There have always been movers and shakers in Hollywood. It's WHAT defines the city, & WHO makes the movies! Irving Thalberg was amongst the first true mover and shaker in Hollywood. He, along with, Louis Mayer, shaped MGM into the biggest, and most powerful studio at the time. Fast on his feet and quick to decide and act on this thoughts, made him a remarkable Hollywood legend!!!
Irving Grant Thalberg was born May 30, 1899, in Brooklyn, New York. He was born with a number of health problems, making him a fighter from birth. He took an interest in filmmaking at a young age - and while in high school met a young businessman who introduced him to a Hollywood producer in New York. The producer frequently took him on set at Universal Pictures (which was - at the time, here.. thanks Google Maps!!).
Upon graduation of high school, he was employed by Universal Pictures' New York office, where he worked as personal secretary to legendary studio founder Carl Laemmle, the boss of Universal Studios. Thalberg was bright and persistent, and by age 21 was executive in charge of production at Universal Pictures in California. He quickly established his tenacity as he battled with Erich von Stroheim over the length of the film "Foolish Wives", and controlled every aspect of the production of "The Hunchback of Notre Dame", in 1922.
Here is where Thalberg would extend and utilize his creative powers, along with Louis Mayer, to create amongst the most powerful studio of the time. Surpassing that of Universal, & 2nd to Warner Bros., in the day! By day, he was a ruthless, get it done, type of executive - by night he was a gentle hearted, social light whom everyone liked to be around. He brought to life on the screen for the first time, such classics as 'Ben-Hur', 'Billy the Kid', 'Just a Gigolo', 'A Night at the Opera', and was the first ever to bring 'Shakespeare', to the screen with his production of 'Romeo and Juliet.' , which STARRED THE LOVE of his life, Norma Shearer..
His list of films were many...never taking credit for his films stating, "Credit you give yourself, is not worth having."
The only film he was ever was listed in the credits for was, "The Good Earth," which, since it was released after his death - he had no sayso over.
In 1927, he married famed beautiful actress, Norma Shearer. They had two children and lived here, in this posh home, along the Golden Coast.. (just a stones throw up from his fellow businessman and boss, Louis Mayer.) Heeyyya!! Here is a shot, from the beach.. Inside.. Bar.. Dining.. Nowadays?? Not much has changed - & I LOVE that!!
L.B., personally saw the newly married couple off on their honeymoon..
Life could not have been better for Thalberg. He had a beautiful, and very nurturing wife, and was the vice-executive of the then most powerful studio in Hollywood. Disaster loomed, however, in the distance.
In 1932, Thalberg suffered a major heart-attack, which left him ill and weak. While he was ill - Louis Mayer replaced him with David O. Selznick and Walter Wanger. (Selznick was to become LB's son-in-law).. (Note -LB hired TWO people - to do the work of Irving!!)
When he did return to work in 1933, it was as one of the studio's unit producers. Nonetheless, he helped develop some of MGM's most memorable films. Louis Mayer still saw the potential and talent in Thalberg, and often sought his advice, although in his condition, never allowed him to return him to his original position at MGM.
Sadly, Thalberg past away of pneumonia at age 37, at his 'Golden Coast' home on September 14, 1936, with his wife and children at his bedside.
It was truly a sad day in Hollywood, and Hollywood recognized it. On the day of his funeral, a somberness echoed to every nook & cranny in Hollywood!! MGM closed for the entire day, and every Hollywood studio shut down operations for five minutes of silence at 10:00 AM PST. That's NEVER happened since, nor, I am convinced, will NEVER happen again!!
Owing to Thalberg's habit in his lifetime of not seizing the spotlight for himself, Hollywood's memorials to him after his death were relatively sedate, although heartfelt!!!
MGM renamed their administration facility the Thalberg Building, (now the headquarters for Columbia Pictures.. As SONY now owns both Columbia & MGM.) and the Academy of Motion Picture Arts & Sciences created the Thalberg Award to acknowledge "creative producers", whose bodies of work reflect a consistently high quality of motion picture production." Since then? Maaany an acknowledged filmmaker has walked away from the Oscars™ a happy camper!
RIP Irving, you were unique and a vital to Hollywood!
After a preview of the Marie Dressler-Wallace Beery picture "Tugboat Annie" (1933), Thalberg asked director Mervyn LeRoy if a scene could be bettered by making Beery's shoes squeak. LeRoy agreed, but detailed how it would be economically prohibitive to reshoot the scene as the sets had been dismantled and the cast had dispersed. Thalberg responded, "Mervyn, I didn't ask you how much it would cost, I asked you whether it would help the picture." The scene was reshot, an example of Thalberg's perfectionism.
One of the 36 founders of the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences (AMPAS)
Thalberg's final project for MGM was Marie Antoinette which was in the early stages of production at the time of his death. Ultimately, the title role went to Norma Shearer his widow who took a keen interest in the film and had always considered it an ode to Thalberg.