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The Historian Is Paramount


This essay considers how the Federal Trade Commission’s investigation of Famous Players-Lasky (FPL) in the 1920s helped construct a legacy of film-historical practice subtending our current understanding of the studio system. While the government sought to mount an account of FPL’s development in which the personal lives of corporate executives were subject to evaluation, studio attorneys successfully posed a model of corporate integrity limited solely to considerations of business practices. The corporate historical models advanced during the antitrust investigation influenced the writing of Benjamin Hampton, a film historian keenly interested in the personality of FPL head Adolph Zukor. Also included with the essay is a reprinted page from FPL’s confidential complaint that Federal Trade Commission investigators were seeking to blackmail Zukor.

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