"The number one book of the ages was written by a committee, and it was called The Bible"
(L.B. Mayer once said to a complaining writer)
LOUIS BURT MAYER was born Ezemiel Burt Mayer on July 4th, 1885 in Minsk, Byelorussia, Russian Empire (now Belarus).
His parents immigrated to America when lil Louis was just three. His parents & he settled Saint John, New Brunswick, where his father became a junk dealer and his wife sold chickens door to door. From an early age, lil Louie was NO stranger to work.. After graduating from "elementary school," young Mayer joined his father's business, which had become a profitable scrap metal operation.
Louis set up his own junk business in Boston, and in 1904, he married the daughter of a local kosher butcher, & started a family..
In 1907 Mayer bought a small rundown motion picture theater in Haverhill, Massachusetts. He renovated the auditorium and announced a policy of top-quality films only... Within a few years he owned the largest theater chain in New England.
In 1916 he moved to Los Angeles and formed his own producing company, which in 1924 after a series of mergers, and bringing the future name Samuel Goldwyn on-board, and merging with Marcus Loew, president and founder of the powerful Metro Pictures Corp.became known as Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer.
He lived in this posh style beach home along the "Golden Coast", in Santa Barbara, Cali. Here it is today.. as it appears from the beach.. An aerial.. Another shot?? And another from Google maps? Posh as his house?? The parties he threw there were of LEGEND.. Here is a photo from one of those parties with Judy & Mickey..
As production chief of MGM from 1924 to 1951, he discovered many of the screen's greatest stars, producers, writers, and directors. Among those Clark Gable, Joan Crawford, Cary Grant, Spencer Tracy, Elizabeth Taylor, Buster Keaton, Katharine Hepburn, Lana Turner, Judy Garland, Mickey Rooney, the Marx Brothers, Laurel and Hardy, Jackie Cooper, William Powell, John Barrymore, Lionel Barrymore, Myrna Loy, Ava Gardner and one of Mayer's personal discoveries, Greta Garbo. Mayer was often personally involved in the private lives of his employees, usually to make sure their public reputation matched the studio's image for wholesomeness and decency. With his production supervisor and vice-president, Irving Thalberg, he made MGM a powerful defining force in the motion picture industry of the 1930s and 1940s. His early successes include Ben Hur (1926) and Grand Hotel (1932). He received a Special Academy Award in 1950 for his contributions.
He ruled his studios with an iron hand, and to his advantage. MGM set the standard all others tried to follow, influencing mass culture and world opinion. As great entertainers go - he could fire up a mean cigar as well.. He took pride in fine cigars! At one point, MGM cranked out major feature films every week, employing thousands of artists and technicians, making -- and breaking -- film stars upon Mayer's whims. He rose to the top, the studio guided by his philosophy of quantity and quality.
It was along about 1936.. L.B. started eyeing a film production "UNLIKE ANY OTHER!" The film would be the first of it's kind, and the FIRST color picture in motion picture history. 'The Wizard of Oz', was to be monumental. The technology would be 'Technicolor.' Production began & finished with the 'color' aspect under tight secret. L.B. wanted the whole picture to be colorized, however, this proved too costly.. So it was to start off in usual black & white. After the house came to a rest (falling on the Wicked Witch.. & Dorothy emerged from the house - the film turned to color!! The effect had EXACTLY the effect on the audience, L.B. had hoped for!! It also effectively made history, & L.B,, the Father of Color Pictures.. A title he was VERY proud of! The "ruby slippers", Dorothy wore in the film are on display at The Smithsonian Institute! "The Wizard of Oz", Munchkin tour was to follow. BTW - The Wizard of Oz", was shot entirely on the MGM lot - RELIVE the Yellow Brick Road on the "Oz Munchkin Page", here @ Hollywood Legends.net.
Mayer owned or bred a number of successful thoroughbred racehorses at his ranch in Perris, California, near Los Angeles.
MGM was built upon MORALITY!! When MGM executive and writer Paul Bern committed suicide, Mayer arrived on the scene before the police, and took Bern's suicide note. He feared the incident might reflect poorly on the studio, but he was eventually convinced to turn the note over to the police. When Mickey Rooney, star of the "Andy Hardy" series and a well-known womanizer and partygoer, started to get a little too much press, Mayer took him aside and gave him the Mayer version of a Judge Hardy lecture: "You're Andy Hardy! You ARE the United States! You're Stars and Stripes! You're a symbol! Behave yourself!" There are even reports that when one of MGM's biggest stars was driving drunk on Hollywood Boulevard and killed a pedestrian, Mayer arranged for a low-level studio employee to take the blame in exchange for a life-time job guarantee. Mayer ruled over MGM as a big family -- with Mayer as the paternalistic authority, rewarding loyalty and obedience, punishing insubordination, and regarding opposition as personal betrayal. In 1950, Mayer was given a special Academy Award, "for distinguished service to the motion picture industry."
He died in 1957 from leukemia in Los Angeles. May you R.I.P. Mr. Mayer! Your vision made Hollywood greater, indeed!!
There is a book written on him called "Merchant of Dreams" . At Mayer's funeral, Jeanette MacDonald sang, "Ah, Sweet Mystery of Life."
Mayer was a staunch conservative, he was active in politics and for several years was the California state chairman of the Republican party.
Wanna see a genuine LB check?? How's about ANOTHER??
Sam Goldwyn said of his office: "You need an automobile to reach the desk.
"Herman J. Mankiewicz once quipped: "He had the memory of an elephant and the hide of an elephant. The only difference is that elephants are vegetarians and Mayer's diet was his fellow man."Bob Hope:
"Louis B. Mayer came out west with twenty-eight dollars, a box camera and an old lion. He built a monument to himself---the Bank of America."
Here.. L.B. - Speaking on "World Affairs"..