The average movie-going audience might be forgiven for not being able to name a given film’s producer, while still being able to rattle off the name of every actor and actress who performed in it. While actors are often the most visible creatives in cinema, it’s the producers who secure financing who often have the most creative control. The studio head or executive producer most often has the power to greenlight movies for production, and what’s more, in many cases influences casting, selects shooting locations, and helps choose the director.
Giggster researched the most prolific film producers of the 20th century and highlighted 25 with at least 10 feature credits to their name over a 25-year period from 1900 to 1999. To count, the film had to credit the producer as either a producer or a producer and executive producer.
Many of the producers on our list got their start in the early part of the 20th century when the studio system in Hollywood was still a fledgling industry. While demographics have started to shift in recent years, the film industry has historically been predominantly populated by white men with huge control over which movies get made. Therefore, it is less than surprising that this list reflects that inequity, notably during the early part of the 20th century. Of particular note, producer-director Spike Lee is the lone Black person on this list, while Kathleen Kennedy is the sole woman. If the history of Hollywood is one of spectacle and technological and visual expansion, it is also reflective of a long-held, but fortunately now fracturing tendency to keep women and minorities out of positions of power.
Read on for our list of the most influential and prolific producers of the 20th century, a period of influence that consolidated film genres, expanded and evolved the visual narrative, and served as a model for the kinds of movies made for popular audiences in this century.
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