From Double Indemnity to The Godfather, the stories behind some of the greatest films ever made pale beside the story of the studio that made them. In the golden age of Hollywood, Paramount was one of the Big Five studios. Gulf + Western's 1966 takeover of the studio signaled the end of one era and heralded the arrival of a new way of doing business in Hollywood. In Engulfed: The Death of Paramount Pictures and the Birth of Corporate Hollywood (University of Kentucky Press, 2021), Bernard Dick reconstructs the battle that culminated in the reduction of the studio to a mere corporate commodity.
The book also traces Paramount's devolution from free-standing studio to subsidiary -- first of Gulf + Western, then Paramount Communications, and currently Viacom-CBS. Dick portrays the new Paramount as a paradigm of today's Hollywood, where the only real art is the art of the deal. Former merchandising executives find themselves in charge of production, on the assumption that anyone who can sell a movie can make one. CEOs exit in disgrace from one studio only to emerge in triumph at another. Corporate raiders vie for power and control through the buying and selling of film libraries, studio property, television stations, book publishers, and more. The history of Paramount is filled with larger-than-life people, including Billy Wilder, Adolph Zukor, Sumner Redstone, Sherry Lansing, Barry Diller, Michael Eisner, Jeffrey Katzenberg, and more.
Bernard F. Dick is professor emeritus of communications and English at Fairleigh Dickinson University (Teaneck campus). He holds a doctorate in classics from Fordham University and is the author of numerous film books including Anatomy of Film, Hal Wallis, and That Was Entertainment.
Joel Tscherne is an Adjunct History Professor at Southern New Hampshire University. His Twitter handle is @JoelTscherne.