You will be redirected back to your article in seconds

Samuel Goldwyn Jr. Dies at 88

Samuel Goldwyn Jr., the son of a fiercely independent-minded Hollywood mogul and the producer of many independent films in his own right including “Mystic Pizza” and studio hits including “Master and Commander,” died Friday at Cedars-Sinai Medical Center in Los Angeles. He was 88. His son John Goldwyn told the New York Times he died of congestive heart failure.

Goldwyn Jr. received his final credit as a producer, together with son John and others, on Fox’s long-gestating remake of the Goldwyn Sr.-produced classic “The Secret Life of Walter Mitty,” starring and directed by Ben Stiller and released in December 2013.

The courtly and soft-spoken scion was known for shepherding independent and foreign films and got his start in documentary filmmaking, in contrast to his brash father, who made his way from a youth of poverty in Poland to a partner in MGM.

“I love it. If you don’t love this business, don’t go near it. Don’t go near it to get rich,” he told Britain’s the Independent in 2004. “And just remember, if you’re right 51 per cent of the time in this business, you’re a genius.”

As producer of the Peter Weir-directed “Master and Commander: The Far Side of the World” together with Weir and Duncan Henderson, Goldwyn Jr. shared that film’s Oscar nomination for best picture in 2004. (The film received a total of 10 nominations and won two Oscars.)

His Samuel Goldwyn Company was one of the most significant distributors of independent film during the period in which they flourished in the 1980s and 1990s. Among the films the company acquired and distributed were David Lynch’s Palme d’Or winner “Wild at Heart,” Jim Jarmusch’s “Stranger Than Paradise,” Bill Forsyth’s “Gregory’s Girl,” Alex Cox’s “Sid and Nancy,” Stephen Frears’ “Prick Up Your Ears,” Robert Townsend’s “Hollywood Shuffle,” Charles Burnett’s “To Sleep With Anger,” John Sayles’ “City of Hope,” Ang Lee’s “The Wedding Banquet” and Kenneth Branagh’s “Much Ado About Nothing.”

After a failed merger and lawsuit resulting from MGM’s acquisition of the distributor, Goldwyn Jr. relaunched his company as Samuel Goldwyn Films in the early 2000s. Though it was not nearly as active as the earlier incarnation, the new entity released indies such as “The Squid and the Whale,” “2 Days in Paris” and “Robot & Frank.”

In a 2004 New York Times profile, the tall, silver-haired Goldwyn was described as resembling not so much his father “as a combination of Kirk Douglas and Paul Newman.”

But Goldwyn Jr. gloried in his father’s achievements, eventually returning to live as an adult in the vast Beverly Hills estate built by his father and tending to the library of films. The films Samuel Goldwyn Sr. produced, including “The Best Years of Our Lives” and “Guys and Dolls,” are handled by the Samuel Goldwyn Jr. Family Trust and currently licensed to Warner Bros. for U.S. distribution.

Sam Goldwyn Sr. was one of the pioneers of Hollywood, and his production company, Goldwyn Pictures Corp., became part of Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer in 1924, but Goldwyn Sr. had no involvement with MGM and was independent of the studio system after that.

Goldwyn Jr., however, did not “trade on his father’s name,” Tom Rothman, who began his career at the Samuel Goldwyn Company, told the New York Times.

Goldwyn Jr. grew up in Los Angeles as a self-confessed “Hollywood brat” — his mother was actress Frances Howard, he attended his first Oscar ceremony at age 11 and worked in editing rooms during summer vacation. He then spent a long period away from Los Angeles, attending prep school in Colorado and the U. of Virginia. After serving in the Army, he then took a job in England working for J. Arthur Rank, where he earned his first film credit as associate producer on the British crime thriller “Good-Time Girl,” Diana Dors’ first film, in 1948. Goldwyn Jr. rejoined the military in 1950, where he produced and directed documentaries for the staff of General Dwight D. Eisenhower. Back in the U.S., he worked under Edward R. Murrow at CBS News and co-produced docu series “Adventure.”

