Hunt Stromberg

Hunt Stromberg (July 12, 1894 – August 23, 1968) was a film producer during Hollywood's Golden Age.[1] In a prolific 30-year career beginning in 1921, Stromberg produced, wrote, and directed some of Hollywood's most profitable and enduring films, including The Thin Man series, the Nelson Eddy/Jeanette MacDonald operettas, The Women, and The Great Ziegfeld, which won the Academy Award for Best Picture of 1936.

Hunt Stromberg
HuntStromberg
BornJuly 12, 1894
Louisville, Kentucky, United States
DiedAugust 23, 1968 (aged 74)
Resting placeCalvary Cemetery, Los Angeles
OccupationFilm producer, director, writer, publicist
Years active1921–1951
Spouse(s)Katherine Kerwin, ? – 1951 (her death)
ChildrenHunt Stromberg Jr.
AwardsAcademy awards: The Great Ziegfeld, Best Picture, 1936

Early career

Hunt Stromberg was born in Louisville, Kentucky, in 1894. Leaving a career as a newspaper reporter and sports writer for the St. Louis Times,[2][3] he followed an advertising friend into the motion picture industry prior to World War I, becoming publicity director for the Goldwyn Pictures Corporation in New York.[4]

In 1918, the company sent Stromberg to California, where he developed an interest in filmmaking;[3] by 1919 he had become the personal representative of industry pioneer Thomas H. Ince,[4] and by 1921 he had written, produced and directed his first film. He promptly resigned from Ince's staff to form Hunt Stromberg Productions.[3]

Independent producer

From his first independent film, The Foolish Age (1921), Stromberg quickly made his mark by turning out independent, low-budget films in increasing quantity and quality.[4]

In 1922 Stromberg signed Bull Montana, a popular matinee idol, to a long-term contract to star in short comedies, and hired comedy director Mal St. Clair, who had worked with Mack Sennett and Buster Keaton. When Sid Grauman saw a rough cut of the resulting A Ladies' Man (1922), he immediately booked the film to premiere at his Million Dollar Theater in Los Angeles on April 30, 1922.[3] Stromberg continued his string of successes with Breaking into Society (1923), which he wrote, produced and directed.

Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer

Stromberg joined newly formed Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer in 1925[4] and became one of its key executives, listed as one of the studio's "Big Four" with Louis B. Mayer, Irving Thalberg, and Harry Rapf—later with Thalberg, David O. Selznick, and Walter Wanger.[3]

He was the first production supervisor to get a "produced by" credit on-screen,[4] well deserved considering his achievements. He produced:

as well as such prestige milestones as Academy Award-winning The Great Ziegfeld (1936), Marie Antoinette (1938), The Women (1939), and Pride and Prejudice (1940).[3][4] At the height of his career, MGM was producing 52 films a year, or an average of one film a week, staying in the black despite the Great Depression.[2]

Stromberg was one of the top ranked money makers of Hollywood, with a salary to match: US $8,000 a week, guaranteed. In 1937, he was included in management's inner circle and received an additional 1.5% of Loews Theaters profits. The Treasury Department listed Stromberg as one of the ten highest paid executives in the United States.[3]

But there were substantial changes in those years. Thalberg died in 1936, while Selznick and Wanger left MGM in 1937, leaving Mayer in sole, hands-on control. There are conflicting interpretations of what caused the rift,[3][4] but by the end of 1941 it was over: after 18 years Stromberg walked away from a contract worth millions, and Mayer let him go on February 10, 1942.

