Moguls & Movie Stars: A History Of Hollywood

Moguls & Movie Stars: A History Of Hollywood
Turner Classic Movies is one of those reliable cable channels that does exactly what it says on the box: shows a bunch of old movies that can usually be described as "classics," apart from an unhealthy obsession with the Death Wish series. But in addition to providing a home for long-forgotten black-and-white films, it has become important in providing historical context for movies through special series like The Essentials. Last year, it produced its most ambitious project to date: a sweeping look at the American film industry from 1889 to 1969. Narrated soothingly by Christopher Plummer, Moguls & Movie Stars focuses on the emergence of the large film studios in Hollywood, plus the stars they produced during their glory days. The most fascinating episodes are the early ones, simply because of the unfamiliarity of the subject matter. These stories of magic lanterns and the earliest attempts at projecting a moving image onto a wall so that an audience could watch help set the scene for what follows. The problem is that once the glory days of the '20s kick off, there's far too much going on in each episode and the entire story begins to feel a little rushed. The producers obviously had to be much more selective in whose stories they felt deserved to be told, and some people are reduced to mere footnotes. But without turning this into a documentary of Ken Burns-like length, it's hard to cover 80 years of movie history exhaustively in seven hours. Keeping that in mind, Moguls & Movie Stars is a pretty good attempt at detailing the early days of Hollywood and, more importantly, it makes for very entertaining viewing. The three DVDs in the set are presented in a hardcover case, which also houses a 40-page booklet that contains summaries of the seven episodes, plus lots of photos. The extra material on the DVDs is a little sparse, but of good quality. There is a short panel discussion for each episode with various experts and historians, which helps add a little more depth, but like everything else about the series, it's likely to leave you wanting more rather than answering all your questions. (Warner)