COLLECTION SPOTLIGHTParamount at the Astoria Studio
The Museum’s collection includes more than 2,000 photographs that document the production of Paramount films at the Astoria Studio in Queens. The studio was Paramount’s East Coast production facility from its construction in 1920 (when the company was known as Famous Players-Lasky) until 1932, when Paramount left to consolidate production in Hollywood. The largest studio complex on the East Coast at that time, it was known as “The Big House.” One of its historic buildings is now occupied by Museum of the Moving Image, and another—with the original main stage—by Kaufman Astoria Studios.
Hundreds of Paramount’s silent and early sound era films were produced at the Astoria Studio, featuring such stars as Gloria Swanson, Rudolph Valentino, Louise Brooks, the Marx Brothers, and W. C. Fields. The Museum’s holdings chronicle these productions, and include images from nearly every Paramount feature and short made there between 1921 and 1932. The photographs include star portraits, scene stills, and behind-the-scenes shots from Paramount’s original “key books,” compilations of sometimes hundreds of photographs shot by the studio to document and promote each film. The Museum’s collection also includes photographs of empty film sets from these productions, which were used to ensure continuity; studio site pictures of editing, prop, and costume fitting rooms; and behind-the-scenes photographs taken by studio personnel. As is common with films made in the silent era, a number of Paramount’s Astoria Studio films have been lost, the still images their only visual record.