The Composer Who Saved King Kong—and Transformed Movie Music

The Masterful Max Steiner’s Career and Life Were as Dramatic as Any Hollywood Picture

An international crisis triggers record unemployment. Hollywood bleeds red as movie theaters shutter. And one major studio faces imminent closure, putting all its hopes on a would-be blockbuster.

The year is 1933. The studio is RKO. And the movie is King Kong.

Then as now, audiences made anxious by global upheaval hungered for escapism; and in March 1933, Kong delivered the financial rescue its makers prayed for. But the movie might have failed, depriving us of later RKO classics like Citizen Kane, if not for the ninth-inning involvement of one man: RKO’s …

How Zombie Films Reveal the True Dangers of COVID-19 | Zocalo Public Square • Arizona State University • Smithsonian

How Zombie Films Reveal the True Dangers of COVID-19

Like the Living Dead, a Virus Can Overwhelm Powerful States, Ruin Economies—and Reveal Our Best and Worst Selves

Sydney

On any given day at the University of Sydney in Australia, Chinese visitors spill out of tour buses to make their way up the hill to the main Quadrangle, an …

Hollywood Park’s Last Photo Finish | Zocalo Public Square • Arizona State University • Smithsonian

Hollywood Park’s Last Photo Finish

The People of a Vanished Track, As Viewed From the Clubhouse Turn

On December 22, 2013, the world-famous Hollywood Park Race Track in Inglewood, California, shut down forever. In 2014, demolition began, closing the stable door on 75 years of history, while …

The Horrifying Hollywood Movie About Thermonuclear War That Determined U.S. | Zocalo Public Square • Arizona State University • Smithsonian

The Horrifying Hollywood Movie That Determined U.S. Nuclear Policy

Operation Ivy Provoked Such Controversy That Future Nuclear Test Films Were Kept Secret From the Public

On a hot June day in 1953, President Dwight D. Eisenhower sat down in the cool confines of a White House screening room to watch a horrifying movie. Produced by …

When Silent Films Were a Force for World Peace | Zocalo Public Square • Arizona State University • Smithsonian

When Silent Films Were a Force for World Peace

In the 1920s, Moguls Pitched the Technology as a ‘Universal Language’ That Was More Than Mere Entertainment

By the 1920s, the standard-bearers of the Hollywood film industry had taken to speaking about movies in the loftiest terms—as saviors of humanity. Leading star and producer Douglas Fairbanks declared, …

When San Francisco Kicked Hollywood to the Curb

Angered by Negative Depictions of Their City, in the Early 1970s Civic Leaders Regulated Filmmakers Out of Town

Canada’s motion picture industry earned the nickname “Hollywood North” because the country so often serves as a center of location production for American films. But in the early 1970s, this …