From the early days of silent movies to the end of the ‘Studio System’, this collection of radio interviews from the BBC Archive uncovers the story of Hollywood movie-making’s formative years. Legendary actors and directors reveal in their own words how it felt to be a part of a ‘golden age’ of film production. Combining BBC radio broadcasts and unedited interviews (many available in full for the first time), BBC Archive go behind the scenes of Tinseltown and relive some of the greatest adventures of the silver screen.
- Frank Capra recalls his remarkable career. He talks candidly about his time at the studios on Gower Street, his relationship with Columbia boss Harry Cohn and the inner workings of the ‘studio system’.
- Alfred Hitchcock speaks to Anthony Friese-Greene about the use of music in his movies. The director discusses the ‘screaming violins’ that made ‘Psycho’ so memorable, the electronic sound-scapes he commissioned for ‘The Birds’ and Herbert Bath’s score for Hitchcock’s first sound picture, ‘Blackmail’.
- Charlie Chaplin answers questions about his career. Joining him for this discussion are film producer Michael Balcon, actor John Mills and critics Dilys Powell and Paul Holt. Chaplin refutes the claim that he is a ‘genius’, although the panellists insist that he probably is. He stresses the importance of music in film-making and laments the loss of magic in modern cinema.
- Boris Karloff pays tribute to the role that changed his life, the monster in James Whale’s 1931 version of ‘Frankenstein’.
- Orson Welles is quizzed about his forthcoming film, which is based on one of William Shakespeare’s plays. The interviewer, Nancy Wise, can be heard over the telephone.
- Howard Hawks, the director of ‘Scarface’ (1932) and ‘Gentlemen Prefer Blondes’ (1953), talks about Marilyn Monroe, the role of producers and writers, and his working relationship with Samuel Goldwyn. He also shares his thoughts on the ‘studio system’, current cinema productions and the early days of Hollywood.
- Henry Fonda shares memories of his friend and one-time agent, Leland Hayward. He reveals the importance of the agent in negotiations and explains Hayward’s connections to many of the major players in the American movie industry, such as James Stewart, Ginger Rogers and Fred Astaire.
- Billy Wilder conversation covers many topics, including the rise of Hitler, the rate of film production during Hollywood’s peak, the ‘star system’, the advent of corporate-driven television and the state of the US economy. He goes into detail about the ‘tightly run fortresses’ of studio heads Louis B Mayer, Harry Cohn and Samuel Goldwyn and speculates on how the movie moguls would have coped with the lack of censorship visible in modern pictures.
- Joseph Mankiewicz speaks dismissively about modern movies. He goes on to talk about censorship in the early days of Hollywood, the difficulties he found in working with Darryl F Zanuck on ‘Cleopatra’ (1963) and who really has the last word on a picture’s final cut.
- William Wyler was the director of classics such as ‘Wuthering Heights’ (1939), ‘Mrs Miniver’ (1942) and ‘Ben-Hur’ (1959). In this unedited recording, he talks about a life in the movie business that started with an invitation from a distant cousin to visit the USA from his home in Alsace and would eventually see him nominated for a record 12 Academy Awards for Best Director. Wyler recalls working as an office boy at Universal’s New York headquarters, the two-reel silent Westerns on which he learnt his craft and his rise through the studios of Universal, Samuel Goldwyn and Louis B Mayer. He also discusses his relationships with both stars and producers over a unique, 45-year period of US movie history.
- John Huston talks about fighting with Errol Flynn, his preference for ‘stories to do with men’ and what the medium of film means to him. He also touches on his relationships with his father (the actor Walter Huston) and his own children, and recalls his time as a down-and-out living on the streets of London.
- Charlton Heston looks back on his career, with a specific focus on the 1950s and the end of the ‘studio system’. He mentions some of the directors he worked with during that time, including Cecil B DeMille, who cast him in ‘The Greatest Show on Earth’ (1952), George Stevens, William Wyler and Orson Welles, who worked both in front of and behind the camera in ‘Touch of Evil’ (1958).
- Miklos Rozsa's music has been used in countless films and TV programmes, from the spiralling strings of Alfred Hitchcock's 'Spellbound' (1945) to the melodramatic 'Dum de dum dum' sting of 'Dragnet' (1954). In this interview, he talks about some of the battles he faced in convincing directors of the importance of music, and shares his secrets for creating the perfect score.
- Joan Fontaine talks about parties, famous Hollywood producers and working with a reluctant Laurence Olivier on ‘Rebecca’ (1940).
- Jack Lemmon talks about catching the acting bug as a child, the films and directors he admires the most and how Walter Matthau is his favourite leading lady.
- Kirk Douglas discusses the strong influence of his father and his upbringing on his life and career. He also shares his views on women’s liberation, relates anecdotes about his son Michael and friend Marlene Dietrich, and highlights the significance of ‘Spartacus’ (1960) and ‘One Flew over the Cuckoo’s Nest’ (1975).
- Tony Curtis talks about his relationship with Marilyn Monroe, his string of affairs and marriages, and the pressures exerted by the ‘studio system’ on the stars. He also discusses his devastating slide into cocaine and alcohol addiction during the 1970s and the success of ‘The Persuaders!’, the TV crime drama series he made with Roger Moore in the UK in 1971.
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