Actor Paul Robeson (center, reflected in mirror) in the film

Paul Robeson in Emperor Jones, 1933 (detail)


COLLECTION SPOTLIGHT

The Astoria Studio: Eastern Service Studios, Inc. (1933–1941) | Read Series Introduction
Posted May 21, 2020 | Barbara Miller, Director of Curatorial Affairs

After Paramount left in 1932, Western Electric’s ERPI (Electrical Research Products, Inc.) began operating the Astoria Studio as a rental facility. With the goal of marginalizing their chief rival, RCA, ERPI offered independent producers financing in exchange for a commitment to work on sound stages outfitted with Western Electric systems. This investment plan helped to bring Paul Robeson to the screen in The Emperor Jones (1933); allowed noted Hollywood screenwriters Ben Hecht and Charles MacArthur the opportunity to direct; and provided work for actors, writers, and producers who embraced the chance to work outside of the Hollywood studio system. Throughout the 1930s the Astoria Studio stages were busy with a mix of slapstick comedies, newsreels, musical shorts known as “soundies,” corporate films, documentaries, and Spanish-language musicals.

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