Louis B. Mayer
73 (passed away Oct. 29th, 1957)
Jul. 12th, 1884
Louis B. Mayer's Main TV Roles[no roles found]
Main Movie Roles
Guest TV Roles[none found]
Mayer was born Lazar Mayer in the Ukraine and grew up in Saint John, New Brunswick, Canada after his parents fled Russian oppression in 1886. He had a brutal childhood, raised in poverty and suffering physical and emotional abuse from his nearly-illiterate peddler father. In the early 1890s, he changed his name to Louis and fudged his birth date to reflect the more "patriotic" date of July 4, 1885. He moved to Boston in 1904 and struggled as a scrap-metal dealer until he was able to purchase a burlesque house. Although he made large sums by showing films (he made a sizable fortune off The Birth of a Nation (1915)), his early business ventures favored legitimate theater in New England. As his theater empire expanded, he had acquired and refurbished enough small movie theaters that he was able to move his business to Los Angeles and venture into movie production in 1918. Along with Samuel Goldwyn and Marcus Loew of Metro Pictures, he formed a new company called Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer (MGM).
Over the next 25 years, MGM was "the Tiffany of the studios," producing more films and movie stars than any other studio in the world. Mayer became the prime creator of the enduring Hollywood of myth, home to stars like Clark Gable, Judy Garland (I), Joan Crawford (I), and Jean Harlow. Mayer became the highest-paid man in America, one of the country's most successful horse breeders, a political force and Hollywood's leading spokesman. Both he and MGM reached their peaks at the end of World War II, and Mayer was forced out in 1951. He died of leukemia in 1957.
- Portrayed by 'Harold Gould (I)' (qv) in _The Silent Lovers (1980) (TV)_ (qv), 'Howard Da Silva' (qv) in _Mommie Dearest (1981)_ (qv), 'Al Waxman' (qv) in _Life with Judy Garland: Me and My Shadows (2001) (TV)_ (qv), 'Stanley DeSantis' (qv) in _The Aviator (2004)_ (qv), etc.
- During his entire career at MGM, Mayer only answered to two men: 'Marcus Loew' (qv)- who died on Sept 25, 1927 - and his replacement at MGM parent, Loew's Inc., 'Nicholas Schenck' (qv). It was an uncomfortable relationship for both men. Schenck inherently understood Mayer's value as a the head of MGM but resented his price. The two men would fight bitterly over the years over business matters, with Schenck repeatedly planting spies (including 'E.J. Mannix' (qv) who soon became a Mayer loyalist) to monitor Mayer's business dealings.
- Appears as a character in the musical play, "In Hell With Harlow".
- He was a master manipulator, and it was generally acknowledged that of all the great actors on the lot - the Barrymores, 'Spencer Tracy' (qv), 'Lon Chaney' (qv), 'Greta Garbo' (qv) - Mayer was the best. He was not above-- or below-- crying, begging, threatening, charming or cussing (often within the same conversation) anyone out on the lot if it meant getting his way. When 'Robert Taylor (I)' (qv) tried to hit him up for a raise, Mayer advised the young man to work hard, respect his elders, and in due time he'd get everything he deserved. He hugged Taylor, cried a little and walked him to the door. Asked if he got his raise, the now tearful Taylor is said to have answered, "No, but I found a father." Taylor, remained a good company man--- and one of the most underpaid top actors on the lot, enjoyed a 25-year career with the studio.
- Uncle of directors 'Fred M. Wilcox' (qv) and 'Gerald Mayer' (qv) .
- Mayer, according to Peter Hays' 1991 book "When the Lion Roars," idealized his mother. He was her favorite son, and she was the main influence on his life. She died in 1913, and Mayer kept a picture of her over his bed the rest of his life. With his mother an icon in his eyes, Mayer revered the concept of motherhood. When director 'Erich von Stroheim' (qv) expressed the opinion to Mayer that all women were whores, Mayer asked him if he thought of his own mother that way, and then punched him in the face. Mayer told screenwriter 'Frances Marion' (qv), at their first meeting, that she should never write anything that would embarrass Mayer's own wife and two daughters. He told her, "I worship good women, honorable men and saintly mothers."
- Was the father-in-law of producer/studio boss 'William Goetz' (qv) (1903-69), married to Mayer's daughter Edith. As one of the initial investors in 'Darryl F. Zanuck' (qv)'s fledgling Twentieth Century Pictures (which would soon merge with ailing Fox), Mayer insisted that his son-in-law be hired so as to get him out of MGM. Goetz served as executive vice president of Twentieth Century-Fox, heading the studio during 'Darryl F. Zanuck' (qv)'s leave of absence to serve in the military in 1942. Zanuck, fearful of his underling's ambitions, forced him out of the company upon his return in 1943. Ironically both Mayer and Zanuck felt that Goetz was decidedly unimaginative and a mediocre film executive. That same year Goetz formed International Pictures, which merged with Universal in 1946. Goetz would go on to become one of the most successful movie moguls in the post-TV era.
- In his will, excluded daughter Edith and her husband.
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