Independent again

Hunt Stromberg was the first producer added to the Society of Independent Motion Picture Producers in 1942 after the group had been formed by Charlie Chaplin, Walt Disney, Samuel Goldwyn, Alexander Korda, Mary Pickford, David O. Selznick, Walter Wanger, and Orson Welles.[3]

Confounding industry expectations, Stromberg launched his own independent production company, based at RKO's Encino movie ranch, in 1943 with the smash hit Lady of Burlesque, starring Barbara Stanwyck, which grossed $1.85 million.[3]

His subsequent films were not as successful and he finally retired in 1951, in the same year his wife, Katherine Kerwin (1895–1951), died. An avid horseman and a shrewd businessman, Stromberg was independently wealthy by this time as well as a founding investor in Santa Anita Park and Hollywood Park Racetracks.[2]

Death

Stromberg died on August 23, 1968. He was survived by his son Hunt Stromberg Jr., a Broadway and television producer in his own right.[5][6]

Selected filmography

As producer

As director or screenwriter

References

  1. ^ School of Information and Library Science (November 20, 2003). "The Golden Age of Hollywood: 1930s – 1940s". University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. Retrieved June 25, 2009.
  2. ^ a b c Douglas Gomery (2008). "Hunt Stromberg". Advameg Inc. Retrieved June 25, 2009.
  3. ^ a b c d e f g h i j J. A. Aberdeen (2005). "Hunt Stromberg". Excerpt from Hollywood Renegades. Cobblestone Entertainment. Retrieved June 25, 2009.
  4. ^ a b c d e f g Hal Erickson (2009). "Hunt Stromberg Biography". Macrovision Corporation. Retrieved June 25, 2009.
  5. ^ "Hunt Stromberg, Filmmaker, Dead; Producer Was Among Big 4 of Early Days at M-G-M". The New York Times. August 25, 1968. Retrieved July 15, 2009. (Registration required (help)). Cite uses deprecated parameter |registration= (help)
  6. ^ Haber, Joyce (August 25, 1968). "Hunt Stromberg, Ex-Movie Producer, Dies". Los Angeles Times. Retrieved July 15, 2009. (Registration required (help)). Cite uses deprecated parameter |registration= (help)

External links

A Cafe in Cairo

A Cafe in Cairo is a 1924 silent film feature directed by Chester Withey and starring Priscilla Dean. Hunt Stromberg produced. It is not known whether the film currently survives.

Beyond the Border (1925 film)

Beyond the Border is a 1925 American Western film, directed by Scott R. Dunlap, produced by Hunt Stromberg and starring Harry Carey. It was released by Producers Distributing Corporation.

Boy Crazy (film)

Boy Crazy is a 1922 American comedy film directed by William A. Seiter and written by Beatrice Van. The film stars Doris May, Fred Gamble, Jean Hathaway, Frank Kingsley, Harry Myers, and Otto Hoffman. The film was released on March 5, 1922, by the Robertson-Cole Distributing Corporation. With no copies listed as being held in any film archive, it is likely to be a lost film.

Breaking Into Society

Breaking Into Society is a 1923 American silent comedy film directed by Hunt Stromberg and starring Carrie Clark Ward, Bull Montana and Kalla Pasha.

Charles R. Rogers

Charles R. Rogers (July 15, 1892 – March 29, 1957), also known as Chas. R. Rogers, was an American film producer whose career spanned both the silent and sound film eras. He should not be confused with Charles "Buddy" Rogers, who was an actor and film producer, as well as being married to Mary Pickford. Rogers began his career on the 1924 silent film, A Cafe in Cairo, produced by the short-lived Hunt Stromberg Productions. After Stromberg ceased productions in 1925, Rogers would found his own independent company, Charles R. Rogers Productions. He would also produce for major studios such as RKO Radio Pictures, Universal, and United Artists. The pinnacle of his career would be from 1936 to 1938 when he was chosen as the vice-president in charge of production for Universal Pictures. He died as the result of injuries sustained in a car accident in 1957.

Hunt Stromberg Jr.

Hunt Stromberg Jr. (May 16, 1923 – November 24, 1986) was a Broadway, radio and television producer best remembered for the discovery and casting of Maila Nurmi as Vampira, and for producing the 1973 film Frankenstein: The True Story.

