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Birth of the Auteur: How the Studio Production Process Kept the Director both In and Under Control


  • Ronny Regev

    (Princeton University)


During the golden age of the Hollywood studios, what was the difference between the creative status of a screenwriter and that of a director? Consider the production of Lives of a Bengal Lancer, a Paramount picture based on a novel by Francis Yeats-Brown that followed the struggles of three British soldiers in India. Initial work on the screenplay was assigned to two writers by the names of Malcolm Stewart Bailey and Harvey Gates in early 1932. As writer Grover Jones testified, "in those days we used to write scripts alphabetically as the sequence came, A, B, C and so on. Well, they wrote and wrote and got a little discouraged, and finally got down to F and said, 'the hell with it,' and quit." Then the job was handed over to Jones and his partner William Slavens McNutt. They wrote a script but the studio decided not to pursue it. Afterwards, two or three years went by, maybe four. Writers came from all over the world to work on Bengal Lancer. They were from every place. And the cost accumulated, I have forgotten the exact figure now almost up to $300,000, $400,000 or half a million.

Suggested Citation

  • Ronny Regev, 2012. "Birth of the Auteur: How the Studio Production Process Kept the Director both In and Under Control," Working Papers 1389, Princeton University, School of Public and International Affairs, Center for Arts and Cultural Policy Studies..
  • Handle: RePEc:pri:cpanda:47

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    More about this item


    Hollywood; movie business; film; creative control;
    All these keywords.

    JEL classification:

    • Z11 - Other Special Topics - - Cultural Economics - - - Economics of the Arts and Literature
    • L82 - Industrial Organization - - Industry Studies: Services - - - Entertainment; Media


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