With The Oscar’s just around the corner, we bring you the movers and shakers behind cinema’s most iconic movies.
Harry Cohn (aka King Cohn)
Harry was the co-founder and president of Columbia Pictures. He described running a studio as ‘better than being a pimp’. In later years, his love of aphorisms caught up with him with US comedy actor Red Skelton remarked of the crowds at Cohn’s funeral : ‘It proves what Harry always said: “ Give the public what they want and they’ll come out for it”.’
Louis B Mayer
‘LB’ (born Eliezer or Lazar Meir in Minsk, Belarus) started life in the junk business. Noting the similarities between this profession and Hollywood, he moved to LA, where he ran MGM. He also owned one of the best stables in America. He was known for his aptitude in dealing with stars and horses, possibly using techniques for training the latter on the former.
The Warner Brothers
Harry, Albert, Sam and Jack. Born to Polish immigrant parents from Ostrołęka, at home these brothers were also known as Hirsz, Aaron, Szmul and Itzhak Wonskolaser. Wisely, they decided to change their names when they emigrated, and one of the most successful studios of the twentieth century was born.
Sam Goldwyn started life in Warsaw, Poland, as Schmuel Gelbfisz. When he moved to Birmingham, England, he changed his name to Samuel Goldfish in an effort to fit in with the natives.
Sam’s difficulties with the English language plagued him throughout his life, and he is reportedly responsible for such corkers as ‘I don’t think anybody should write his autobiography until after he’s dead’, and ‘In two words: Im Possible (although Charlie Chaplin later took credit for that one).
Yet Sam’s malapropisms didn’t stop him from becoming one of the most powerful men in Hollywood, He found fame chiefly as an independent producer. In a lesson to bluffers everywhere, he never produced a film with the studio that bore his name, Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer (MGM).
The Bluffer’s Guide to Hollywood is available now via Amazon: