TCM’s Moguls & Movie Stars Pays Homage to the People Who Made Hollywood a Hit

Taking on the whole history of Hollywood in only seven hours is a crazy task, but  Jon Wilkman gets it done by focusing on the men (and a few women) who made Hollywood what it is today; from the early film pioneers like Thomas Edison, to the golden era of Louis B. Mayer and Jack Warner to the rebels who brought politics, sex and violence to the screen in ways we had never seen before. You may think you know movies, but “Moguls and Movie Stars: A History of Hollywood” is loaded with stories, photos and clips that have never been shown on TV before.

I talked to veteran documentary filmmaker, Jon Wilkman about how the series came together and he gave me a sneak peek of what we’ll be seeing in the weeks to come.

Let’s talk movies. Going back in the old Hollywood days of Louis B. Mayer and Jack Warner, those guys were celebs in and of their own right. But these days I don’t think anyone could tell you who runs a studio.

Jon Wilkman: “That’s really the core of [the documentary], this founding generation who built the great studios and why it ended in 1969-1970. That’s when those great studios begin to morph into something else and these old founding moguls begin to die off. [Back then] it was a very personalized kind of Hollywood, it was a relatively small community of people and the studios really were these fiefdoms. Louis B. Mayer was the king of MGM. Jack Warner was the king of Warner Brothers, and Sam Goldwyn was the king of Goldwyn pictures. These are the guys who not only owned these operations; they created them to a great extent. These were their babies literally, and that’s not the case anymore because movie studios are part of enormous entertainment conglomerates and they’re managed as any great international businesses is managed by very smart businessmen.

The moguls were business men absolutely, they were in it to make money, but at the same time they really loved movies and they had a gut instinct, they had kind of a showman’s instinct for what would play and what would make them some money, and what kind of star would appeal to an audience. So this was a very personal kind of business for them. Certainly there are very many talented people and very smart people in Hollywood today, but it’s not the kind of personal business it was during that time we are talking about.”

I understand you got access to photos and other items that have never been seen before. Can you tell us more about that?

Jon Wilkman: “We wanted to have the most credible storytellers possible, so we chose people who were very close to the main characters in our story. We talked to Sam Goldwyn junior, we talked to Richard Zanuck, we talked to Daniel Selznick, to George Stevens junior. These are people who know really well, and we talked to 101-year-old Carla Laemmle, the niece of Carl Laemmle the founder of Universal. Many of them have these family photos that they gave us. Maybe they were not ‘never seen before’ but they weren’t seen widely and it shows the connection, the depth of the research that we wanted to do. I always take research very seriously in the work that I do and we scoured a lot of these archives and found things that were little known if not unknown.

One of the things that we got from the Gaumont Pathé Archives in France is a picture of a pioneering woman director Alice Guy-Blache directing a sound movie in 1905. Another thing we show is that for many, many, years a very famous early Edison clip was of a man playing a violin, and a couple of men, Edison laboratory workers dancing, and that clip had been known for fifty, sixty, a hundred years. Very recently, maybe the last ten years or so, they were going through the archives and they found a cylinder which had a violin playing on it and someone thought, hey! And they put the two together and sure enough it was a 1896 sound film.”

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You’ll see both of those stories played out on “Peepshow Pioneers” the first episode of “Moguls and Movie Stars: A History of Hollywood” which airs tonight on Turner Classic Movies at 8:00. After the episode, set your DVR for a full seven hours of films rarely seen on TV including the silent works of Thomas Edison, Georges Melies and DW Griffith. (A full list can be found at the end of this article.)

The series will continue next Monday and every Monday December 13, so come back next week when Jon Wilkman and I will talk about how everything old is new again.

In the meantime, please visit the Moguls & Movie Stars website on TCM for more information about this great new series.

Tonight on “Moguls & Movie Stars”

“Peepshow Pioneers” (Monday, Nov 1, at 8 p.m. (ET/PT))

As America was transformed by the arrival of millions of immigrants in the 1890s, the first generation of American filmmakers joined with other innovators and entrepreneurs to create a bright new entertainment form that would transform the world. Thomas Edison perfected a device called the Kinetoscope that made pictures move, for one viewer at a time. In France, the brothers Auguste and Louis Lumière brought scenes of everyday life to the screen for a large audience, while the magician Georges Méliès created startling visual effects on film and Alice Guy Blaché became the first female film director. In the U.S., moviemaking in these early days was concentrated in New York, New Jersey and Chicago. Working for Edison, Edwin S. Porter created one of the first films to tell a complete story, The Great Train Robbery (1903).  In 1905 Adolph Zukor (later to found Paramount Pictures) and Marcus Loew (who would create a major theater chain) established theatres to show movies, called Nickelodeons.  Edison meanwhile joined forces with investors and equipment manufacturers, including Eastman Kodak, to establish the Motion Picture Patents Company and demand royalties from other filmmakers. Many defied this demand, including German immigrant Carl Laemmle, who formed his own production company, IMP, in 1909 and went on to establish Universal Pictures Company, Inc. in a rural hamlet of Southern California called Hollywood.


