Louis B. Mayer

Pioneering movie moguls

The date of birth, and the place, are unclear, as Eliezer Lazar Meier was a nobody at the time. All the more reason to stress the somebody he became. As a kid, Mayer slipped out of Russia. He was in England and then Canada as a junk dealer. Next it was New England, where he owned theaters and ran the rights on “Birth of a Nation.” But he moved his family West as he got into production and, with the MGM merger of 1924, he became head of the West Coast enterprise. In time, he was a friend to presidents and the highest paid American. He lasted until 1951, and personified the double standards of so many films. He loved acting, stars, family decency, costume romance, making money and being Mr. Mayer. He helped found the Motion Picture Academy. He worried Thalberg to death and he was a mixed blessing to son-in-law David Selznick. In “retirement” he dreamed of making “Joseph and His Brethren” and he clearly saw himself as a biblical hero. He also claimed July 4th for his birthday.

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