Edit
Samuel Goldwyn Poster

Biography

Jump to: Overview (4) | Mini Bio (1) | Spouse (2) | Trivia (15) | Personal Quotes (70)

Overview (4)

Date of Birth 17 August 1879Warsaw, Poland, Russian Empire [now Warsaw, Mazowieckie, Poland]
Date of Death 31 January 1974Los Angeles, California, USA  (heart failure)
Birth NameSchmuel Gelbfisz
Nickname Mister Malaprop

Mini Bio (1)

Famed for his relentless ambition, bad temper and genius for publicity, Samuel Goldwyn became Hollywood's leading "independent" producer -- largely because none of his partners could tolerate him for long. Born Shmuel (or Schmuel) Gelbfisz, probably in 1879, in the Jewish section of Warsaw, he was the eldest of six children of a struggling used-furniture dealer. In 1895 he made his way to England, where relatives Anglicized his name to Samuel Goldfish. There he begged (or stole) enough money for a ticket in steerage across the Atlantic. He reached the US, probably via Canada, in 1898. He gravitated to Gloversville, New York, in the Adirondack foothills, which was then the capital of the US leather glove industry; he became one of the country's most successful glove salesmen. After moving his base of operations to Manhattan and marrying the sister of Jesse L. Lasky, who was then a theatrical producer, Goldfish convinced Lasky and Cecil B. DeMille to go into film production. The new company's first film, The Squaw Man (1914), was one of the first features made in Hollywood; the company later became the nucleus of what would later become Paramount Pictures. As his marriage fell apart, Goldfish dissolved his partnership with Lasky. His next enterprise was the Goldwyn Co., founded in 1916 and named for himself and his partners, brothers Edgar Selwyn and Archibald Selwyn--Goldfish liked the name so much he took it for his own. The Goldwyn Co.'s stars included Mabel Normand, Madge Kennedy and Will Rogers, but its most famous legacy was its "Leo the Lion" trademark, which was adopted by its successor company, Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer (MGM). Goldwyn himself was ousted from his own company before the merger, which was why his name became part of MGM even though he himself had nothing to do with the company. After his firing Goldwyn would have nothing to do with partners and went into independent production on his own, and for 35 years was the boss and sole proprietor of his own production company, a mini-studio specializing in expensive "quality" films, distributed initially by United Artists and later by RKO. His contract actors at various times included Vilma Bánky, Ronald Colman, Eddie Cantor, Gary Cooper, David Niven and Danny Kaye. In some cases, Goldwyn collected substantial fees for "lending" his stars to other producers. Touted by publicists for his "Goldwyn touch" and loathed by many of his hirelings for his habit of ordering films recast, rewritten and recut, Goldwyn is best remembered for his films that teamed director William Wyler and cinematographer Gregg Toland.

- IMDb Mini Biography By: David S. Smith

Spouse (2)

Frances Howard (23 April 1925 - 31 January 1974) (his death) (1 child)
Blanche Lasky (8 May 1910 - 23 September 1915) (divorced) (1 child)

Trivia (15)

