Douglas Fairbanks

Paramount Pictures

QUESTION:  Which is not the name of a major American movie studio?
A). Universal
B). United
C). 20th Century Fox
D). Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer

So yes, the 1928 film Underworld has triggered a significant discussion since we debuted the subject last week. Talk of the actors and the director lead us quite directly to the studio without which the film would have never been produced. Paramount Pictures.  Everything and everyone has a story - and Paramount has its own. One thing people today forget is that, like all the companies that produced the cars we drive every day, the film studios often have stories that stretch around one hundred years. Paramount is one of fifth oldest film companies that remain in existence today, and the second oldest in the United States (Universal beat it out by - no kidding - eight days). 

Paramount Pictures was formed on May 8, 1912 and went by the name of Famous Players Film Company. Just about two years later they changed their name to Paramount, after a film distribution company purchased by Famous Players' founder, Adolph Zukor. Zukor contracted twenty-two famous 'stars' to work exclusively for Paramount, including such notables as Mary Pickford, Douglas Fairbanks, and Rudolph Valentino (these original twenty-two are still honored with stars on the Paramount logo to this day). Zukor created something of a monopoly in film - producing and distributing his films in a theater chain owned by the company. Anti-trust suits were thrown at him, which eventually compelled Zukor to break up the company. He did remain in control, though, and continued to retain many of the most famous actors of each respective era, while also embracing new technology. Talkies became Paramount's bread and butter during the late-20's and into the 30's. Fleischer's Studios rivaled Disney in their cartoon creations such as Popeye and Betty Boop.  Like all companies, Paramount had its ups and downs over the years, and has survived a number of buyouts and downsizings. In 1994, the media megapower Viacom bought them up, and twelve years later they bought out the Dreamwork's Animation Studios. Paramount continues to make engaging films to this day, all thanks to the vision of one man: Adolph Zukor. 

ANSWER:  B). United.  That's a major airline instead.

Fred Astaire - Keep on Dancing

QUESTION:  Which of the following women did Fred Astaire never have the opportunity to dance with on screen?
A). Cyd Charisse
B). Jane Powell
C). Leslie Caron
D). Jayne Mansfield

In yesterday's exploration into the life and career of Fred Astaire, one of the talented performers whose image is on display in the American Treasure Tour's Music Room, we learned a little bit about Fred Astaire's humble beginnings and his rise to fame. The year was 1933. Famous RKO producer David O. Selznick was responsible for Astaire's introduction to the cinema; however, he was not impressed with Astaire's skills as an actor or singer, and certainly did not see in him a cinematic heartthrob. But he recognized talent when he saw it, and cast him opposite John Crawford in that year's Dancing Lady.  The same year, he received fifth billing behind a young dancer named Ginger Rogers in the musical Flying Down to Rio. The chemistry between Astaire and Rogers worked, the film was popular, and it led to greater success for the partnership. In fact, the two would be paired together in ten musicals. 

Astaire moved on from his near-perfect dance partner Rogers by the 1940's, and he made films with Bing Crosby, Rita Hayworth, Joan Leslie, and Gene Kelly prior to his retirement in 1946. Which lasted two years. In fact, despite numerous efforts to retire, Astaire simply did not have it in him to hang up his dancing shoes. He established his own dance studio, appeared on numerous television programs, and returned to movies a number of times. His final film appearance was in 1981's Ghost Story, in which he costarred with Douglas Fairbanks, Jr. and Melvyn Douglas. He may not have been a dancer in that film, but Astaire proved his own longevity by then, having entertained for 76 of his 88 years, and creating a catalog of thirty-one musicals.

ANSWER:  D). Jayne Mansfield.  She was not known for her dancing skills.