Lady of Burlesque

Lady of Burlesque (also known as The G-String Murders and in the UK, Striptease Lady) is a 1943 American musical comedy-mystery film directed by William A. Wellman and starring Barbara Stanwyck and Michael O'Shea. It is based on the novel The G-String Murders written by strip tease queen Gypsy Rose Lee.

Our Dancing Daughters

Our Dancing Daughters is a 1928 American silent drama film starring Joan Crawford and John Mack Brown about the "loosening of youth morals" that took place during the 1920s. The film was directed by Harry Beaumont and produced by Hunt Stromberg. This was the film that made Joan Crawford a major star, a position she held for the following half century.

While the film has no audible dialog, it was released with a synchronized soundtrack and sound effects.

Paint and Powder

Paint and Powder is a surviving 1925 silent film produced and released by the Chadwick Pictures. The director of the film was Hunt Stromberg, later be best known as a producer and one of Louis B. Mayer's right hand men over at MGM. The star of this film is Elaine Hammerstein, sister of the music writer and granddaughter of the theatrical impresario, both named Oscar Hammerstein.A print of this film is held by the Library of Congress. It is also out on DVD.

Soft Shoes

Soft Shoes is a 1925 American drama film featuring Harry Carey. A copy of Soft Shoes survives at Národní Filmový Archiv in Prague and was screened at San Francisco Silent Film Festival on May 31, 2018.

Stromberg (surname)

Stromberg is a German and Swedish surname. Notable people with the surname include:

Glenn Strömberg, Swedish soccer player

Holger Stromberg, German chef

Hunt Stromberg, American film producer

Keaton Stromberg, recording engineer

Lyndon Stromberg, American sculptor and designer

Robert Stromberg, American Art Director

Wesley Stromberg, songwriter

William Stromberg, CEO of T. Rowe PriceFictional characters:

Karl Stromberg, character in the James Bond film The Spy Who Loved Me

The Fire Patrol

The Fire Patrol is surviving 1924 silent film melodrama directed by Hunt Stromberg and starring Anna Q. Nilsson. Stromberg also produced the film and released it through Chadwick Pictures.This film is preserved at La Corse Et Le Cinema, Porto Vecchio.

The Great Ziegfeld

The Great Ziegfeld is a 1936 American musical and drama film directed by Robert Z. Leonard and produced by Hunt Stromberg. It stars William Powell as the theatrical impresario Florenz "Flo" Ziegfeld Jr., Luise Rainer as Anna Held, and Myrna Loy as Billie Burke.

The film, shot at MGM Studios in Culver City, California in the fall of 1935, is a fictionalized tribute to Florenz Ziegfeld Jr. and a cinematic adaption of Broadway's Ziegfeld Follies, with highly elaborate costumes, dances and sets. Many of the performers of the theatrical Ziegfeld Follies were cast in the film as themselves, including Fanny Brice and Harriet Hoctor, and the real Billie Burke acted as a supervisor for the film. The "A Pretty Girl Is Like a Melody" set alone was reported to have cost US$220,000 (US$3,972,134 in 2018 dollars), featuring a towering rotating volute of 70 ft (21 m) diameter with 175 spiral steps, weighing 100 tons. The music to the film was provided by Walter Donaldson, Irving Berlin, and lyricist Harold Adamson, with choreographed scenes. The extravagant costumes were designed by Adrian, taking some 250 tailors and seamstresses six months to prepare them using 50 pounds (23 kg) of silver sequins and 12 yards (11 m) of white ostrich plumes. Over a thousand people were employed in the production of the film, which required 16 reels of film after the cutting.

One of the biggest successes in film in the 1930s and the pride of MGM at the time, it was acclaimed as the greatest musical biography to be made in Hollywood and still remains a standard in musical film making. It won three Academy Awards, including Best Picture for producer Hunt Stromberg, Best Actress for Luise Rainer, and Best Dance Direction for Seymour Felix, and was nominated for four others. Although the film still is praised for its lavish production and as a symbol of glamour and excess during the Golden Age of Hollywood, today The Great Ziegfeld is generally seen less favorably and is considered by many critics to be excessively showy and too lengthy at over three hours.

