MGM: 1st Edition (Paperback) book cover


1st Edition

By Tino Balio


320 pages

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The winner of the 2019 Peter C. Rollins Book Award

This is the first comprehensive history of MGM from its origins in 1905 to the present. Following a straightforward chronology corresponding to specific periods of film industry history, each chapter describes how successive managements adjusted their production strategies and business practices in response to evolving industrial and market conditions.

As the production subsidiary of the Loew’s Inc. theatre chain, MGM spent lavishly on its pictures and injected them with plenty of star power. The practice helped sustain MGM’s preeminent position during the heyday of Hollywood. But MGM was a conservative company and watched as other studios innovated with sound and widescreen, adjusted to television, and welcomed independent producers. By the 1960s, the company, sans its theatre chain, was in decline and was ripe for a takeover. A defining moment occurred in 1969, when Kirk Kerkorian, a Las Vegas entrepreneur, made a successful bid for the company. There followed a tumultuous thirty-six-year period when Kerkorian bought and sold MGM three times. Meanwhile, MGM never regained its former status and has functioned as a second-tier company to this day.

Focusing on MGM’s top talent – such as Louis B. Mayer, Irving Thalberg, David O. Selznick, and Arthur Freed; directors King Vidor and Vincente Minnelli; and stars of the screen Greta Garbo, Judy Garland, Clark Gable, and Mickey Rooney – and award-winning films, this book highlights the studio’s artistic achievements and status within the industry.


"Tino Balio, pioneering researcher into the structure and conduct of the American film business, offers a sweeping, in-depth account of a studio that is known for Hollywood’s most glorious rise and most shameful fall. This book will become a standard reference source on the studio that was for a time the supreme name in movie entertainment."

David Bordwell, University of Wisconsin-Madison

"Tino Balio, the well regarded author of numerous books on the motion picture business, including the definitive two volume history of United Artists, has written the best and clearest history of MGM, the most famous of the motion picture studios during the classical studio era. Drawing upon his extensive knowledge and research over many years, he has by-passed the sensationalistic and anecdotal stories to present a fascinating description of the motion picture business. No one could have done it better."

Steve Jarchow, Regent Entertainment

Table of Contents

List of Figures Series Editor’s Preface Introduction Chapter 1: Marcus Loew and the Founding of Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer (1905-1924) Chapter 2: Building a Prestige Studio (1924-1928) Chapter 3: MGM According to Irving Thalberg (1929-1932) Chapter 4: Louis B. Mayer Reorganizes (1933-1939) Chapter 5: MGM at the Home Front (1940-1946) Chapter 6: Dore Schary: ‘A New Thalberg’ (1947-1958) Chapter 7: Adjusting to the Sixties (1959-1969) Chapter 8: Kirk Kerkorian and the Buying and Selling of MGM, Part 1 (1969-1985) Chapter 9: Kirk Kerkorian and the Buying and Selling of MGM, Part 2 (1985-2004) Chapter 10: MGM Holdings: The Coda (2004-2015) Bibliography

About the Author

Tino Balio is Professor Emeritus of Film in the Department of Communication Arts at the University of Wisconsin–Madison. He is the author of numerous books and articles on the American film industry, most recently, Hollywood in the New Millennium, London: BFI Palgrave, 2013.

About the Series

The Routledge Hollywood Centenary Series

The Routledge Hollywood Centenary is an eight volume book series dedicated to the 100 year anniversary from the establishment of the major Hollywood studios. Originally self-run organisations operating within a clearly defined film industry, from the 1960s onwards these companies have become divisions of various conglomerates during a long period of corporate consolidation and, more recently, of media convergence driven by the advent of digital technology and changes in distribution and consumption. From the ‘studio’ to the ‘post-studio’ era, from ‘Classical Hollywood’ to ‘Conglomerate Hollywood’, through changes in ownership and management regimes, and through collaborations with ever changing clusters of talent each Hollywood studio has been a major contributor to the ways in which American cinema acquired a particular identity at different historical junctures. The Routledge Hollywood Centenary volumes provide an authoritative history of these long-standing organisations and examine in detail how each studio has put an indelible stamp on American cinema and beyond.

Series editors: Yannis Tzioumakis (University of Liverpool) and Gary Needham (University of Liverpool)

Advisory board:

Warren Buckland (Oxford Bookes University)

Peter Krämer (University of East Anglia)

Paul McDonald (King’s College)

Eileen Meehan (Southern Illinois University)

Thomas Schatz (University of Texas at Austin)

Janet Staiger (University of Texas at Austin)

Janet Wasko (University of Oregon)

Justin Wyatt (University of Rhode Island)


MGM (2018) Tino Balio - recipient of the 2019 Peter C. Rollins Book Award from the


Fox – Frederick Wasser

Universal – Thomas Schatz

Paramount – Douglas Gomery and Clara Pafort-Overduin

Warner Bros. – Richard Maltby

Columbia – Matthew Bernstein and Eddy Von Mueller

Disney – Susan Ohmer

United Artists – Peter Krämer, Gary Needham, Yannis Tzioumakis and Tino Balio (eds)

Learn more…

Subject Categories

BISAC Subject Codes/Headings:
SOCIAL SCIENCE / Media Studies