had a fabulous and ever evolving logo to introduce their films.  What follows is a sampling of some of the variations over the years.

Here's a rather creepy version of the Universal Logo circa 1925 in which Carl Laemmle conquers the universe.

Here's one from 1927

Here's one from 1928

Here's another that was standard from 1937-46

And here is the new logo for 2012

I hope to review some Universal Pictures from the silent and talkie era to help celebrate the centenary in proper fashion.  Watch this space!

Here's the main studio building that opened originally in 1914 (this postcard looks to be from the 1940s).  The central window was a 4x4 stained glass panel with the Universal Pictures logo.  This building has long since been torn down.  Sad.

Photo Courtesy: Tracy Terhune

Happily, the peeps at Universal salvaged the stained glass and it is now in the main administration building on the still functioning and very active lot.

I'm looking forward to celebrating Universal's centenary.  1912 will also be a year of celebration for Paramount Pictures, more on that later.


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