When Goldwyn emigrated to the US, an Immigration Service clerk changed his last name from "Gelbfisz" to what he thought was its English translation, "Goldfish". Sam changed it to Goldwyn when he went into partnership with producer Edgar Selwyn, combining the first syllable of "Goldfish" with the last syllable of "Selwyn". He originally wanted to do the opposite, until someone pointed out that it would result in his new name being "Selfish".
Father of Samuel Goldwyn Jr. and Ruth Capps. Grandfather of Tony Goldwyn and John Goldwyn.
2002: Portrayed on Broadway in "Alan King as Mr. Goldwyn" by actor/comedian/producer Alan King. Play focuses on Goldwyn in early 1950s when he is making Hans Christian Andersen (1952).
His sayings, sometimes known as "Goldwynisms," were famous for their unintentional wit, which was partially as a result of his somewhat limited understanding of the English language that surfaced when he tried to comment on certain situations. There are many examples of this, such as "Include me out" or "a verbal contract isn't worth the paper it's written on.".
At one time Goldwyn was scheduled to appear as the "Mystery Guest" on the TV game show What's My Line? (1950), in which panelists are blindfolded and have to guess who the Mystery Guest is. The show's rules required that panelists who found out the Mystery Guest's identity before he or she appeared on the show had to disqualify themselves. A few days before his scheduled appearance, Goldwyn ran into panelist Dorothy Kilgallen in a restaurant and said, "Guess what, Dorothy? I'm going to be on your show Sunday night!" She told him that since she now knew he would be the Mystery Guest, she'd have to disqualify herself. A few days later Goldwyn ran into Bennett Cerf, also a panelist on the show, and said, "Guess what, Bennett? I did a really dumb thing the other day and told Dorothy that I'm going to be on your show Sunday night!" Cerf also was forced to disqualify himself, resulting in the only double disqualification in the show's history.
In 1917 he merged his production company with All-Star Feature Films Corp., owned by brothers Edgar Selwyn and Archibald Selwyn, creating the Goldwyn Pictures Corp. The symbol of the new company was a reclining lion, surrounded by a banner made from a strip of celluloid film with the words "Ars Gratia Artis" ("Art for Art's Sake") at the top, which was designed by Howard Dietz. The trademark adorned the front gate of the studio's Culver City, California, production facilities, which ranked with the finest in Hollywood (the inspiration for the original "Leo the Lion" likely were the stone lions at the New York Public Library on 44th St., which was across from the All-Star Feature Corp.'s offices). Goldfish liked the name of the new studio so much that he renamed himself Samuel Goldwyn. He was forced out of the company in 1922. It was merged with Loew's Inc.'s Metro Pictures in 1924 through a stock swap, creating Metro-Goldwyn, which subsequently merged with Louis B. Mayer Productions, and Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer was born--even though Goldwyn himself had nothing to do with the company that bore his name (he tried legal action to prevent the new company from using it, but lost). Goldwyn, who had also been ousted from an earlier company he had owned, did not get along well with partners and remained an independent producer for the rest of his career.
Was forced out of Famous Players-Lasky on September 14, 1916, and incorporated Goldwyn Pictures with brothers Edgar Selwyn and Archibald Selwyn two months later on November 19, 1916. At that point in his career he needed the highly respected Selwyns, who were successful Broadway producers and owned a library of filmable plays. The Selwyns went into business with him because he had Mabel Normand, the biggest star in the movies, under contract. He had signed her to a personal contract on September 16, 1916, two days after resigning from Famous Players-Lasky. The contract was set to kick in after her contract with Mack Sennett expired in 1917. Normand had been voted the top movie comedienne in a July 1916 "Motion Pictures Magazine" readers' poll, and going into business with him gave the Selwyns access to her; without her, he would probably not have been able to convince the Selwyns to go into business with him. By partnering with him, they gained access to some of the finest production facilities in Hollywood and one of the top female stars.
In the 1930s and 1940s the Hollywood studio system was dominated by a handful of men who ran their domains largely by themselves, and with an iron hand: Louis B. Mayer (MGM), Adolph Zukor (Paramount), Harry Cohn (Columbia), Carl Laemmle (Universal), Jack L. Warner (Warner Bros.), Herbert J. Yates (Republic), Darryl F. Zanuck (Warners in the 1930s and 20th Century-Fox in the 1940s) and Goldwyn and David O. Selznick as independent producers. By 1959 all of these men--with the exception of Warner--had either died, retired or been forced out of their own companies.
Is portrayed by Olivier Pierre in RKO 281 (1999), by Lee Wallace in This Year's Blonde (1980) and by Vernon Weddle in Malice in Wonderland (1985)
Formed Goldwyn Distributing Corp., 1917.
Formed Goldwyn Pictures Corp., 1917.
Formed Goldwyn Producing Corp., 1916.
