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 …

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 …

Is Oakland Too Real for the Oscars?

The Bay Area’s Second City Gave Us the Year’s Surprise Hits—Black Panther, Blindspotting, and Sorry to Bother You—But the Academy Hasn’t Returned the Love

The best California movie scene of recent vintage is the opening of the 2018 film Sorry to Bother You. A young man and his girlfriend are getting intimate in what …

Why George Bailey Is the American Jesus

Reflecting a Postwar Religious Revival, the Long-Suffering Hero Played by Jimmy Stewart Lives a Life of Self-Sacrifice and Resists Temptation

In the 15 years after World War II, a religious revival swept through America. Records were set for church attendance and new church construction, a succession of religious books …

How Movies and TV Are Helping Venezuelans Negotiate Their Country’s Collapse

Amid Food Shortages and Rising Crime, My Students Turn to The Hunger Games and Walking Dead

Last March, I was teaching twice a week at the Universidad Bicentenaria de Aragua, 75 miles west of Caracas, Venezuela. While protests were breaking out in the streets around the …