Wednesday, November 20, 2013

Tinsel Town Restructuring

The Gray Lady informs us:

... A rolling realignment has knocked out top [Hollywood] executives, broken apart old alliances and shattered assumptions about corporate loyalties and the industry’s pecking order.

Is Jeff Robinov, edged aside in June as president of the Warner Brothers Motion Picture Group, now headed toward Sony Pictures, as Hollywood’s busy trade press has speculated? People briefed on Mr. Robinov’s dealings, who spoke on the condition of anonymity because the situation is in flux, said any such move was distant at best, and would rely on his willingness and ability to raise money for a small film slate and pay for his own staff.

But anything is possible at a time when Sony has hired Bain & Company to help identify $100 million or more in cuts, which would almost assuredly result in layoffs; nine senior marketing and communications executives have been fired across studios like 20th Century Fox, DreamWorks Animation and Relativity Media; no lesser a producer than Jerry Bruckheimer is without a home base; and Comcast has fired the chiefs of its Universal Pictures and Focus Features divisions. ...

On the picket line today, an Editors Guild rep complained to me about cuts in their membership ranks at Disney, as the cost-cutters go through everything with a sharp hatchet, cutting here and slashing there. And of course DreamWorks Animation carved deep into TAG membership ranks at the start of 2013, laying off hundreds.

So now executive heads are rolling, but it has always been thus in Hollywood. William Fox lost control of his company when Darryl Zanuck, who had exited Warner Bros. two years before, merged his Century Pictures with the large company and became the production honcho. And Bill Fox became history.

But the days of the long knives has been a Movieland tradition forever:

... My favorite Hollywood story is about the Warner Brothers, Jack and Harry. The day after Hal Wallis (who had been head of production at the studio) ankled and left them flat, there was deep gloom and a horrid sense of catastrophe at the executive lunch table.

All the boys huddle down at the bottom of the table to get far away from Jack Warner when he came in. All but one, a pushing young producer named Jerry Wald (supposed by some to be the original Sammy Glick in What Makes Sammy Run) who sits down near the head of the table.

Jack and Harry Warner come in. Jack sits at the head of the table and Harry just around the corner. Jerry Wald is near and all the others as far away as possible. Jack looks at them with disgust and turns to Harry.

Jack: That sonofabitch, Wallis.

Harry: Yes, Jack.

Jack: A lousy fifty dollar a week publicity man. We built him up from nothing. We made him one of the biggest men in Hollywood. And what does he do to us? He picks up his hat and walks out and leaves us cold.

Harry: Yes, Jack.

Jack: That's gratitude for you. And that that sonfabitch Zanuck. A lousy hundred a week writer and we took him in hand and built him up and made him one of the biggest men in Hollywood. And what did he do to us? Picked up his hat and walked out on us cold.

Harry: Yes, Jack.

Jack: That's gratitude for you. Why, we could take any sonfabitch we liked and build him up from nothing and make him one of the biggest men in Hollywood.

Harry: Yes, Jack.

Jack: Anybody at all. (He turns and looks at Jerry Wald.) What's your name?

Wald: Jerry Wald, Mr. Warner.

Jack: (To Harry) Jerry Wald. Why, Harry, we could take this fellow here, this Jerry Wald and build him up from nothing to be one of the biggest men in Hollywood, couldn't we, Harry?

Harry: Yes, Jack, we certainly could.

Jack: And what would it get us? We build him up to be a big man, give him power and reputation, make him one of the biggest names in Hollywood, and you know what would happen, Harry? The sonofabitch would walk out on us and leave us flat.

Harry: Yes, Jack.

Jack: So why wait for that to happen, Harry? Let's fire the sonofabitch right now.

-- Raymond Chandler, 1949

The more things change, the more they really don't.


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