The Studio Sytem and the Kennedys

        The studio system was in force during the Roaring Twenties and through the early 1950s. The term refers to the manner of producing and distributing films. One of its main features was the “ownership” of actors by the Hollywood studios. Once a studio had signed an actor to a contract, it controlled his or her career. The studio determined which films and which parts the actor would do. Leaving a studio could effectively end an actor’s career.

       Another feature of the studio system was the way films were distributed. Larger studios like Paramount and Loew’s/MGM owned their own theaters and sent their movies only to those theaters. One of the big studios, RKO (Radio Keith Orpheum), grew by buying the 700 or so theaters that were formerly part of the old Keith and Orpheum vaudeville circuits and equipping many of them to show movies. Obviously, this contributed to the demise of vaudeville.

       An interesting morsel of history—the principal owner of RKO was Joseph Kennedy, father of the future president JFK and Senators Robert and Ted Kennedy.  Joe Kennedy became involved in the film production/distribution business in the Twenties and actually lived in Hollywood for some years. It was he who bought the Keith and Orpheum circuits. Joe Kennedy’s affair with glamourous screen star Gloria Swanson was an open secret, tolerated by his long-suffering wife Rose. Even the Kennedy children remembered their father flaunting his mistress in their own home when they were old enough to know what was going on. That explains a lot about the Kennedy sons’ attitude towards women. Like father like son, Jack, Bobby, and Teddy were compulsive womanizers. Like his father, Jack Kennedy had glamourous Hollywood star for a mistress–Marilyn Monroe.


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