Following each Monday’s episode of MOGULS & MOVIE STARS, TCM will present a collection of films from the era covered.  The following is the complete schedule for Monday, Nov. 1 (TCM premieres in bold):

Monday, Nov. 1


Episode 1 – “Peepshow Pioneers” (1889-1910) – Premiere

9 p.m.         The Films of Thomas Edison

Blacksmithing Scene (1893)

The Barbershop (1893)

Edison Kinetoscopic Record of a Sneeze (1894)

Sandow (1894)

Boxing Cats (1894)

Annabelle Butterfly Dance (1894)

Sioux Ghost Dance (1884)

Annie Oakley (1894)

Roberta and Doretto – Chinese Laundry (1894)

Fire Rescue Scene (1894)

Dickson Experimental Sound Film (1895)

The Execution of Mary, Queen of Scots (1895)

The John C. Rice – May Irwin Kiss (1896)

Shooting the Chutes (1896)

Fatima, Muscle Dancer (1896)

Fifth Avenue, New York (1897)

Mr. Edison at Work in His Chemical Laboratory (1897)

What Happened on 23, NYC Pan American Exposition by Night (1901)

Life of an American Fireman (1903)

What Happened in the Tunnel (1903)

The Great Train Robbery (1903)

The Kleptomaniac (1905)

The Little Train Robbery (1905)

The Dream of a Rarebit Fiend (1906)

Three American Beauties (1906)

Films of the San Francisco Earthquake (1906)

The “Teddy” Bears (1907)

The Rivals (1907)

Rescued from an Eagle’s Nest (1908)

The Lone Game (1915)


Episode 1 – “Peepshow Pioneers” (1889-1910) – Encore

12 a.m.       D.W. Griffith with Biograph

Those Awful Hats (1909)

Corner in Wheat (1909)

In the Border States (1910)

For His Son (1912)

The Sunbeam (1912)

The Girl and Her Trust (1912)

The Musketeers of Pig Alley (1912)

The Mothering Heart (1913)

2 a.m.         The Films of Georges Méliès

Card Party (1896)

The Vanishing Lady (1896)

A Nightmare (1896)

The One Man Band (1900)

The Trip Conjurer and the Living Head (1900)

Excelsior! Prince of Magicians (1901)

The Devil and the Statue (1901)

A Trip to the Moon (1902)

Gulliver’s Travels Among the Lilliputians and the Giants (1902)

The Infernal Cake-Walk (1903)

The Kingdom of Faries (1903)

Jupiter’s Thunderballs (1903)

The Cook in Trouble (1904)

A Crazy Composer (1905)

The Eclipse, or The Courtship of the Sun and Moon (1907)

The Conquest of the Pole (1912)

4 a.m.         Silent Shakespeare

King John (1899)

The Tempest (1908)

A Midsummer Night’s Dream (1909)

King Lear (1910)

Twelfth Night (1910)

The Merchant of Venice (1910)

Richard III (1911)

5:30 a.m.    Ramona (1910)

Encore, Panel Discussions and Films

Each Wednesday, TCM will present a special encore of that week’s episode MOGULS & MOVIE STARS, followed by a panel discussion with Robert Osborne, Jon Wilkman and film experts featured in the series.  Each Wednesday night schedule also includes additional films about or made during the era covered in that week’s episode.  The following is the complete schedule for Wednesday, Nov. 3 (TCM premieres in bold):

Wednesday, Nov. 3

8 p.m.         The Magic Box (1951)


Episode 1 – “Peepshow Pioneers” (1889 – 1910) – Encore

11 p.m.       Episode 1 Panel Discussion – Robert Osborne and Jon Wilkman

11:15 p.m.   Nickelodeon (1976)

1:15 a.m.    When Comedy Was King (1959)

2:45 a.m.    Hearts of the West (1975)

4:30 a.m.    Show People (1938)

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