Max Knepper

Sodom and Gomorrah: The Story of Hollywood (1935)

Sodom and Gomorrah: The Story of Hollywood (1935) by Max Knepper


Ever since I have been living at the backdoor of Hollywood, which has been nineteen years. people have been writing to ask why I don't write a book dealing with the motion picture industry. after the fashion of the "Brass Check" with the newspapers, and the "Goose-Step" with the colleges. l have had it in mind as something to do. but now Mr. Knepper has done it. and so I shan't have to bother.

Generally I have a pessimistic attitude toward the masses of manuscript and proofs, pamphlets and amateur books which the postman and the expressman bring to me in great quantities. Manuscripts generally have to go back with a form letter. But it happened that some of Mr. Knepper's material was published in our "Epic News," and so I was in duty bound to read it. Now, reading the galley proofs which he sends me, I find that he has collected a mass of sound information concerning Hollywood and its practices, and has presented it with intelligence and good common sense. I am happy indeed to be able to say that the book is worthwhile, and deserving of attention from those who are interested in the cultural life of America.

I note Mr. Knepper's closing statement that we will soon have Federal regulation of the motion picture industry. That will be a step forward, but we must not have too much hope from the interference of politicians in the making of motion pictures - at least not while politicians remain what they are in America. About the only immediate help which the Government can give us is to break the system known as block hooking. which makes it impossible for theatre owners to select their programs by choosing good pictures wherever they can find them. Breaking up that system will make it possible for independent producers to find an outlet for their productions. and it is in the independently produced picture that our immediate hope of progress lies.

I know something about this matter. for I have tried several times to make independent pictures or to get them made, and always l have found that the major companies with their monopoly of distribution are able to block the way. I have told in my book, '°l Candidate for Governor, and How I Got Licked," what the motion picture industry did to defeat the hopes of the people of California in the 1934 election. During the four months which have elapsed since that election, I have been discussing plans to put the story OI that campaign into the form of a motion picture, so as to bring it to the people of the entire country , and in this effort l have been acquiring more knowledge as to the power of the big studios to block the way of the independents. Four different groups of men have come forward. eager to make the picture I have suggested. and confident that it would prove a financial success. and each time these men have learned upon inquiry that they did nut' dare to make the venture. Each time they were "reached" in' one form of intimidation or another. Their banks shut off their credit their lawyers came to warn them of the dangers of the undertaking: their clients and customers threatened them with boycott: and always it was the '°majors."' that is, the big studios. which were behind the threats. In the recent election in Cali forma the motion picture industry went Fascist. and it does not intend that any independent shall go Socialist. nor even EPIC. Its biggest mogul is chairman of the Republican State Committee of California. and that is where the industry stands and will stand to the end. no matter how bitter that end may be.

The motion picture is in chains. but the book is still free. In this book a competent man has written the truth in the public interest, and those who help to circulate the book will be rendering a public service.

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