Signed letter from J. Cheever Cowdin to Margaret Sullivan.
Universal Pictures Company, Inc.
Universal City, California
J. Cheever Cowdin
Chairman of the Board
Miss Margaret Sullivan
Universal Pictures Company, Inc.
New York, N.Y.
Dear Miss Sullivan:
Thanks for yours of the 17th
with the affidavits for the sale of the
two cars at Au Sable Forks.
While I thoroghly agree with
you that we might have a little fun by
filling in the "stolen car section", I
think we had better let it go through and
call it a day. I suggest that you fill in
the studio as my address.
J. Cheever Cowdin, became President of Universal in 1936.
Below is the Universal History:
On January 17, Carl Laemmle is born in Laupheim, Germany, the tenth child of Rebecca and Nathanael Laemmle. In 1884 the boy immigrates to America.
On February 24, Carl Laemmle, now 39 years old, opens the White Front Theatre in Chicago, the first of a string of nickelodeons.
In November, Laemmle founds the Laemmle Film Service, a film distribution company that by 19l9 was servicing a majority of cinemas in the Midwest and Canada.
In June, Laemmle founds the Yankee Film Company, soon to be named the Independent Moving Picture Company of America (IMP) in New York. IMP takes the lead in defying the Motion Picture Patents Trust, a monopoly attempting to control all phases of film production, distribution, and exhibition.
On October 25, IMP’s first film production, Hiawatha, directed by William V. Rancous on location in Coytesville, N.J., is released by the studio.
MP acquires first West Coast studio at Gower and Sunset in Hollywood.
On June 8, 1912, Universal Film Manufacturing Company is founded, the result of a merger of IMP (Carl Laemmle), Powers Motion Picture Co. (Pat Powers), Rex Motion Picture Company (William Swanson), Champion Film Company (Mark Dintenfass), Nestor Film Co. (David Horsley), and the New York Motion Picture Co. (Charles Baumann and Adam Kessel).
The Universal Animated Weekly, the studio’s first newsreel is founded.
Universal’s first feature length film, Traffic in Souls, directed by George Loane Tucker, grosses $450,000, thanks to its sensationalist story of white slavery.
Isadore Bernstein purchases 230 acre Taylor Ranch in North Hollywood for $165,000, which had been used by Universal for outdoor scenes since 1912 ("Universal Ranch"). Ground is broken on June 18 for Universal Studios, and production is in full swing by September. Damon and Pythias becomes the first feature film shot at Universal City.
On March 15, 1915, Universal City celebrates its gala opening. For 25¢, the public is allowed to observe the set of movies in production.
Where Are My Children?, written and directed by one of Hollywood’s earliest female filmmakers, Lois Weber, grosses over $3 million.
Erich von Stroheim directs his first film at Universal, Blind Husbands.
Dr. Jules Stein and William R. Goodheart Jr. found Music Corporation of America (MCA) as a talent agency for live music and later radio. Some of their famous clients included Tommy Dorsey, Guy Lombardo, Lionel Hampton, Benny Goodman, Burl Ives, Frank Sinatra, Gene Krupa, Kay Kaiser.
Rupert Julian’s Phantom of the Opera stars Lon Chaney.
Universal opens its first "talking picture," Melody of Love. The Universal tour is discontinued in 1930, due to the need for quiet sets.
Walter Lantz, creator of Oswald the Rabbit, Woody Woodpecker, and Andy Panda, joins Universal, where he will remain as an animator and later, independent producer for almost sixty years, except for a brief stint at U.A. (1947-48). In 1984, MCA acquires Walter Lantz Productions.
Carl Laemmle, Jr., Uncle Carl’s twenty-one year old son, is placed in charge of production at Universal and institutes a radical change in studio policy, producing a series of prestige pictures while de-emphasizing "programmers."
All Quiet on the Western Front wins "Best Picture" Academy Award.
Dracula and Frankenstein are released, beginning Universal’s horror cycle.
In July, American Decca Recording Company is formed by Jack Kapp and Edward Lewis, founder in 1929 of the Decca Record Co., Ltd. (England).
MCA receives a blanket waiver from the American Federation of Musicians, permitting them to act in the dual capacity as talent bookers and program producers, allowing them to package radio shows with their own bands.
On March 14, Carl Laemmle is forced out by Universal’s creditors and a financial group around Standard Capital takes over the studio for $4.5 million. Charles R. Rogers becomes head of production, and J. Cheever Cowdin, President.
Twenty-two year old Lew Wasserman joins MCA in Cleveland. Ten years later, on December 16, 1946, Wassermann is appointed president.
Three Smart Girls, directed by Henry Koster, introduces fourteen-year-old Deanna Durbin. The film earns $1.6 million on an investment of $261,000. Over the next twelve years Durbin will star in 21 box office hits, contributing immeasurably to the studio’s bottom line.
In January, Cliff Work succeeds Charles R. Rogers as production head, and RKO theatre executive, Nate Blumberg, is named president.
