Hollywood History 101

What more appropriate venue for a seven-hour history of Hollywood than Turner Classic Movies, the network that has devoted itself to celebrating and preserving classic motion pictures, from the silent era forward?

Moguls and Movies Stars: A History of Hollywood comprises a series of one-hour documentaries, covering seven key periods in the history of Hollywood, with a new chapter premiering each Monday at 8 p.m. ET and repeating the following Wednesday at the same time.

The chapter titles tell it all: Peepshow Pioneers, which airs on Monday night with a repeat on Wednesday evening, explores the origins of the motion picture and the earliest days of the movie industry, with a focus on Thomas Edison’s role in the rise of motion pictures. The Birth of Hollywood, which airs Monday and Wednesday of next week, explores how the American film industry, originally scattered across the country with a concentration of production companies in the New York City area, came to coalesce in Southern California, specifically a sleepy suburb to the north of Los Angeles called Hollywood.

We were fortunate enough to attend a screening of those first two chapters at NYC’s Film Forum, with TCM host Robert Osborne on hand to introduce the screening, and we can tell you that we can’t wait to see the remaining five chapters, so impressed were we with the first two.

Cinéastes familiar with the history of Hollywood probably won’t encounter a great deal of material in Moguls and Movie Stars with which they’re unfamiliar, but let’s face it—real movie buffs never tire of these stories, and the documentaries include a good deal of rarely seen footage and photographs and, yes, the occasional nugget of info that will come as news to even the most devoted movie fan. And more casual fans of classic movies with a desire to know more about the early days and Golden Age of Hollywood will find these documentaries compelling and informative.

Four-time Emmy nominee Jon Wilkman directed, wrote and produced the series, Christopher Plummer ably provides the narration, and an impressive array of film historians contribute on-camera insights and information.

But don’t take our word for it. Tune in at (or set those DVRs for) 8 p.m. ET tonight, and see for yourself. We suspect you’ll be hooked and will want to catch all seven chapters.

And TCM follows the debut of Peepshow Pioneers, with a collection of Edison films at 9 p.m., a re-airing of Peepshow Pioneers at 11 p.m., a collection of D.W. Griffith’s Biograph films at midnight, the films of Georges Melies at 2 a.m., seven silent shorts based on the plays of William Shakespeare at 4 a.m., and a Mary Pickford short drama, Ramona, at 5:30 a.m. (If any of those names are unfamiliar to you, they won’t be after watching Episode One.)

It’s a great chance to immerse yourself in the work of the very pioneers featured in the first episode of Moguls and Movie Stars.