"It will be as long as it need be to get the tender value across, make it the best. I will not be satisfied until that film is PARAMOUNT!! ~ Jesse Lasky
Jesse Lasky was a man with solid focus, ambition, and had one goal...achieve it and be it! By far one of the most relaxed, home spun, zesty moguls. In the years of researching this man, I don't think I can remember a time when someone recalls Jesse as harsh or abrasive. He is the father of full-length motion pictures..and his story...starts now...
He was born Jesse Louis Laskey, in the heart of the San Francisco Bay....September 13, 1880. From the time he was a child, he was entertaining whomever he could find to entertain. Once he was a bit older, he moved his act to the streets of San Fran and found out through he could make a living at it...from there on - he made it his personal goal...to be an entertainer. From the streets, he moved on to vaudeville. While in vaudeville - he met a man with similar interests named Samuel Goldwyn. They became fast friends. 1909 was a good year for Lasky. Upon meeting Lasky's sister, Goldwyn courted her..badabing badaboom...wedding bells and poof..Goldwyn and Lasky's sis...were married. There would also be wedding bells for Lasky. While on vacation in Adirondacks, he met a young lady named Bessie Ginzberg. They were married in December, in Boston. Together, they would have 3 children..and stay married for life.
In 1913, Lasky and Goldwyn teamed with another fellow they both met in vaudeville, Cecil B. DeMille and Oscar Apfel to form a mutual company but led by Lasky, it was named Jesse L. Lasky Feature Play Company. With a tight budget...they rented a barn near Los Angeles where they made their first feature film, a film DeMille wrote and directed, The Squaw Man. (Can you imagine being a fly on the wall on the set of that film?? (I'd have been happier than a buzzard on a gut wagon!) The Squaw Man was unique in the fact that, when the film had reached the average 'film length' of the time...there was still more to be shot. Lasky ordered it done. They filmed until they reached the end of the film...Lasky then would take the film out...reload the camera...and shoot until that spool of film was out. It was your basic rinse, repeat process. When all production was complete...the end result was 1 hour 12 minutes of film. Lasky then spliced it all together frame by frame. Once complete - there was a problem ... projectors were not set up to run 1 hour and 14 mins. So Laskey transformed the reel platters from this...to this. Farm is as farm does... Lasky obtained the needed film platters - thru actual tractor wheels.. Ala-presta..full-length feature films were born! Movie patrons went nuts and the Jesse Lasky Play Company had soon outgrown itself. This 'barn' they rented, would became the first permanent feature film company actually located in the town of Hollywood, but NOT where the first film was shot. Known today as the Lasky-DeMille Barn, it is home to the Hollywood Heritage Museum. If your ever in the area, check it out! It's FABulous..and the closest ANY of us will ever get to being a fly on the wall on those historic days!!
Anyway..... I imagine as celebration was happening, there was a..
Why... It's Adolph Zukor ('ello, 'ello!)
Adolf Zukor joined the Lasky bandwagon - no doubt smelling success ah-brewing!!😉
In 1916, the Jesse Lasky Play Company, seeing an opportune moment in bigger distribution, merged with Adolph Zukor's Famous Players, thus becoming Famous Players-Lasky. Sam left to try his hand at his own picture company... SUCCESS!! DeMille, Zukor, and Lasky pressed on. Upon their studio becoming ever more popular, they needed a new name. Out of thin air, Lasky...in a business meeting...in recalling his thoughts on the film The Squaw Man, uttered the line..."It will be as long as it need be to get the tender value across, make it the best. I will not be satisfied until that film is PARAMOUNT!!" The uttered line stayed in the heads of Zukor and Lasky for weeks. It was in the midst of another board meeting, the line was re-brought up by Lasky...history was made and Paramount Pictures, had been BORN! Construction on the famous gate began!
From 1916 through 1932, Lasky was in charge of Paramount's productions in both Hollywood and New York. He saw the invaluable importance of allowing no limits on creativity from the producers who worked for Paramount. This provided for a more deeper imagination to be used, thus producing better films. Under his guidance, the studio cranked out hit after hit. Lasky also had a method for Paramount's continued success by ensuring his company's films be booked by a theater owner for an entire year. The method worked and by 1921, Paramount was tops in film distribution...(and before the Paramount film, Titanic, line was coined...it was in fact Lasky that was....KING OF THE WORLD!)
He lived in this fine home in Brentwood while working. Nowadays, apartments stand beyond the gate.. (Nice to see they kept the fence..)
...AND this beach home during escapes.
In all of Lasky's success, his assistant...Emanuel ("Manny") Cohen... was going behind Lasky's back sharing with Zukor how he'd have done things differently to make the film more successful. (**IMO...it's easy to sit back and say what someone coulda, shoulda, woulda...it's a whole different story when put in the shoes of actually making it work.)
By 1932, things weren't as they once were for Lasky. Gradually it was more and more Zukor's name as presenter (as he also was the financier). The Depression had started, and Lasky had fell into financial struggles when the market crashed. Zukor starting tightening his hold on the budgets.. which totally derailed Lasky's method of success. Lasky saw this as his time to go and resigned. Zukor, now chief stockholder of Paramount, opted to replace Lasky- with Lasky's backstabbing, butt smooching, assistant...Emanuel ("Manny") Cohen - who he saw as...quote, 'more budget conscious.' (I might add that when Paramount started putting caps on spending, they quickly got passed by Warner Bros.! Lasky, No doubt, LOVING the fact that Warner had surpassed Paramount!! Harry Warner (the eldest of the original four brothers) would not even notion the thought of putting a budget on creativity. (Imagination was, after all, what Hollywood was made of.)
Annnnyway...as Lasky's son stated..."a ruthless little bastard named Manny Cohen was my fathers downfall." He continued..."When the success and fortune go, many people have nothing to turn to except suicide. Curiously, my father turned to metaphysical philosophy. I think he must have learned about it from my mother most likely by osmosis. She was attuned to that kind of sensitivity while he never appeared to be so."
Lasky forged a partnership with Mary Pickford, which had a few years success. Lasky was spending a good deal of time at their beach home. By 1945, Zukor had realized Paramount was going to shit without Lasky, but it was too late. Even though he fired the butt smoocher Manny Cohn, Lasky had took what funds he did have and started his own production company underwritten by Fox, and was working as a side producer for Warner Brothers.
On the morning of January 13th, 1958...Lasky and the wife were at their home ...(apartments mark the spot now-a-days.) Jesse awoke early and preparing for the day. Lasky was working on a film, and Mrs. Lasky had plans to do some errands that day. When Lasky didn't come downstairs to breakfast, Mrs. Lasky went to check on him, thinking he had possibly laid back down as he mentioned he didn't feel well. Upon arrival upstairs, she found Lasky slumped over and unresponsive. An ambulance was summoned, but it was too late. Jesse Lasky had died of a heart attack. 😕 He was 78 years of age...and worked his passion right until the end!! Motion-Pictures had lost a PIONEER!!
There is ABSOLUTELY NO DOUBT WHATSOEVER that Paramount Pictures would have become the success it has become without Jesse Lasky. His story was last on my "main" Paramount page - for the simple reason of this quote...save the best for last. When it comes to Paramount, Jesse was Paramount to it's success!! ABSOLUTELY!!
RIP Mr. Lasky...the legacy you left will live forever, in the hearts of people like me. Ciao!! See you when I get there!!
Jesse had his own postcard in the day!! FoSho!!
MY ULTRA HUGE THANKS to Hollywood Legends.net friend Katherine Archbald for her INVALUABLE help in this story!! 🤗