MGM made two more Ziegfeld films – one entitled Ziegfeld Girl (1941), starring James Stewart, Judy Garland, Hedy Lamarr, and Lana Turner, which recycled some footage from The Great Ziegfeld, and in 1946, Ziegfeld Follies by Vincente Minnelli. In 1951, it produced a Technicolor remake of Show Boat, which Ziegfeld had presented as a stage musical.

The Painted Veil (1934 film)

The Painted Veil is a 1934 American drama directed by Richard Boleslawski and starring Greta Garbo. The film was produced by Hunt Stromberg for Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer. Based on the 1925 novel The Painted Veil by W. Somerset Maugham, with a screenplay by John Meehan, Salka Viertel, and Edith Fitzgerald, the film is about a woman who accompanies her new husband to China while he conducts medical research. Feeling neglected by her husband, the woman soon falls in love with a handsome diplomatic attaché. The film score was by Herbert Stothart, the cinematography by William H. Daniels, the art direction by Cedric Gibbons, and the costume design by Adrian. The film earned $1,658,000 at the box office.

The Red Mill

The Red Mill is an operetta written by Victor Herbert, with a libretto by Henry Blossom. The farcical story concerns two American vaudevillians who wreak havoc at an inn in Holland, interfering with two marriages; but all ends well in the end. The musical premiered on Broadway on September 24, 1906 at the Knickerbocker Theatre and ran for 274 performances, starring comedians Fred Stone and David C. Montgomery. It was revived on October 16, 1945, opening at the Ziegfeld Theatre, and running for 531 performances. The show also had a London run and toured extensively.

For the original production in 1906, producer Charles Dillingham made theatrical history by placing in front of the Knickerbocker Theater a revolving red windmill powered and lit by electricity. This was Broadway's first moving illuminated sign. The Red Mill includes the famous songs Every Day is Lady's Day with Me, The Streets of New York, You Never Can Tell About a Woman, and Because You're You.

A 1927 silent movie version starred Marion Davies and was directed by Roscoe "Fatty" Arbuckle under the pseudonym of William Goodrich. The situation of Gretchen and the Captain is retained from the operetta, but it is made a subplot. Davies' character was invented for the film.

The long-running 1945 Broadway revival produced by Hunt Stromberg Jr. featured Michael O'Shea, Eddie Foy Jr., Juli Lynne Charlot, Eddie Dew, Charles Collins, Odette Myrtil and Hal Price.

The Siren of Seville

The Siren of Seville is a 1924 American silent adventure film directed by Jerome Storm and Hunt Stromberg, and starring Priscilla Dean.The Siren of Seville is preserved in a foreign archive; Filmmuseum EYE Institute, Amsterdam.

The Strange Woman

The Strange Woman is a 1946 American drama film noir thriller film and directed by Edgar G. Ulmer starring Hedy Lamarr, George Sanders and Louis Hayward. Originally released by United Artists, the film is now in the public domain.

The Vampira Show

The Vampira Show was an American variety show hosted by Vampira. The series aired on the Los Angeles ABC television affiliate KABC-TV from April 30, 1954, through April 2, 1955. The series was produced and created by Hunt Stromberg, Jr., and featured the Vampira character created by Maila Nurmi.

Though the show was unseen outside of the Los Angeles area, The Vampira Show has become a cult classic, spawning fan clubs all over the world.

Young Widow

Young Widow is a 1946 drama film directed by Edwin L. Marin, starring Jane Russell and Louis Hayward. It focuses on Joan Kenwood, a young journalist who cannot get over her husband's death in World War II. Kenwood is reminded in large ways and small of her late husband during every one of her assignments. With The Outlaw still being withheld from general release, Young Widow was Jane Russell's debut.

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