Ask a Librarian
Home / Margaret Herrick Library / Photograph Archive
Paramount Pictures, Inc., is one of Hollywood's oldest continuously operating film studios. Its history goes back to 1912, when studio executive Adolph Zukor imported the French feature film "Queen Elizabeth," starring Sarah Bernhardt, and used it to launch his Famous Players Film Company. Famous Players merged with the Jesse L. Lasky Feature Play Company in 1916 to form Famous Players-Lasky, which acquired a controlling interest in Paramount Pictures Corporation, at the time a two-year old distribution entity. In 1933 the company declared bankruptcy, Lasky was ousted, and the company reorganized to emerge as Paramount Pictures, Inc., with Zukor serving as chairman of the board emeritus. Gulf+Western acquired the company in 1966, followed by Viacom, Inc. in 1994. The studio is located in Hollywood.
The Paramount Pictures photographs span the years 1914-1970 and encompass 322 linear feet. The photographs are grouped into motion picture production photographs, set reference photographs, and biography photographs.
The motion picture production photographs span the years 1914-1970 and encompass 264 linear feet (approximately 200,000 prints). The material is arranged alphabetically by film title, and nearly 1,900 titles are represented. For conservation and preservation purposes, many of the photographs were removed from some 500 key books (still-photo albums). They include scenes as well as publicity portraits and off-camera photographs showing various aspects of productions in progress. The amount of material ranges from one to several hundred prints per title. Most films of the 1920s and films produced after 1949 generally have substantial coverage. In the 1950s MCA purchased the Paramount library of 770 sound films, 1929-1949, and thus most of these titles have little to no coverage. Also, many of the still books for films starring Clara Bow, Gloria Swanson or Rudolph Valentino had been removed prior to the gift.
The set reference photographs span the years 1929-1970 and encompass 14 linear feet. They consist of photographs for some 725 motion pictures. These photographs, created for continuity and other reference purposes, show only film sets, usually with no persons depicted. The material is arranged alphabetically by film title and includes titles from "Accent on Youth" (1935) to "Zaza" (1939). Due to extensive conservation needs, material on most films released after 1941 is currently unavailable. On average there are 50 photographs for each production from 1929 to 1941. Some titles, such as "Blonde Venus" (1932), have more than 100 prints, while fewer than a dozen titles have only a single print.
The biography photographs span from the 1930s to the 1960s and encompass 54 linear feet. They consist of studio gallery portraits and general publicity shots. The material is arranged alphabetically by personal name from Anna Maria Alberghetti to Adolph Zukor. There are files on 168 individuals, primarily actors, and while most files contain at least 50 items, many contain several hundred. Among these are MacDonald Carey, Bing Crosby, Cecil B. DeMille, W. C. Fields, Carole Lombard, Ray Milland, and Barbara Stanwyck. Formats include 8x10 and 4x5 black-and-white photographic prints and negatives. Files on non-performers tend to be smaller, sometimes containing only a few prints. Most of these have been transferred to the library’s Core Collection Biography files to facilitate access.
Gift of Paramount Pictures, 1977-1981, 2011.
Bronson Avenue gate, 1926