SAMUEL GOLDWYN Biography - Producers, publishers & editors


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Name: Samuel Goldwyn                                                                     
Birth name: Schmuel Gelbfisz                                                             
Born: 27 August 1882                                                                     
Died: 31 January 1974 Los Angeles, California, U.S.A.                                     
Samuel Goldwyn (27 August 1882 - 31 January 1974) was an Academy Award and               
Golden Globe Award-winning producer, also a well-known Hollywood motion picture           
producer and founding contributor of several motion picture studios.                     
Born Schmuel Gelbfisz in Warsaw to a Polish Jewish family, at an early age he             
left his native Warsaw penniless and on foot. He made his way to Birmingham,             
England, where he remained with relatives for a few years using the Anglicised           
name Samuel Goldfish. In 1898, he emigrated to the United States, but fearing             
refusal of entry, he got off the boat in Nova Scotia, Canada before moving on to         
New York in January 1899. He found work in upstate Gloversville, New York in the         
bustling garment business. Soon his innate marketing skills made him a very               
successful salesman. After four years, as vice-president for sales, he moved             
back to New York City.                                                                   
He became a naturalized citizen of the United States in 1902. At the time, the           
fledgling film industry was expanding rapidly and in his spare time, an                   
enraptured Goldwyn went to see as many movies as possible. Before long, he went           
into the business with Vaudeville performer Jesse L. Lasky, his brother-in-law           
at the time, and Adolph Zukor, a theater owner. Together, the three produced             
their first film, using an ambitious young director named Cecil B. DeMille.               
Disputes arose between the partners and Goldwyn left after a few years but their         
company evolved to later become Paramount Pictures. Shortly before this, he also         
divorced his first wife, with whom he had a daughter, Ruth.                               
In 1916 Samuel Goldwyn partnered with Broadway producers Edgar and Archibald             
Selwyn, using a combination of both names to call their movie-making enterprise           
the Goldwyn Pictures Corporation. Seeing an opportunity, Samuel Goldwyn then had         
his surname legally changed to the less comical-sounding Goldwyn. The Goldwyn             
Company proved moderately successful but it is their "Leo the Lion" trademark             
for which the organization is most famous. Eventually the company was acquired           
by Marcus Loew and his Metro Pictures Corporation but by then Samuel Goldwyn had         
already been forced out by his partners and was never a part of the new studio           
that became Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer.                                                         
Goldwyn was married to Blanche Lasky from 1910 to 1915. In 1925, he married               
actress Frances Howard to whom he remained married for the rest of his life.             
Their son, Samuel Goldwyn, Jr. would eventually join his father in the business.         
After his departure from Goldwyn Pictures Corporation, he established Samuel             
Goldwyn Inc., eventually opening Samuel Goldwyn Studio on Santa Monica Blvd. in           
West Hollywood. For 35 years, Goldwyn built a reputation for excellence in               
filmmaking and an eye for finding the talent for making films. He discovered             
actor Gary Cooper, used director William Wyler for many of his productions and           
hired writers such as Ben Hecht, Sidney Howard and Lillian Hellman. For more             
than three decades, Goldwyn made numerous successful films and received Best             
Picture Oscar nominations for Arrowsmith (1931), Dodsworth (1936), Dead End (1937),       
Wuthering Heights (1939), and The Little Foxes (1941). The leading actors in             
several of Goldwyn films were also Oscar-nominated for their performances.               
Throughout the 1930s, Goldwyn released all his films through United Artists, but         
beginning in 1941, and continuing almost through the end of his career, Goldwyn           
released his films through RKO.                                                           
In 1946, the year he was honored by the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and               
Sciences with The Irving G. Thalberg Memorial Award, Goldwyn's drama The Best             
Years of Our Lives, starring Myrna Loy, Fredric March, Teresa Wright and Dana             
Andrews, won the Academy Award for Best Picture. In the 1950s Samuel Goldwyn             
turned to making a number of musicals including the 1955 hit Guys and Dolls               
starring Marlon Brando, Jean Simmons, Frank Sinatra, and Vivian Blaine. This was         
the only independent film that Goldwyn ever released through MGM. (Goldwyn had           
previously made several musicals starring Danny Kaye, as well as 1938's The               
Goldwyn Follies.) Two years later, in 1957, he was awarded The Jean Hersholt             
Humanitarian Award for his outstanding contributions to humanitarian causes.             
In his final film, made in 1959, Samuel Goldwyn brought together African-American         
actors Sidney Poitier, Dorothy Dandridge, Sammy Davis, Jr. and singer Pearl               
Bailey in a film rendition of the George Gershwin opera, Porgy and Bess.                 
Released by Columbia Pictures, the film was nominated for three Oscars, but won           
only one. It was also a critical and financial failure, and the Gershwin family           
reportedly disliked the film and eventually pulled it from distribution. The             
reception of the film was a huge disappointment to Goldwyn.                               
Samuel Goldwyn died at his home in Los Angeles in 1974 from natural causes,               
probably at the age of 94. He was interred in the Forest Lawn Memorial Park               
Cemetery in Glendale, California. In the 1980s, Samuel Goldwyn Studio was sold           
to Warner Bros.. There is a theater named for him in Beverly Hills and he has a           
star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame at 1631 Vine Street.                                   
Goldwyn is remembered as a ruthless businessman who lacked formal education and           
his sometimes crude manners added to an explosive temper that left him with few           
close friends. He nevertheless was a film genius who believed in quality and who         
not only survived, but prospered in an extremely competitive business. On the             
passing of former partner and arch rival Louis B. Mayer, he is quoted as saying:         
"The reason so many people turned up at his funeral is that they wanted to make           
sure he was dead."