Universal Studios is an American company producing films created in 1912 under the name Universal Manufacturing Corporation. It was
managed by the producer Carl Laemmle, who came from Germany in 1909, settled in Chicago where he bought his first movie theater. Highly influenced by German Expressionist cinema, he decided with his executive producer Irving Thalberg to produce few films and to start, the duo called Wallace Worsley in 1923 to direct The Hunchback of Notre Dame, an adaptation of Victor Hugo’s novel of the same name. For the needs of the picture, Laemmle has the Cathedral almost entirely recreated in the studio of Universal he himself had decided to build. To embody the repulsive Quasimodo, the pair rely on Lon Chaney that will be more than convincing in the role of
living gargoyle. The operation was a success, so Laemmle decided to pursue in the making of pictures relying on dark fantasy, and gradually, Universal comes to exploit all kinds of myths (Dracula, Frankenstein, The Mummy, The Werewolf, The Phantom of the Opera...) and make of them great success, launching in the same time actors like Bela Lugosi and Boris Karloff, revealing also directors such as James Whale and Tod Browning. This period lasted from 1923 to 1960 is known today under the evocative name of the Universal Monster, includes, just to name a few: the film Dracula made in 1931 by Tod Browning and staring Bela Lugosi, Frankenstein, made the same year by James Whale and with the role of the monster, Boris Karloff who will also perform the following year the main role of the film The Mummy directed by Karl Freund, or The Wolf Man directed in 1941 by George Waggner and in the role of Larry Talbot, Lon Chaney Jr., son of Lon Chaney. Each of these examples have got, of course, many sequels.
In 1936, Laemmle sell the company, which will become Universal Pictures Corporation. Under this name, the studio will produce several sequels, but more importantly, will bring several of its monsters on the screen, including the House of Frankenstein, in 1944 and the following year, House of Dracula, both directed by Erle C. Kenton. A year later, Universal Pictures Corporation merged with International Pictures. It was at this time that the studio will lose some share of its market compared to its competitors, Paramount, Fox, Warner, however, this does not prevent it from having few other significant successes such as in 1963 with The Birds by Hitchcock or in 1975 with Jaws and in 1982 with ET, both directed by Spielberg. The latest disaster to date is the huge fire which burned all the studios in 1990 and destroyed most of the set of this mythical empire of the Golden Age of horror films.
Universal Studio continued until today to produce horror films (Tremors, Chucky, Jurassic Park...), but for several years, the studio began to recycled classics of the golden age with varying degrees of success like in 1999 with the film The Mummy (who begot two sequels, a cartoon series and three spin-offs, the first of them, The Scorpion King, had a release in theaters in 2002 and the others, on DVD) and 2004 with Van Helsing, both directed by Stephen Sommers. The latest attempt is The Wolfman, directed by Joe Johnston in 2010.
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