LOUIS B. MAYER Biography - Bussiness people and enterpreneurs


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Name: Louis Burt Mayer                                                                     
Birth name: Eliezer Meir                                                                   
Born: 4 July 1882 Minsk, Belarus, Russian Empire                                           
Died: 29 October 1957 Los Angeles, California                                             
Louis Burt Mayer (born Eliezer Meir 1882 – October 29, 1957) was an early               
film producer, most famous for his stewardship and co-founding of the Hollywood           
film studio Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer.                                                           
He is generally cited as the creator of the "star system" within Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer       
(MGM) in its golden years. Known always as Louis B. Mayer (pronounced Louie) and           
often simply as "L.B.", he believed in "wholesome entertainment" and went to               
great lengths to collect "more stars than in the heavens".                                 
Born to a Jewish family in Minsk, Russian Empire (now Belarus), Mayer emigrated           
with his family to Saint John, New Brunswick, Canada when he was still very               
young, and Mayer attended school there. His father started a scrap metal                   
business, J. Mayer & Son. Louis, as the son, salvaged material from sunken                 
vessels on the ocean floor, where his father would throw him overboard and would           
not let him return onto the boat until he had what his father needed.                     
Throughout Mayer's childhood, he was constantly abused by his father.                     
He married Margaret Shenberg on June 14, 1904, and, three years later, moved to           
Mayer renovated the "Gem Theater", a rundown, 600 seat burlesque house in                 
Haverhill, Massachusetts, which he reopened on November 28, 1907 as the "Orpheum",         
his first movie theater. To overcome the unfavorable reputation that the                   
building once had in the community, Mayer decided to debut with the showing of a           
religious film. He would say years later that he went with From the Manger to             
the Cross, although other sources place the release of that film as 1912.                 
Within a few years, he owned all five of Haverhill's theaters, and, with Nat               
Gordon, created the Gordon-Mayer partnership that controlled the largest theater           
chain in New England.                                                                     
In 1914, the partners organized their own film distribution agency in Boston.             
Mayer paid D.W. Griffith $25,000 for the exclusive rights to show The Birth of a           
Nation in New England. Though Mayer had made the bid on a film that one of his             
socuts had seen, but he had not, his decision netted him over $100,000. Mayer             
partnered with Richard A. Rowland in 1916 to create Metro Pictures Corporation,           
a talent booking agency, in New York City. Two years later, Mayer moved to Los             
Angeles and founded Louis B. Mayer Pictures Corporation to form his own                   
production company. The first production was 1918's Virtuous Wives. A                     
partnership was set up with B. P. Schulberg to make the Mayer-Schulberg Studio.           
Mayer's big breakthrough, however, was when Marcus Loew, owner of the Loew's               
theatre chain, merged Metro Pictures, Samuel Goldwyn's Goldwyn Pictures                   
Corporation, and Mayer Pictures into Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer. As "Vice-President in           
Charge of Production", Mayer effectively controlled MGM.                                   
As a studio boss, Louis B. Mayer built MGM into the most financially successful           
motion picture studio in the world and the only one to pay dividends throughout           
the Great Depression of the 1930s. However he frequently clashed with production           
chief Irving Thalberg, who preferred literary works over the crowd-pleasers               
Mayer wanted. He ousted Thalberg as production chief in 1932 while Thalberg was           
recovering from a heart attack and replaced him with independent producers until           
1936 when he became head of production as well as studio chief. This made Mayer           
the first executive in America to earn a million-dollar salary. Under Mayer, MGM           
produced many successful films with high earning stars including Greta Garbo,             
Clark Gable, Spencer Tracy, Katharine Hepburn, Lon Chaney, Joan Crawford, Jean             
Harlow, Judy Garland and many others.                                                     
Although Mayer had a reputation for ruthless expediency and allegedly narrow               
views about what subjects were suitable topics for motion pictures,                       
Katharine Hepburn referred to him as a "nice man" (she personally negotiated               
many of her contracts with him), and young actresses such as                               
Debbie Reynolds, June Allyson, and Leslie Caron who matured as MGM contract               
players viewed him as a father figure.                                                     
By 1948, due to the introduction of television and changing public tastes, MGM             
suffered a considerable dropoff in its success. Three years without a major               
Academy Award provoked further conflict between Mayer and Nicholas Schenck,               
president of MGM's parent, Loews, Inc. Mayer worked to control costs and                   
searched for a "new Thalberg," hiring writer and producer Dore Schary as                   
production chief. Schary (who was 20 years Mayer's junior) preferred message               
pictures in contrast with Mayer's taste for "wholesome" films. Three years later,         
Mayer reportedly called Loews headquarters in New York with an ultimatum, "It's           
either him, or me" and Schenck fired Mayer from the post he'd held for 24 years.           
Mayer tried to stage a boardroom coup but failed and largely retired from public