Year
1919
Month Day
February 05

United Artists created

On February 5, 1919, Hollywood heavyweights Charlie Chaplin, Mary Pickford, Douglas Fairbanks and D.W. Griffith joined forces to create their own film studio, which they called the United Artists Corporation.

United Artists quickly gained prestige in Hollywood, thanks to the success of the films of its stars, notably Chaplin’s The Gold Rush (1925), as well as the work of actors such as Buster Keaton, Rudolph Valentino and Gloria Swanson. Chaplin directed UA films as well as acted in them, and Pickford concentrated on producing after she retired from acting in the 1930s. With the rise of sound during that decade, UA was helped by the talents (and bankrolls) of veteran producers like Joseph Schenck, Samuel Goldwyn, Howard Hughes and Alexander Korda. The corporation began to struggle financially in the 1940s, however, and in 1951 the production studio was sold and UA became only a financing and distributing facility.

By the mid-1950s, all of the original partners had sold their shares of the company, but UA had begun to thrive again, releasing such films as The African Queen (1951), High Noon (1952), Witness for the Prosecution (1957), Some Like It Hot (1959), The Apartment and The Magnificent Seven (both 1960) and West Side Story (1961). In addition, the company was responsible for the James Bond and Pink Panther film franchises. UA went public in 1957 and became a subsidiary of the TransAmerica Corporation a decade later.

UA films garnered a slew of Best Picture Academy Awards over the course of the 1970s, for Midnight Cowboy (1969), One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest (1975), Rocky (1976) and Annie Hall (1977). Soon after that, however, five top executives left the company in a disagreement and formed the Warner Brothers-backed Orion Pictures. UA sustained an even more devastating blow in 1980, when it released the big-budget flop Heaven’s Gate, directed by Michael Cimino. Two years in the making and way over budget, the film earned less than $4 million at the U.S. box office. After that debacle, UA struggled throughout the 1980s. In 1981, MGM bought the company, merging with it in 1983 to become MGM/UA Entertainment. In a highlight of those relatively dark years, UA did release another Best Picture winner, Rain Man, in 1988.

In 1992, the French bank Credit Lyonnais acquired the corporation and changed its name back to Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer Inc., abandoning the United Artists name altogether. The James Bond and Pink Panther franchises were revived, with varying degrees of success. MGM changed hands and was reorganized repeatedly over the next decade and a half, during which UA was repositioned as a boutique producer of smaller, so-called “art house” films such as Bowling for Columbine (2002), Hotel Rwanda (2005) and Capote (2006). In November of 2006, MGM gave the actor/producer Tom Cruise (star of Rain Man) and his production partner, Paula Wagner, control over the United Artists production slate, announcing the decision as a “reintroduction” of the UA brand in the spirit of its founders. Cruise and Wagner, whose former deal with Paramount Pictures ended amid reported acrimony earlier in 2006, released their first co-production with UA, Lions for Lambs, in 2007. Thereafter the UA brand was subsumed into MGM. 

Tags
terms:
Film

FACT CHECK: We strive for accuracy and fairness. But if you see something that doesn't look right, click here to contact us! HISTORY reviews and updates its content regularly to ensure it is complete and accurate.

ALSO ON THIS DAY

Secretary of State Colin Powell speaks at UN, justifies US invasion of Iraq

U.S. Secretary of State Colin Powell gives a speech to the United Nations that is both highly consequential and full of fabrications on February 5, 2003. Using talking points that many within his own government had told him were either misleading or outright lies, Powell outlined ...read more

Punic Wars, between Rome and Carthage, come to an end

On February 5, 146 BCE, the Roman Republic finally triumphed over its nemesis, Carthage, after over a century of fighting. The victory and subsequent destruction of the city of Carthage marked the end of the Punic Wars and represented Rome's replacement of Carthage as the ...read more

Southern Pacific Railroad completes New Orleans to California route

The Southern Pacific Railroad completes its transcontinental “Sunset Route” from New Orleans to California, consolidating its dominance over rail traffic to the Pacific. One of the most powerful railroad companies of the 19th century, the “Espee” (as the railroad was often ...read more

Husband of missing Utah woman kills self and two young sons

On February 5, 2012, 36-year-old Josh Powell, who had been in the public eye since police labeled him a person of interest in the 2009 disappearance of his 28-year-old wife, Susan, locks out a social worker then kills himself and his two sons, ages 5 and 7, by setting fire to his ...read more

FDR announces “court-packing” plan

On February 5, 1937, President Franklin Roosevelt announces a controversial plan to expand the Supreme Court to as many as 15 judges, allegedly to make it more efficient. Critics immediately charged that Roosevelt was trying to “pack” the court and thus neutralize Supreme Court ...read more

Roger Williams arrives in America

Roger Williams, the founder of Rhode Island and an important American religious leader, arrives in Boston in the Massachusetts Bay Colony from England. Williams, a Puritan, worked as a teacher before serving briefly as a colorful pastor at Plymouth and then at Salem. Within a few ...read more

Mexican constitution proclaimed

After seven years of revolution and civil upheaval, Mexican President Venustiano Carranza proclaims the modern Mexican constitution, which promises the restoration of lands to native peoples, the separation of church and state, and dramatic economic and educational reforms. The ...read more

Immigration act passed over President Wilson’s veto

With more than a two-thirds majority, Congress overrides President Woodrow Wilson’s veto of the previous week and passes the Immigration Act. The law required a literacy test for immigrants and barred Asiatic laborers, except for those from countries with special treaties or ...read more

White supremacist convicted of killing Medgar Evers

On February 5, 1994, white supremacist Byron De La Beckwith is convicted in the murder of African American civil rights leader Medgar Evers, over 30 years after the crime occurred. Evers was gunned down in the driveway of his Jackson, Mississippi, home on June 12, 1963, while his ...read more

Hitler to Mussolini: Fight harder!

On February 5, 1941, Adolf Hitler scolds his Axis partner, Benito Mussolini, for his troops’ retreat in the face of British advances in Libya, demanding that the Duce command his forces to resist. Since 1912, Italy had occupied Libya because of purely economic “expansion” ...read more

Hank Aaron is born

On February 5, 1934, Henry Louis Aaron Jr., the baseball slugger who broke Babe Ruth’s legendary record of 714 homers, is born in Mobile, Alabama. Aaron began his professional baseball career in 1952 in the Negro League and joined the Milwaukee Braves of the major league in 1954, ...read more

Millard Fillmore marries Abigail Powers

On February 5, 1826, Millard Fillmore, who later becomes the 13th president of the United States, marries Abigail Powers, a New York native and a preacher’s daughter. As a youngster, Abigail’s mother encouraged her daughter’s interest in reading and urged her to take advantage ...read more

Georgia constitution abolishes primogeniture and entail

On February 5, 1777, Georgia formally adopts a new state constitution and becomes the first U.S. state to abolish the inheritance practices of primogeniture and entail. Primogeniture ensured that the eldest son in a family inherited the largest portion of his father’s property ...read more