The best "Hollywood Studio System" documentary ever made!
What a surprise treat this series was! All six of the one-hour episodes are available at present on YouTube, which is where I found it. Having never heard of it before, it came as a total revelation to me. Since they had the luxury of having six hours time to tell the fascinating saga of this once-great studio, it contains extensive film clips (some of which are shown here for the first time) and lengthy "talking head" interviews with the men and women who ran RKO, as well as the great stars who acted there (Ginger Rogers, Katharine Hepburn, Robert Mitchum). It's hosted by actor Ed Asner, who provides the perfect light touch and jocularity to host such an undertaking. He is, surprisingly, quite wonderful as a host! The producers of this excellent mini- series (from The UK) had the good fortune of making the series while several of RKO's "major players" were still living and willing to tell their stories (some of them, in the nick of time, too-- Fred Astaire died that very year; Lucille Ball two years later). There is a WEALTH of background information that I'd never heard before, anywhere. If you're a fan of "CITIZEN KANE," you'll be over-the-Moon with glee at the episode that is almost completely dedicated to Orson Welles and his epic RKO masterpiece--and beyond. The series also paints a fairly incisive picture of the enigmatic Howard Hughes, who bought the studio in 1948, later selling it to Desilu (Lucille Ball and Desi Arnaz) for $6 million. Jane Greer is especially compelling, telling her tale of how Hughes kept her under contract at RKO for years--but refused to use her in films--since she refused to sleep with him. There are wonderful cameos throughout--a special surprise was a (sadly brief) appearance by the wonderful Erik Rhodes, who provided such wonderful comic relief in many of the Astaire/Rogers films (and passed away only three years after the making of this documentary).
This invaluable series makes "MGM: When The Lion Roared" seem like lightweight fluff by comparison. There are so many fascinating side- stories. Six hours sounds like quite a commitment--but, rest assured: When it's over, you'll wish it were even longer! Really top-notch stuff! And there won't be another like it, since by now, nearly all of the major players are gone. Can't recommend it highly enough!
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