|THE INTERNATIONAL SILENT MOVIE|
1882 - 1957
The producer Louis B. Mayer was born as Ezemmiel Mayer in the Ukraine. At the age of two his parents fled to Canada where he grew up in poverty, moreover he was afflicted under the abuse of his father.
When he was twenty he went to Boston where he first worked as a scrap
iron trader. In 1907 he opened his first movie theater and his business
was so successful that he soon possessed 90% of all cinemas in New England.
Thanks to a participation for the movie "The Birth of a Nation" (15) he
became rich overnight.
In the 20's followed movies like "The Inferior Sex" (20), "Polly of the Storm Country" (20), "Habit" (21), "The Invisible Fear" (21) and "The Wanters" (23).
His production company was combined in 1924 with Marcus Loew's already united "Metro Pictures" und "Samuel Goldwyn Pictures", out of it came first "Metro-Goldwyn Pictures" and finally the still today well-known Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer or MGM. The logo with the roaring lion was taken over from Goldwyn Pictures.
To Mayer's big movies of the beginning of this era belong Erich von
Stroheim's cult movie "Greed" (24) and the monumental movie "Ben-Hur" (25).
Both movies enjoyed great popularity, anyway the movies did not account
for the financial profit of the company because the production costs had
rocket upwards. Therefore these movies were looked at as prestige projects
which established MGM as the leading production company lasting ahead Universal
MGM became the most important film production company for the next decades and was famous for its star system. Their statement was "More stars than there are in heaven" and Louis B. Mayer was regarded as the creator of this system.
Louis B. Mayer became the best paid executive director in the USA (he earned about 1.3 Million Dollar in 1937) and was the most influential person in Hollywood at the same time. Beside it he also was famous for horse breeding.
When Marcus Loew died unexpectedly in 1926 he had to nominate a replacement
and found one in the person of Nicholas Schenck. But the relationship between
this two men were difficult and it became worse when Schenck tried to sell
MGM to Fox underhand in 1929.
MGM also worked together with producer Hal Roach and published Roach's "Our Gang". The collaboration ended when Louis B. Mayer experienced that Roach was also dealing with Benito Mussolini.
MGM came up with a huge star ensemble in the 30's, to the well-known stars belonged Jean Harlow, Jean Crawford, Norma Shearer, Myrna Loy, William Powell, Clark Gable, Spencer Tracy, Greta Garbo, James Stewart, Lon Chaney, die Marx-Brothers, John and Lionel Barrymore or Cary Grant.
Louis B. Mayer's business sense was legendary. When he was a kind of
a father figure for the ones he was able to make the life difficult for
others. By discussions about the salary with his stars he was able to use
tears – successfully adopted with Robert Taylor – but also to threat or
cry and many stars like Judy Garland suffered from his interference into
their private life.
When Paramount and Columbia passed MGM the management nominated Dore
Schary – who was a former screen writer – as the new executive producer
and became a serious competition for Louis B. Mayer, especially because
Nicholas Schenck had an ear for Dore Schary.
He was among others married with the actress Lorena Layson. His step-son was the legendary producer David O. Selznick. Louis B. Mayer came down with leukemia and died in 1957 at the age of about 75 years – his exact birthday is contentious.
The Time magazine listed him as one of the 100 most influential persons
of the 20th century.
Other movies from Louis B. Mayer