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Monogram Pictures


Monogram Pictures Corporation is a currently dormant American film studio that produces and releases films, mostly on low budgets, between 1931 and 1953, when the firm completed a transition to the name Allied Artists Pictures Corporation. Monogram was among the smaller studios in the golden age of Hollywood, generally referred to collectively as Poverty Row. The idea behind the studio was that when the Monogram logo appeared on the screen, everyone knew they were in for action and adventure.
The backbone of the studio in those early days was a father-and-son combination: writer/director Robert N. Bradbury and cowboy actor Bob Steele (born Robert A. Bradbury) were on their roster. Bradbury wrote almost all, and directed many, of the early Monogram and Lone Star westerns. While budgets and production values were lean, Monogram offered a balanced program, including action melodramas, classics and mysteries.
The studio's new policy permitted what Mirisch called "B-plus" pictures, which were released along with Monogram's established line of B fare. Mirisch's prediction about the end of the low-budget film had come true thanks to television, and in September 1952 Monogram announced that henceforth it would only produce films bearing the Allied Artists name. The Monogram brand name was finally retired in 1953. The company was now known as Allied Artists Pictures Corporation.
Broidy retired in 1965 and Allied Artists ceased production in 1966 and became a distributor of foreign films, but restarted production with the 1972 release of Cabaret and followed it the next year with Papillon. Both were critical and commercial successes, but high production and financing costs meant they were not big moneymakers for Allied Artists. Allied Artists raised financing for their adaptation of The Man Who Would Be King by selling the European distribution rights to Columbia Pictures and the rest of the backing came from Canadian tax shelters. King was released in 1975, but received disappointing returns. That same year it distributed the French import Story of O, but spent much of its earnings defending itself from obscenity charges.
Monogram Pictures operated the Monogram Ranch, its movie ranch in Placerita Canyon near Newhall, California, in the northern San Gabriel Mountains foothills. Tom Mix had used the "Placeritos Ranch" for location shooting for his silent western films. Ernie Hickson became the owner in 1936 and reconstructed all the "frontier western town" sets, moved from the nearby Republic Pictures Movie Ranch (present day Disney Golden Oak Ranch), onto his 110-acre (0.45 km2) ranch. A year later Monogram Pictures signed a long-term lease with Hickson for "Placeritos Ranch", with terms that stipulated the ranch be renamed "Monogram Ranch". Actor/cowboy singer/producer Gene Autry purchased the Monogram Ranch property from the Hickson heirs in 1953, renaming it after his film Melody Ranch. Today it's operated as the "Melody Ranch Motion Picture Studio" and "Melody Ranch Studios".
Monogram cautiously entered the field of television syndication. Studios usually avoided putting their own names on their television subsidiaries, fearing adverse reaction from their movie-theater customers, the noticeable exception to this being Paramount. Monogram followed suit, christening its TV arm as Interstate Television Corporation. Interstate's biggest success was the Little Rascals series (formerly Hal Roach's "Our Gang" comedies, which had been reissued for theaters by Monogram). In later years Interstate TV became Allied Artists Television.