Studio Era’s “Boy Wonder” Examined in Academy Exhibit
Beverly Hills, CA (September 3, 2009) — The career of legendary production executive Irving Thalberg – the original “Boy Wonder” – will be explored in the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences’ new exhibition, “Irving Thalberg: Creating the Hollywood Studio System, 1920–1936,” opening on Thursday, September 17, in the Academy’s Fourth Floor Gallery in Beverly Hills. Guest curated by historian and Thalberg biographer Mark Vieira, the installation will examine Thalberg’s role in the creation of the Hollywood studio system during the 1920s and ‘30s. Admission is free.
Showcasing unpublished photographs, documents, poster art, props and costumes from motion pictures overseen by Thalberg, the exhibition will also feature portraits by George Hurrell and Clarence Bull of many of Thalberg’s stars, including Lon Chaney, Greta Garbo, Clark Gable, Jean Harlow, Joan Crawford and Norma Shearer (Thalberg’s wife). Films represented in the installation include “Ben-Hur” (1925), “Grand Hotel” (1932), “Mutiny on the Bounty” (1935), “Romeo and Juliet” (1936) and “Marie Antoinette” (1938).
Thalberg became the general manager of Universal Studios at age 20. Three years later, he joined Louis B. Mayer at his small Los Angeles studio, and the following year Louis B. Mayer Productions was merged with two larger studios to create Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer. Together, Mayer and Thalberg made MGM the most successful film studio at the time. Thalberg introduced many innovations in studio practice, including story conferences, sneak previews and extensive retakes, and established the role of the producer as a creative force. He was referred to as the “movie doctor” for his keen sense of how to correct flaws in films.
All the more remarkable is the fact that Thalberg accomplished so much at such a young age. His death at 37 stunned Hollywood. Shortly after his passing, the Academy established the Irving G. Thalberg Memorial Award, which is presented periodically to creative producers whose body of work reflects a consistently high quality of motion picture production.
“Irving Thalberg: Creating the Hollywood Studio System, 1920–1936” will be on display through December 13. The Academy’s Fourth Floor Gallery is located at 8949 Wilshire Boulevard in Beverly Hills and is open Tuesday through Friday, 10 a.m. to 5 p.m., and weekends, noon to 6 p.m. The gallery will be closed for the Thanksgiving holiday weekend, November 26 through 29.
For more information call (310) 247-3600 or visit www.oscars.org.
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