Destry Rides Again, Mr Smith Goes to Washington, and the Fall of the Hollywood Studio System

3533 Words 15 Pages
Destry Rides Again, Mr Smith Goes to Washington, and the Fall of the Hollywood Studio System

Thomas Schatz cites the 1950’s as the inevitable end of the Hollywood film studio system, with the signs appearing as early as the height of the second World War (472). However, the seeds of discontent and disintegration within the system were apparent as soon as the late 1930’s, exemplified in such films as Destry Rides Again (1939, George Marshall) and Mr. Smith Goes To Washington (1939, Frank Capra). The production of these two films and the paths down which they led their star (James Stewart), directors (at least Frank Capra), and studios (Universal and Columbia, respectively) are evidence of the decline of the studio system. The
…show more content…
The balance of power was thus tipped in favor of the individual filmmakers. These films also served to launch James Stewart’s career as a successful leading man (usually next to a star leading lady), particularly in the western genre (The Man From Laramie, The Naked Spur, Winchester 73), as a patriotic all-American (It’s a Wonderful Life, again with Capra), and working with and as an independent (his infamous contract with Universal and his work with Alfred Hitchcock, both in the 1950’s). Destry Rides Again and Mr. Smith Goes To Washington also raise issues regarding the value placed on dramatic and outright patriotic films in comparison to the value placed on films which serve as mere entertainment. While Mr. Smith Goes to Washington is an overtly political film, Destry Rides Again, in its own way, is highly political and both films reveal that the United States of 1939 was a politically charged nation preparing itself subconsciously to take part in a worldwide war.

During the second half of the 1930s, Universal came under a completely new ownership. The traditional owners, the Laemmle family, lost Universal at this time after leading it up and down the mountains and valleys of success and failure. The new owner, J. Cheever Cowdin, set up Robert H. Cochrane and Charles R. Rogers in charge of Universal. They kept the company going, sometimes by thin margins, until the very end of the 1930s
Open Document