The early history of product placement in film

In path-breaking archival research into the history of independent cinema production and how it was marketed, Melanie Selfe has investigated how Samuel Goldwyn and his distributor United Artists aggressively used bespoke branded product-placement and associated promotions to sell their biggest films. Her research centres on the early 1930s and the contrast between United Artists and major vertically integrated studios such as Warner Bros, and identifies independent production financing and distribution structures as important drivers of early product placement practices. By focusing illustratively on the musical comedies that Goldwyn built around the popular all-round entertainer, Eddie Cantor, Melanie’s study examines how key talents, including dance director Busby Berkeley and songwriters Al Dubin and Harry Warren, were used to embed spectacular advertising elements in the production numbers, making the commercial message central to the pleasures these films offered. Selfe, M. (2020) "Use the SONGS to sell your SHOW!": Sam Goldwyn, the Eddie Cantor musicals and the development of product-centred marketability. Historical Journal of Film, Radio and Television, (doi: 10.1080/01439685.2020.1730551) (Early Online Publication). 

First published: 21 September 2020

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