Friday, February 14, 2014

Shirley Temple Black died recently.

I'm not going to moan over that. She had an 85 year run and did well. As a child she actually saved the studio she was on contract with from bankruptcy and as an adolescent her popularity on the silver screen waned she retired from making films at the age of 22. She then went on to other things.

A recent Facebook encounter brought Shirley up and how she was such a sweetie and I don't doubt that she was. She was a successful woman by any way you want to look at it.

The Facebook exchange also included the doings of one Miley Cyrus in this day and age. The consensus seems to be that Miley Cyrus isn't going to have a very long career. In a couple of years she'll be another has-been and her agent or whatever will likely be pimping out another fresh face to keep the big fast cash running.

When Shirley Temple was making her movies she likely wasn't making as much as actors and actresses do today because back then there was the contract system. A person under contract was paid so much a week for making so many movies a year.

Today I believe an actor is pretty much paid strictly by the movie.

While box office draws like Jack Nicholson can demand a lot more than he would have made under the contract system, there are two sides to this. Nicholson is pretty much on his own. When the movie is made he's likely looking for another job.

On the other hand, the contract actors and actresses were pretty much guarenteed work so long as they drew well at the box office.

Still, child actors seemed to fare pretty well under the contract system because they were schooled through the studios and got basic educations. They were looked after and took care of these people because they were pretty good businessmen.

The truth is that when they had talent they knew the value of the actor or actress. They knew that so long as they were drawing at the box office they were certainly worth investing in. The PR people at the studios were pretty good at keeping their moneymakers out of trouble or at least out of the papers if there was a potential scandal.

The coverups that the Hollywood studios managed to pull off are pretty interesting. For example the public was pretty much unaware of the Katherine Hepburn/Spencer Tracy relationship. It surfaced years later. The movie moguls did their best to keep up appearances.

If the actor was a child you can bet that in addition to the actors parents there were studio people that kept an eye on their budding little star or starlet. They also had a number of conditions written into the contract that gave the studio enough clout to make any recaltricent child actor shape up and fly right.

Of course, the studios knew that kids would be kids, too.

Still, in truth it was a business arrangement.

While Temple retired from the silver screen at the ripe old age of 22, some child actors continued their careers well into adulthood. Still, as some children reached adolescence and stopped drawing at the box office they were simply let go when their contracts ended. 

A lot of the "The Little Rascals" had this happen to them when they got too old to play their parts. The system that guarded them could be cruel when their usefulness ended. Incidentally the so-called "Our Gang Curse" is a hoax. 

While some pf the players did come to an early demise and suffered adulthood problems it proved to be about the same percentage as any other group of kids growing up, according to Snopes. 

The system had drawbacks and disadvantages and while the people running it knew the value of their actors they also knew when they were not useful anymore.

These days most entertainers are pretty much free agents. They hire an agent to keep them employed and are pretty much left to their own personal devices. While they do have more control over their lives, they also have nobody to keep them in line, either. 

I get the feeling that the agents don't value their people the way the studios used to and are often inclined to use their people to generate as much fast cash as they can so they can take their percentages and run.

I'm not advocating that the entertainment business returns to the old contract system. There were evils in it that held successful box office drawing actors and actresses down.

It's just that somewhere along the line some of these agents and other people involved with these stars and starlets ought to look after them and at least make some sort of attempt to keep what they have instead of letting them burn out so fast. It simply strkes me as being good business.

To find out why the blog is pink just cut and paste this: NO ANIMALS WERE HARMED IN THE WRITING OF TODAY'S ESSAY

No comments:

Post a Comment