Amazon purchase latest twist in MGM saga

·3 min read

From "Gone With the Wind" to "Ben-Hur" to James Bond, the iconic MGM movie studio, symbolized by its roaring lion, has a storied history worthy of a Hollywood blockbuster.

In the latest chapter in the up-and-down saga of the nearly century-old company, MGM is being bought by online shopping giant Amazon for $8.45 billion.

Metro Goldwyn Mayer was created in 1924 with the merger of Metro Pictures Corp., Goldwyn Pictures and Louis B. Mayer Productions.

Mayer and producer Irving Thalberg, known as "The Boy Wonder," seized the reins of the studio and helped usher in what came to be known as the Golden Age of Hollywood.

MGM's rich history spans from the early days of black-and-white silent movies to the first films in Technicolor to the digital era of today.

Its heyday was in the 1930s, '40s and '50s when it dominated the Hollywood scene with a galaxy of stars that included Greta Garbo, Joan Crawford, Clark Gable, Katherine Hepburn, Mickey Rooney, Spencer Tracy and Elizabeth Taylor.

The company's unofficial motto: "More stars than there are in heaven."

Its official motto -- in lettering above Leo the Lion -- "Ars Gratia Artis," or "Art for art's sake."

In 1939, MGM movies "Gone With the Wind" and "The Wizard of Oz" were both nominated for Best Picture at the Academy Awards.

"Gone With the Wind" won.

Lavish musicals such as "Singin' in the Rain" also became a hallmark of the studio featuring such stars as Judy Garland, Fred Astaire and Gene Kelly.

In 1959, MGM produced one of its biggest box office hits, "Ben-Hur" starring Charlton Heston, which went on to win 11 Academy Awards.

- Creative slump -

MGM went into a creative slump beginning in the 1960s though it still produced such classics during the decade such as "Doctor Zhivago" in 1965 and "2001: A Space Odyssey" in 1968.

After years of decline, the fading studio was bought by billionaire investor Kirk Kerkorian in 1969.

Kerkorian would go on to buy and sell MGM twice more over the next few years, including once to Ted Turner, who would take control of much of the company's pre-1986 catalog of films.

Another major studio, United Artists, once home to Charlie Chaplin, Mary Pickford and other early silent movie stars, merged with MGM in 1981.

In 2010, MGM filed for bankruptcy and resurfaced under new ownership.

MGM's current archive includes more than 4,000 movies including Best Picture winners such as "The Apartment," "West Side Story," "Midnight Cowboy," "Rocky," "Annie Hall," "Platoon," "Rain Man," "Dances With Wolves" and "The Silence of the Lambs."

Among the film franchises still owned by MGM are James Bond, Rocky and The Pink Panther.

According to MGM, 007 alone has earned the company nearly $7 billion in worldwide box office receipts while the Rocky and Creed series has pulled in another $1 billion.

MGM's current television archive of more than 17,000 episodes includes such popular series as "The Handmaid's Tale" and "Fargo" as well as reality TV shows such as "Survivor."

Like other movie studios, MGM was hard hit over the past year by the Covid-19 pandemic and was forced to delay the release of its latest money-spinning Bond flick, "No Time to Die."

The action film starring Daniel Craig was originally scheduled to hit theaters in March 2020. It will now be released in September.