Learn about Life in the 1920s

Movie Industry Created numerous new Businesses in Hollywood

TWO hundred thousand miles of film are made in Hollywood each year, we read. Measured in feet, the last four years production reaches the astonishing figure of 150,000,000,000.


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A single studio "has a thousand acres with 1,500,000 square feet of floor space," while "another company requires twenty-three buildings with several hundred thousand square feet of stage space" and "miles of paved streets." Obviously, then, "it's a big business in which Hollywood is engaged," and Mr. Will H. Hays describes the place as "primarily a business center." Even keeping track of the 18,000 listed actors is an enormous job. Last year, as we are told, the Central Casting Bureau made 259,259 placements of extras, the year's work requiring 8,000,000 telephone calls. And the costuming! According to Mr. Hays, "One company has a stock of costumes valued well up in the millions, which it has taken them twelve years to collect. They occupy a modern sky-scraper, from basement to roof, and have over 200,000 square feet of space crammed with every conceivable variety of clothing from the days of our antediluvian ancestors right down to the latest Parisian stuff." Mean-while, Hollywood has its collection of animals on call. In an article copyrighted by the North American Newspaper Alliance, Mr. Hays tells us:

There are at least two large zoos in southern California, no small share of whose income is derived from the motion-picture companies. One zoo, founded nearly twenty years ago, when Colonel Selig moved his collection of animals from Chicago so that they could be used in his film productions; is one of the largest in the world.

This particular zoo has more than a score of lions, a similar number of tigers, and samples of pretty nearly every known type of wild animals. It covers a total area of twenty-five acres and has in addition to an army of keepers two skilled animal trainers who put all their time in training the various beasts. These animals are in constant use in pictures.

In addition to this one big collection, there is the winter quarters of the Al G. Barnes circus, where a similar collection of trained animals is available. Then there are a lion farm, an alligator farm, an ostrich farm, and various other collections of animals, all of which are ready to perform.

Besides these organizations, California has a very large number of individuals who have single animals, or small collections. There are numerous dog kennels with every variety of canine histrionic talent. These animals, always easily trained, can accomplish marvels in the way of stunts of one kind and another, and are genuinely camera-broke, with the ability to perform before audiences.

As with personnel, costumes, and animals, so with properties. Hollywood has its agents in the principal cities of Europe, South America, and the Orient "picking up props' which will come in handy in the making of pictures." Meanwhile, continues Mr. Hays:

There are a number of agencies in Hollywood whose business is research and technical direction. If you want a London embassy ball, they can not only give you all the information regarding procedure, but can supply you with an Englishman who will supervise the scene for you, and see to it that it is letter-perfect down to the smallest detail. Experts are available in Hollywood for almost every conceivable type of event, no matter how unfamiliar it may be to the ordinary individual. When complete it will pass muster with the most exacting expert.

Period furniture is available in vast quantities, so that on short notice it is possible to assemble a "set" with chairs, tables, and other furnishings exactly in character with the scene represented. Hollywood has vast storehouses of such material instantly available, and in addition it has organizations capable of turning out freak stuff, not immediately available, in the shortest possible space of time.

It is true that nature has done much to make Hollywood the capital of the motion-picture industry. As Mr. Hays reminds us,

Sunshine and light, mountain ranges and the sea, city streets and arid wastelands are the natural properties which Hollywood offers to the maker of moving-pictures, and they are properties as essential to moving-pictures as iron-ore and coke are to the maker of steel.

Within one day's journey may be found the background for almost any country under the sun, and from the windows of Hollywood one may look with equal ease upon the snow-capped corderillas or upon the blue waters of the Pacific. Old Mexico is not so much as a night's excursion, and if the script calls for Bedouins in a desert, suitable scenes may be found within a few hours' travel eastward.

However, the advantages of environment alone do not hold the motion-picture industry in southern California. In its fifteen years of growth in and around Hollywood, from what many thought was a crazy idea to the world-wide industry with a total capital investment of $150,000,000, the motion-picture business has built up in California an organization of indispensable individuals and allied arts that could not be duplicated elsewhere.

That is why about 85 per cent. of the world's film productions are made in Hollywood. That is why a picture of London life can be made better and cheaper in Hollywood than it can in London.

When you have a story, a director, a cast of principals and a studio, you have just begun to get ready to produce a motion-picture. There is a background of trained extra people, skilled mechanics, wardrobe and furniture houses, and similar individuals and organizations vitally necessary to economical production.

A city of work, then, is Hollywood, and Mr. Hays observes:

Like one big family the workers in Hollywood go seriously about the business of making pictures for the world. Outside the studios they are simple home-loving people like the rest of us, keen, of course, eager, ambitious to a degree beyond the ordinary, because they are all artists, but there is little difference between the homes of Beverly Hills and those of Sullivan, Indiana, once yon have crossed the welcome mat before the doors.

There are gardens, swimming-pools, gymnasiums, beautiful paved roads for motoring—all marks of beauty, and all fitted to keep the actors in the best of health. Nowhere else in the world, I dare say, do a group of people work so hard and conscientiously at keeping in physical shape for work. Motion-picture actors are like football players who keep in trim the year around.

Source: The Literary Digest for October 1, 1927