Basically, there are three measures of success in the cinema. First off are pictures like "The Crowd" and "Applause" that achieve rave reviews and even go on to win awards, but don’t recover their negative costs. Then there are the movies the critics hate, but the public enjoys. All three versions of "Back Street", for instance. Finally come the pictures everyone loves, like "From Here To Eternity" or "Sunset Boulevard". In the annals of success in Hollywood’s Golden Age, one name stands out above all others: Cecil B. DeMille. His famous pictures reviewed here include both versions of "The Buccaneer", "The Crusades", "Sign of the Cross", "The Story of Dr Wassell" and "Union Pacific". But the book also notes a DeMille "B" movie that tied up a fair amount of money but proved so unpopular it was released in some territories as a support. The book also covers some of... More > Hollywood’s other disastrous failures, including the M-G-M movie that cost over $4 million to make and returned virtually nothing.< Less
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By John Reid
Oct 15, 2009
"Success in the Cinema" Cynics often claim that Hollywood applies only one criterion to the word, "success": Did the movie make money? That's partly true. I could provide a long list of movies that received ecstatic reviews but that were either lucky to break even or actually lost money. Mind you, sometimes these figures are exaggerated. "Caesar and Cleopatra", for instance, has this fantastic reputation as one of the most expensive flops of all time. $3 million is the figure often quoted by contemporary reference books that heed the rumor but don't bother to check the facts. My research indicates that the movie certainly lost no more than $200,000 on first release, which was easily regained in the 1948 re-issue. On the other hand, I also detail some of the films that not only received negative reviews but lost money to boot: "Mysterious Island", for instance, the most disastrous movie M-G-M ever produced, lost well over $200 million in today's... More > money, yet this absolutely colossal failure hardly figures in most reference books at all! Then there are the movies the critics loved and that the general public took to their hearts as well. My book concentrates on these successes: "From Here To Eternity", "Imitation of Life", "I'll Cry Tomorrow", "The Jolson Story". "A Letter to Three Wives", "Mr Smith Goes to Washington", "The Moon Is Blue", "A Place in the Sun", "Ruggles of Red Gap", "Sunset Boulevard", "Union Pacific", "Becket", etc., etc. And then of course there are the films the critics hated but that had the public scrambling to buy tickets, from "Adventure" right through to "Valiant Is the Word for Carrie". This book covers 120 movies in depth, and in addition provides no less than 55 pages containing full details of actual domestic box-office results from 1929 through 1970.< Less