June Mathis: The Devil and Hollywood’s “Million Dollar Girl”

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Surprisingly little is written about June Mathis these days. But in the early 1920s she was considered the most powerful female executive in Hollywood. Even film historians who focus on the industry’s female trailblazers don’t devote much space to Mathis. … Continued

Filming ‘Ben-Hur’ in Mussolini’s Italy

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It’s a sad failing of silent film history that there isn’t more documentation of events in Italy during MGM’s first location shoot of “Ben-Hur.” Judging from the little that survives in memoirs, budget sheets, studio memos, and in a smattering … Continued

Unionizing Hollywood: ‘Ben-Hur’ and the Un-silencing of Labor in 1926

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The history of labor relations in the motion picture industry throughout the silent film era is still not widely known — and for good reason. It was the one subject that Hollywood itself sought to suppress.   This greater silence … Continued

Re-inventing Antioch

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In 1925, Joseph M. Newman walked wide-eyed onto the most important movie set in Hollywood  history. The 16-year-old newcomer from Utah had been hired as an office boy by Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer. But on that Saturday morning of October 17 he reported … Continued