This series surveys the history of Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer Studios from its creation and rise in the 1920's, its pinnacle in the 30's and 40's to it's decline in the 1950's. Written by
Kenneth Chisholm <email@example.com>
The three-part documentary originally contained a lot of footage of Fred Astaire when it was broadcast on PBS and Turner Classic Movies. The newly released DVD has re-edited the segments in Part 3 and deleted almost all of the Astaire footage, including clips of him dancing with Gene Kelly and Lucille Bremer--both from Ziegfeld Follies (1945) and solo in Royal Wedding (1951), as Debbie Reynolds shares a story about meeting him and being invited to watch him rehearse. See more »
Following the last ending credit of "Part Three" is displayed the following dedication text: Dedicated to the memory of Samuel Marx and Freddie Bartholomew See more »
Very effective tribute to MGM's glory years and gradual "decline"
When I first saw this on TNT back in 1992, I was disappointed. I thought there would be more background on Marcus Loew, Metro, Goldwyn and Louis Mayer's pre-1924 history. I was also (unjustly) critical of Patrick Stewart's hosting, the exclusion of certain favorite films, and the very limited coverage of Cedric Gibbons (not to mention many other MGM luminaries) and the short subject departments.
However, time has been kind to this series. Watching it on DVD has been quite refreshing (even with the Astaire edits harped on by fans). Since '92, I've seen parts of the RKO series (and dying to see more!), enjoyed the 20th Century Fox's "First 50 Years" and its "Blockbuster" sequel (although these utilize too many film clips and not enough back-lot story) and was, once again, a bit disappointed with YOU MUST REMEMBER THIS (Warner Bros.). WHEN THE LION ROARS is as good of a film studio overview as you can get in three two-hour installments.
For one thing, we get a lot more coverage of the Culver City lot than we ever get of the Burbank lot in YOU MUST REMEMBER THIS, despite (and perhaps because of) the fact that so much has been bulldozed to the ground. I visited Warner's twice on their tours and was surprised at how much of it is still intact. I can only imagine how great MGM (the surviving parts owned by Sony) would be today, had anyone listened to Debbie Reynold's suggestion of it being a "ready-made Disneyland".
Although the glory lies in the classic film clips, much of its heart come from the interviews. Margaret Booth's comment that "we never made bad pictures" emphasizes how the art of film editing kept MGM the top dog of the business. Samuel Marx's observation of Louis Mayer crying during LASSIE COME HOME (produced by future adversary Dore Shary) speaks volumes... even if Mayer was the best "actor" of the studio. Earlier footage of Lillian Gish, King Vidor and Eleanor Boardman are cleverly utilized from the BBC's 12-year old Hollywood series in Part 1's coverage of the silent years.
I once thought Patrick Stewart's narration and dramatic introductions a little too... shall we say?... "hammy". Today, they serve as a pleasing initiation into the "make believe" factory. His walk in front of a screen showing 1925's BEN HUR chariot race is as equally effective as any of the interviews; it demonstrates how thin the line between industry "product" and fantasy was during Hollywood's Golden Age.
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