UA started with artists in lead role

Roundup: Pop Culture & the Arts ... Movies, Documentaries and Museum Exhibits

When CEO Harry Sloan gives visitors a tour of MGM's airy executive offices on the 14th floor of the MGM Tower in Century City, he enjoys pointing out an antique document in one of the display cases. The paper in question is the founding agreement that Charlie Chaplin, Mary Pickford, Douglas Fairbanks and director D.W. Griffith signed in 1919 when they decided to take control of their careers by joining to create their own motion picture company, the United Artists Corp.

Until Thursday, that old contract appeared more a historical artifact than a template for the future. But in announcing that it has struck a deal with Tom Cruise and his producing partner Paula Wagner to revive UA, MGM said it was harkening back to UA's storied history as a filmmaker-friendly "place where producers, writers, directors and actors can thrive in a creative environment."

UA, which has earned nine best picture Oscars, has occupied a unique if sometimes embattled spot in Hollywood history. And its legacy is remembered fondly.

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