The Concession Stand

Tuesday, June 20, 2017

Movin' on Up: Columbia Pictures

In Hollywood, there was a clear delineation between the major studios and the rest. While MGM, Paramount, RKO, Warner Brothers and 20th Century Fox were on top, there were lesser studios, who Hollywood considered being on "Poverty Row". These studios were the lowest of the low, producing independent films at a fraction of the cost of the majors. Viewers of Mystery Science Theater 3000 might recognize many of the Poverty Row Studios as producing most of the show's content. One studio, however, made it out of Poverty Row- Columbia Pictures.


Columbia Pictures made it out of Poverty Row based on the sheer willpower of its boss- Harry Cohn. Mr. Cohn originally began his show business career at Universal, where his brother already worked. The brothers left Universal with a friend to form Cohn, Brandt, Cohn Pictures- CBC. His partners might have set their sights low; after all, the studio was nicknamed "Corned Beef & Cabbage" by Hollywood, but Harry Cohn had big ideas. After buying out his partners, he changed the company's name to Columbia Pictures, introducing the famed torch lady. He also tried to improve his studio's output and reputation in Hollywood. Despite his prestige projects, he wouldn't succeed in raising the studio's image until he released Frank Capra's Oscar winning film- It Happened One Night. Cohn finally earned the respect he had long sought from the industry.