When the young Goldwyn returned to Hollywood in the mid-1950s, Goldwyn Sr.’s career was in decline. In 1955 Goldwyn Jr. launched his production company Formosa Prods. (his father’s Samuel Goldwyn Studio was located at the corner of Santa Monica Boulevard and Formosa Avenue) and produced his first film, uncredited, the same year: the Robert Mitchum Western “Man With the Gun.”

Via Formosa Prods. he also produced “The Sharkfighters” (1956), “The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn” (1960) and, in the early 1970s, “Cotton Comes to Harlem” and “Come Back, Charleston Blue.” Goldwyn Jr. directed one film, “The Young Lovers,” starring Peter Fonda and Sharon Hugueny, in 1964.

In addition to his film work, Goldwyn Jr. produced the Academy Awards ceremony twice, in the late 1980s, winning an Emmy in 1988 for his effort.

His family’s charitable contributions are evident throughout the city: Samuel Goldwyn Foundation sponsors the yearly Samuel Goldwyn Writing Awards, created the Samuel Goldwyn Foundation Children’s Center day care facility, built the Academy of Motion Pictures theater and constructed the Hollywood Public Library in memory of Frances Howard Goldwyn.

He was married three times, to writer Peggy Elliott, with whom he had two children, and to actress Jennifer Howard, with whom he had four. He is survived by his current wife Patricia Strawn; four sons, producer John; actor Tony; Francis, and Peter, senior VP of Samuel Goldwyn Films; and two daughters Catherine, and Elizabeth; and nine grandchildren.

(Pat Saperstein contributed to this report.)

More Film

  • European Union Placeholder

    European Parliament Gives Final Approval to Controversial Article 13 Copyright Directive

    The European Parliament on Tuesday gave final approval of Article 13, a controversial directive that shakes up the rules around copyright in the continent with ramifications for online platforms, content owners and creators, and the general public. The proposed new framework, now approved, has sparked widespread debate among the platforms, public, and content firms. The platforms, [...]

  • Fox Disney Layoffs

    Fox Studio Quickly Fades Away as Disney Starts Work on Integration

    In the waning days of 21st Century Fox, there was a run on the searchlight. As Disney neared the completion of its $71.3 billion acquisition of 21st Century Fox, employees on the Fox lot rushed into the studio’s gift shop to pick up mugs, shot glasses, sweatshirts, hats and T-shirts emblazoned with 20th Century Fox’s [...]

  • Small Theaters Struggle to Survive in

    Inside Indie Movie Theaters' Battle to Survive

    Nestled at the foot of a large hill on the edge of downtown Providence, R.I., Cable Car Cinema was known to local moviegoers as ”the one with the couches.” That was a charitable description. They were love seats, really — perfect if you were with a date but awkward if you went to see a [...]

  • Nadine Labaki

    Cannes: Nadine Labaki to Head Un Certain Regard Jury

    Lebanese filmmaker Nadine Labaki has been named president of the jury for Un Certain Regard in Cannes. The Festival said Labaki had been chosen after “moving hearts and minds at the last Festival de Cannes with her Academy Award- and Golden Globe-nominated ‘Capernaum,’ which won the Jury Prize.” The organizers noted Labaki’s films have all [...]

  • Osmosis

    Netflix Unveils Four More French Originals, 'Gims,' 'Anelka,' 'Move,' 'Of Earth And Blood'

    As it prepares to open a fully-staffed office in France and ramp up its investment in local originals, Netflix has unveiled three new documentaries, “Move” (working title), “Gims” (working title), and “Anelka” (working title), and the feature film “Of Earth And Blood” while at Series Mania in Lille. Announced during a panel with Netflix’s commissioning [...]

  • Miramax Developing 'I Won't Be Home

    Film News Roundup: Miramax Developing 'I Won't Be Home for Christmas'

    In today’s film news roundup, “I Won’t Be Home for Christmas” is in the works, the NFL has made a documentary about female team owners and D Street Pictures has signed Kenny Gage and Devon Downs to direct the dance feature “Move.” HOLIDAY PROJECT Miramax has acquired film rights to Lauren Iungerich’s holiday-themed screenplay “I [...]

More From Our Brands

Access exclusive content