Created via merger in 1924, Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer (MGM) was in many ways the consummate studio during Hollywood's classical era. With superb resources, top filmmaking talent, and "all the stars in the heavens," MGM factory-produced quality films on a scale unmatched in the industry. The key operatives in that factory system were MGM's producer corps—easily the biggest and the best in the industry—and its studio executives, Louis B. Mayer (1882–1957) and Irving Thalberg (1899–1936), who translated the economic policies and market strategies of parent company Loew's, Incorporated, into a steady output of A-class star vehicles that enabled MGM to dominate and effectively define Hollywood's "Golden Age."
MGM's dominion faded in the postwar era, however, when it failed to meet the monumental challenges facing Hollywood in the 1950s and 1960s. Thus MGM was prey to takeover, and like Paramount, Warners, and United Artists, it was acquired by another firm during the industry-wide recession of the late 1960s. Whereas the other studios were bought by diversified, deeppocketed conglomerates that enabled them to keep producing and distributing films, MGM had the misfortune to be acquired by real estate tycoon Kirk Kerkorian (b. 1917), who exploited the MGM library and brand name but let the studio languish. Kerkorian would buy and sell MGM three times over a thirty-five-year span, steadily dismantling the studio in the process. A consummate irony of recent film history, in fact, has been the long, slow death of MGM from the 1970s onward, while the industry at large underwent a massive resurgence. Equally ironic in the longer view is MGM's utter collapse in the "New Hollywood," in stark contrast to its dominion over the industry during the classical era.