MCA opens an office in Beverly Hills, across the street from City Hall, and sends Lew Wasserman to the West Coast.
Deanna Durbin wins a Special Academy Award "for bringing the spirit and personification of youth to the screen."
W.C. Fields stars in You Can’t Cheat an Honest Man, the first of four comedies the actor will make at Universal.
A minor radio team, Bud Abbott and Lou Costello, make A Night in the Tropics, which catapults the duo to such fame that many subsequent titles have their name in them.
Arabian Nights, starring Jon Hall and Maria Montez, is Universal’s first
3-color Technicolor feature, and inaugurates a cycle of high-camp adventure films.
On October 3, Jules Stein and MCA open the "Hollywood Canteen," a nightclub for servicemen, where the hosts are movie stars who are donating their time. The Hollywood Canteen Foundation had collected over $500,000 when the Canteen finally closed its doors on November 22, 1945.
Sherlock Holmes and the Voice of Terror is the first of twelve Universal films made between 1942 and 1946, featuring Basil Rathbone as the famous sleuth and Nigel Bruce as his sidekick, Dr. Watson.
MCA incorporates Revue Productions to produce live shows. In 1950 the dormant company is reborn as MCA’s television subsidiary. Its first show was Armour Theatre, a TV version of radio’s Stars Over Hollywood.
Hal Mohr and W. Howard Greene win Academy Awards for "Best Color Cinematography" for The Phantom of the Opera.
Universal’s "Youth Unit," which had been turning out a steady stream of swing music films during WWII starring Gloria Jean or Donald O’Connor, is disbanded.
In April, MCA absorbs two of its biggest competitors, the Hayward-Deverich Agency in Beverly Hills and the Leland Hayward Agency in New York. New clients include Greta Garbo, Fred Astaire, Jimmy Stewart, Henry Fonda, and Gregory Peck.
On July 30, United World Pictures, a distribution company founded in November 1945 by J. Arthur Rank, International Pictures and Universal for the sale of British and American product, is formerly dissolved. On October 1, Universal is merged with International Pictures, headed by Leo Spitz and William Goetz. This team heads up Universal-International, while Nate Blumberg and J. Cheever Cowdin remain at the helm of Universal Pictures, the parent company.
British distributor J. Arthur Rank Films buys a majority interest in Universal, which begins releasing such British imports as Black Narcissus, Brief Encounter, Great Expectations, and Hamlet.
Ronald Colman wins "Best Actor" Academy Award for A Double Life.
Laurence Olivier’s Hamlet, produced by Two Cities Ltd., wins "Best Picture" Academy Award.
MCA’s Lew Wasserman negotiates a percentage deal between Universal and Jimmy Stewart, 50% of net on Winchester ’73, and revolutionizes the business. The film is followed by Bend of the River (1952), both of which revitalize Universal’s western genre production.
Josephine Hull wins "Best Supporting Actress" Academy Award for Harvey.
Decca Records acquires a 38% share of Universal, and soon controls the company. Milton Rackmil, president of Decca, succeeds Blumberg in July, 1952, while Edward Muhl succeeds Leo Spitz and William Goetz as production head.
On July 23, Screen Actors Guild President Ronald Reagan sends MCA a letter allowing it to produce television shows and simultaneously represent talent in those shows. In April 1953, the Writers Guild grants MCA a similar waiver, allowing them to represent screenwriters and produce their TV scripts through Revue.
Revue premieres General Electric Theater on CBS. A year later Ronald Reagan joins the show as host, sometime star and later, producer, becoming a multi-millionaire by the time the show closes nine years later.
With the melodrama Magnificent Obsession, directed by Douglas Sirk and starring Rock Hudson, producer Ross Hunter becomes the studios’ most reliable moneymaker.
Creature From the Black Lagoon is Universal’s entry into the 3-D and science fiction film market and is followed by such classics as The Incredible Shrinking Man (1957).
Alfred Hitchcock Presents wins an Emmy for "Best Editing of a Television Film".
Dorothy Malone wins "Best Supporting Actress" Academy Award for Written On The Wind.
In December, MCA purchases Paramount Studios’ pre-1950 sound film library for $50 million, the richest television syndication deal to date.
On December 18, Universal sells its 367 acre studio backlot for $11.25 million to MCA, then leases back studio space at $1 million a year.
Three of Universal’s biggest moneymakers are MCA packages: Operation Petticoat ($18.6 mil), Imitation of Life ($13 mil), and Pillow Talk ($15 mil).
Spartacus wins four Academy Awards.
MCA signs a deal with Grey Line Bus Tours for "Dine with the Stars," allowing buses to drive around the lot and have lunch in the Commissary.
MCA purchases Decca Records and with it, Universal Pictures, leaving Milton Rackmil and Edward Muhl in charge, while Dr. Jules Stein (Board Chairman) and Lew Wasserman (President) guide MCA. As a result of a consent decree with the Justice Department, MCA divests itself of its talent agency business.
