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I tap danced for ten years before I began to understand people don't make musicals anymore. All I wanted to do was be at MGM working for Arthur Freed or Gene Kelly or Vincent Minelli. Historical and geographical constraints made this impossible. Slowly but surely the pen became mightier than the double pick-up time step with shuffle.
In the beginning I had a real work problem. Every time I had job I had to convince the immigration authorities I was the only man for that job and get a special work permit until I went under contract to MGM.
I was born at the age of twelve on an MGM lot.
I remember vividly seeing 'Tarzan' and Fred Astaire, the Chaplin films, Fred Astaire musicals, MGM, because of my mother. She was just interested in everything and she took me to opera and ballet, and then ballet got me hooked.
Even though I had a lucrative contract with MGM, I had a husband who was drinking and gambling our money away faster than I could make it.
My first day at MGM they decided to bring this lion out, male, and it was not the best time for him to see me. All of a sudden he thought I was in heat and this lion went into the dressing room, which was just a trailer on the sound stage, and went crazy.
The big one I missed out on was 'Cat on a Hot Tin Roof.' MGM wanted me for it, and Warner Bros. wouldn't give me permission to do it.
So vast is the shadow cast by the MGM production of 'The Wizard of Oz,' so indelible are its characterizations, so perfect its music, and so assured is its cinematic immortality, that most people think of it as 'The Original.' In fact, it isn't.
When you worked in a studio it was the studio system that you kind of missed because it was a big, big family. I mean MGM had 5,000 people working a day there. You miss it.
Most of the contract people at MGM stayed and stayed and stayed. Why? Because the studio looked after them. Warner Brothers wouldn't - they were always spanking somebody or selling them down the river.
All the Warner actors were real actors. They started in theater and led very straightforward lives - you never saw entourages around. The MGM girls were the glamour girls, and they always had the makeup and hair people with them and all that.
Fact is, awards shows were never really about recognizing achievement. They were a publicity ploy cooked up in the late 1920s by MGM topper Louie Mayer and his newly formed Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences which was itself, back in the day, nothing but a front organization to discourage unionizing.
Among the great glories of the MGM lot were the vast outdoor sets that had been constructed over the years.
My last days at MGM were like the fall of the Roman Empire in fast motion.
We gave the show away and in return, we received a certain number of minutes per hour for the three-hour show that we could sell to Madison Avenue. One of the first sponsors was MGM Records.
I'm from Chicago, my family started a chain of movie theaters in Chicago that were around for 70 years and then one of them became the head of Paramount and the other was the head of production at MGM and we all came out of Chicago.
The reason that MGM hired Bobby for Our Gang was that they could look at him and say, cry, and he'd cry, and not many kids can do that unless they really want to cry.
I gave my eardrums to MGM. And it's true: I really did.
By the time we got to MGM, and Lions Gate the movie was done there was nothing else to say. It was done. Just as at Universal, it was art by committee.
When my mother signed at MGM, that was the only kind of contract you could sign. There was no such thing as an independent agent.
I kind of go for the MGM version of every musical style.
I was signed to MGM. I was in Vegas for sixteen weeks at the Sands Hotel.
Growing up, I would watch a movie on video and would go to the back of the VHS and locate the address for Universal Pictures or MGM or whatever. I'd write to the studios asking them if I could be in a movie. They never wrote me back.
And actually, about three weeks ago, Micky, Peter and I were in Vegas at the MGM Grand. And we did about 12 shows in seven days. It was quite an experience.
From the time you were signed at MGM you just felt you were in God's hands.
Martin Luther King, Jr.
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