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Louis B. Mayer DIRECTOR


Louis Burt Mayer was born Eliezer Meir sometime between 1880 and 1885 (his actual birth date in unknown) in Minsk, Russia to a Jewish family. When he was young, his family immigrated to New York, and then Canada, to avoid Jewish persecution. His father started a scrap metal business there, which Mayer would work in until he moved to Boston in his late teens.

In Boston, he began his own scrap metal business. However, at the same time, the nickelodeon craze was sweeping the nation. In 1907, Mayer opened his own small theater in Haverhill, Massachusetts. Within a year he owned all of the theaters in Haverhill. A few years later he met with Nathan H. Gordon, another theater owner, and formed the Gordon-Mayer partnership that was in charge of the largest theater chain in New England. In 1914 they worked together to create a film distribution company. In 1915 they paid D.W. Griffith $25,000 for exclusive northeast distribution rights of his “A Birth of a Nation”. Their venture turned out to be a success, and they were suddenly rich.

Having figured out the presentation and distribution of pictures, Mayer chose to next move into the production of them. He joined Metro Pictures in New York City and produced a handful of films before leaving to Los Angeles to start his own production house with the help of Universal’s former Irving Thalberg, called Louis B. Mayer Productions. His first production was 1918’s “Virtuous Wives”, and he went on to produce a number of films. His work was comprised of such titles as “Her Kingdom of Dreams” (1919), “Playthings of Destiny” (1921), “Strangers of the Night” (1923), and “Thy Name is Woman” (1924). Many of them were romantic melodramas, often which starred Anita Stewart. Additionally, Mayer served as presenter for a fair amount of films like “The Fighting Shepardess” (1920), “One Clear Call” (1922), “Hearts Aflame” (1923), and “Why Men Leave Home” (1924). While he produced a great deal of pictures that he served as the presenter in, many times he presented features that he did not produce.

In 1924, Marcus Loew, the head of Metro, merged his company with Mayer and Goldwyn’s’ companies to form MGM. Mayer became the head of studio operations, and remained so for the next twenty seven years. As the company boss, Mayer turned MGM into the most financially successful motion picture studio in the world – even remaining on top during the Great Depression of the 1930s.

MGM’s films, due to Mayer’s discretions, rarely contained controversial issues, but boasted ornate sets, magnificent costumes, and carefully selected actors like Greta Garbo, Rudolph Valentino, Judy Garland, Clark Gable, and Joan Crawford, some of which who went on to become classic Hollywood icons. During Mayer’s reign, MGM put out such hits as “Ben Hur” (1926), “Grand Hotel” (1932), “Dinner at Eight” (1933), “The Good Earth” (1937), and “Ninotchka” (1939) to name a few. However, as Mayer was vice-president in charge of production of the entire company, his name was never put on the release of any of these films.

Mayer instead acted as the presenter in a number of pictures after he became head of MGM, not once having his name listed as producer on any of the films. He presented such features as “Excuse Me” (1925), “Confession of a Queen” (1925), “Memory Lane” (1926), and his final presentation job, “West of Zanzibar” (1930). He appeared as himself a few times in assorted pictures and MGM specials, as well as aided in the production of “The Wizard of Oz” (1938) and “I Take This Woman” (1940) (although his name is not credited in either) before MGM took a hit in 1948 due to the introduction of television.

Three years later in 1951, Nicholas Scheck, Loew’s replacement since his death in 1927, fired Mayer due to the studio’s failure to land any major awards in a span of three years. After, Mayer tried to get into independent production, but his old age and accustomedness to nearly thirty years of steady employment made it hard for him to do so. Instead, he ended up dabbling in real estate and indulging in his hobbies of owning boats and racehorses. On October 29, 1957, the producer died from leukemia in Los Angeles, California.

He will forever be remembered, though, for his contributions to the motion picture industry. MGM, a top production company even nowadays, will also pay homage to one of its great founders, as will viewers of MGM films. Additionally, the Academy of Motion Pictures and Sciences will always thank him, for he was one of its thirty six founders in 1927.

While he was not necessarily loved by his colleagues in Hollywood due to his short temper and domineering attitude, he was respected by all of them. One of his actresses, Katherine Hepburn, even stated in her autobiography: “L. B. Mayer was a shrewd man with enormous understanding of an artist. He was not stupid, not crude. He was a very sensible fellow, and extremely honest. In all my dealings with Mayer, I can say that he was the most honest person I ever dealt with in my life." Some people, however, got the opportunity to see behind his harsh façade and realized he could be charmed into being very generous. Nevertheless, everyone agreed he got the job done, and in a successful manner. So successful in fact, that he has been given an Honorary Award from the Academy Awards, DGA Honorary Life Member Award, and a Star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame.


1974       That's Entertainment!     

1940       I Take This Woman 

1939       The Wizard of Oz

1928       West of Zanzibar 

1926       Memory Lane 

1926       Mike 

1925       The Unholy Three 

1925       Fine Clothes 

1925       The White Desert 

1925       Proud Flesh 

1925       The Sporting Venus 

1925       Man and Maid 

1925       Confessions of a Queen 

1925       The Denial 

1925       Daddy's Gone A-Hunting 

1925       Lady of the Night 

1925       The Great Divide 

1925       Excuse Me 

1925       Ben-Hur: A Tale of the Christ 

1924       Greed 

1924       Wine of Youth

1924       Why Men Leave Home

1924       Thy Name Is Woman

1924       The Dixie Handicap 

1924       The Wife of the Centaur 

1924       So This Is Marriage? 

1924       The Silent Accuser 

1924       The Snob 

1924       He Who Gets Slapped 

1924       Married Flirts 

1924       His Hour 

1924       The Red Lily 

1924       Sinners in Silk  

1924       Tess of the D'Urbervilles 

1924       Bread  

1924       Women Who Give 

1923       The Eternal Struggle    

1923       The Famous Mrs. Fair 

1923       Hearts Aflame 

1923       The Wanters 

1923       Strangers of the Night 

1922       Rose o' the Sea 

1922       The Woman He Married 

1922       A Question of Honor

1922       One Clear Call   

1921       The Invisible Fear 

1921       The Child Thou Gavest Me

1921       Her Mad Bargain 

1921       The Invisible Fear

1921       Playthings of Destiny 

1921       Sowing the Wind 

1921       Habit 

1920       Harriet and the Piper

1920       The Woman in His House

1920       The Yellow Typhoon

1920       Polly of the Storm Country 

1920       The Inferior Sex   

1920       Old Dad   

1920       The Fighting Shepherdess 

1919       The Bishop's Emeralds 

1919       A Midnight Romance 

1919       In Old Kentucky 

1919       Human Desire

1919       Her Kingdom of Dreams 

1919       Mary Regan    

1918       Virtuous Wives

1917       Somewhere in America

1917       The Great Secret

1916       Lovely Mary

1916       Dimples 

1915       Barbara Frietchie 

1915       Always in the Way 

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