Gregory Peck receives an Academy Award for "Best Actor" in the film adaptation of Harper Lee’s To Kill a Mockingbird.
In July, the Universal Studios Tour is opened in conjunction with Glamour Trams. The initial tour is operated with two drivers, two guides, and one ticket seller. The price of admission is $6.50 for two adults and a child.
MCA acquires Alfred Hitchcock’s Shamley Prods., including rights to Psycho and all of Hitchcock’s television work.
Seventeen-year-old Steven Spielberg begins working as a volunteer gofer at Universal during his summer vacation. Five years and two student films later, he is assigned to direct the pilot film for Universal TV’s Night Gallery.
The entrance to the Universal Studios Tour is moved from Lankershim to the upper lot. The tour is augmented with photo opportunities: snowflake set, canons from the Prop Dept., etc.
MCA’s Ned Tannen starts UNI Records, which signs on Olivia Newton John and Elton John to record deals.
MCA purchases Spencer Gifts, a retail and mail-order house.
The Universal Tour Entertainment Center opens with a western stunt show.
Marcus Welby, M.D. wins Emmy for "Outstanding Dramatic Series."
Edgar Bronfman is Executive Producer (Sagittarius Productions) for Jane Eyre with George C. Scott, a made-for-TV movie.
Emmy for The Bold Ones for "Outstanding Series Drama."
Universal Amphitheatre opens. It closes in 1980 and reopens after major renovations in 1982, including a roof.
In January, Henry H. Martin succeeds Milton Rackmil as President. In June, Sidney Scheinberg assumes presidency of MCA, while Lew Wassermann moves up to Chairman of the Board.
The Parting of the Red Sea opens on the Universal Studios Tour.
The Sting wins a "Best Picture" Academy Award and six other Oscars.
Edgar Bronfman produces Charlotte’s Web, distributed by Paramount.
NBC Sunday Mystery Movie wins an Emmy for "Outstanding Limited Series."
Earthquake receives Academy Award for "Best Sound," "Best Special Effects," and a Scientific Academy Award for development of the Sensurround System.
Jaws (1975) spawns Bruce, the shark in the Jaws experience on the Universal Studios Tour.
The Museum of Modern Art organizes a film retrospective, "Universal Pictures: 65 Years."
The Deer Hunter wins "Best Picture" and three other Academy Awards.
The Rockford Files wins an Emmy for "Outstanding Drama Series."
MCA purchases ABC Records, including the Dot, Dunhill, Duke, Impulse!, Paramount, and Peacock labels.
MCA Home Entertainment Group founded.
Sissy Spacek receives "Best Actress" Academy Award for Coal Miner’s Daughter.
Both Henry Fonda and Katharine Hepburn win Oscars for their performances in On Golden Pond.
Edgar Bronfman, Jr. is Executive Producer on The Border with Jack Nicholson.
Meryl Streep wins Academy Award for "Best Actress" in Sophie’s Choice. E.T. The Extra-Terrestrial wins three Academy Awards.
The Conan the Barbarian show opens on Universal Studios Tour.
Out of Africa wins "Best Picture" Academy Award.
The drive-through King Kong ride opens on Universal Studios Tour, initiating a new era in theme park design.
MCA acquires Chess Records.
Earthquake ride at Universal Studios Hollywood opens.
In June, Universal Studios Florida is opened in Orlando, a joint venture of MCA and the Rank Organization.
Geffen Records is acquired by MCA in March.
On January 1, MCA, Inc. is acquired by the Japanese electronics giant, Matsushita Electric Industrial Co., Ltd. for $6.59 billion.
On March 15, the Studio Center opens at Universal Studios Hollywood, including the attractions The World of Cinemagic, Starway, and a new Backlot Tram Tour.
E.T. Adventure and the Backdraft Experience open in June at Universal Studios Hollywood.
Steven Spielberg’s Schindler’s List wins "Best Picture" Academy Award.
In May, Universal CityWalk, a pedestrian promenade, opened outside Universal Studios Hollywood
Waterworld, A Live Sea War Spectacular opens at Universal Studios Hollywood.
In June, Edgar Bronfman, Jr., CEO of the Joseph Seagram Company, Ltd., negotiates the purchase of an 80% interest in MCA, which is renamed Universal Studios, Inc. in 1996.
On August 1, Ron Meyer is appointed president and COO, succeeding Sidney Scheinberg.
Jurassic Park, The Ride opens at Universal Studios Hollywood.
On April 23, Frank Biondi, Jr. is named Chairman and CEO, while Lew Wassermann retires after sixty years with the company.
Universal Studios Hollywood opens the Totally Nickelodeon attraction.
Law and Order wins Emmy for "Best Drama Series."
Barry Diller purchases USA Networks from Universal.
In May, Joseph E. Seagram and Sons, Inc. purchases PolyGram Holdings, transforming Universal into the largest music company in the world.
In November, Frank Biondi, Jr. resigns.
Islands of Adventure, the Portofino Resort, and Universal CityWalk open in Orlando, Florida.
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