Goldwyn's wife Frances Howard would often travel to New York City scouting Broadway productions, looking for talent in both the production's acting areas and the creative teams involved in the production'a staging. On trip to see "Lady in The Dark" she discovered Danny Kaye, and upon returning to Hollywood insisted to her Husband that he put Kaye under contract. After Kaye arrived in Hollywood, several screen tests were made to determine the best possible path for his future in the film business. The major problem with his physical look was his natural brown hair. Frances, upon seeing these test screenings, dictated to her husband that "they had to change his hair color!" and said to change him to a redhead. Goldwyn's press agent, however, always insisted that Kaye's strawberry-red hair was his natural color, for publicity reckoning.
For a period of time in the 1940s to late 1950s, the Hughes Tool Co. ventured into the film and media industry, about bought RKO Pictures and its associated companies, the RKO Theater chain and the RKO Radio network. In 1948 Howard Hughes gained control of RKO, which was struggling to stay alive, by acquiring 25% of the outstanding stock from Floyd Odlum's Atlas Corporation. Universal Pictures acquired the American distribution rights in 1951 of the 1948 J. Arthur Rank-Archers feature film The Red Shoes (1948), released in a small London art house movie theater in September of 1948. Hughes was so impressed with director Michael Powell's dance film, starring Sadler Well's Ballet principal dancers Moira Shearer, Léonide Massine and Robert Helpmann that he wanted his own ensemble corps de ballet company. So he decided to buy one in an effort to expand the creative base of his newly acquired studio. He had been impressed with the success of "Les Ballets de Paris de Roland Petit." An outstanding classical dancer as a youth, Roland Petit swiftly decided on a career as a rebel against the traditionalism of the Paris Opera Ballet, and before the age of 25 had created three of his most iconic ballets, "Le Jeune Homme et La Mort" (world premiere on 6/26/46, Les Ballets des Champs-Elysee, Theatre des Champs-Elysee, Paris); the Jean Cocteau ballet "Les Demoiselles de La Nuit" (world premiere Theatre Marigry, Paris 5/21/48, Les Ballet de Paris de Roland Petit, featuring Margot Fonteyn; and "Carmen" (world premiere in London, Prince's Theatre, on 2/21/49, with the sultry young Zizi Jeanmaire as the lethal female destroying a hapless male. These ballets caused a sensation worldwide and Petit and Jeanmaire swiftly became the most exciting names in French dance, closely associating with Jean Cocteau, Édith Piaf, Yves Montand and the new intellectuals of Left Bank Paris. Hughes contracted Petit and his Parisian-based "Ballet de Paris de Roland Petit" for film assignments, including all personal appearances in North America. Petit and his core dance company's flight from Paris to Los Angeles was on Hughes-owned Trans World Airlines (Hughes acquired control of TWA in 1939, and after World War II led the expansion of the airline to serve Europe, the Middle East and Asia, making TWA a second unofficial flag carrier of the US after Pan Am). The dance troupe, housed in a Culver City hotel, were assigned a sound stage for intense preparatory workouts and dance rehearsals. After six months of isolation in Culver City, the troupe's enthusiasm for their new North American venture had dwindled, because after all of their their intense serious practicing, rehearsing, exercising and with no stage or film scheduled assignments, the core of dancers became extremely mutinous. They packed their luggage and arrived at the TWA air terminal in L.A. with their round-trip tickets in hand, checking in for their return flight to Paris. Unfortunately, they did not know that their boss Howard Hughes owned TWA. The TWA passenger agents alerted Hughes that a horde of French dancers were at the TWA air terminal, demanding a return flight to Paris. RKO's studio security officers descended upon the air terminal with a fleet of buses to round them up, confiscating all of the ticket bills the ticketing agents had collected. Upon returning to their hotel, the troupe was assured that they would be put to work on a Hollywood musical film. Samuel Goldwyn, whose production company was located at RKO's studio at 1041 North Formosa Avenue in Hollywood, was in pre-production to star Danny Kaye in an original musical film based on the life of Hans Christian Anderson, with a story by Myles Connolly, a screenplay by Moss Hart and Ben Hecht and lyrics and original music composed by Frank Loesser. Goldwyn had initially offered the film's ballerina role to Moira Shearer, but since he was he was quartered on RKO property, Hughes told him to use Roland Petit, Jeanmaire and Petit's Ballet de Paris dance troupe. Petit insisted that his French stage production scenic and costume designer Antoni Clave be flown to Hollywood as his film design collaborator. RKO costume designer Mary Wills joined the art department; Barbara Karinska was brought from New York City to supervise and construct all of the film's ballet and principle's costumes. Art director ' Richard Day collaborated with Clavé on all the film's stage and ballet sets. Petit insisted on hiring Danish danseur noble Erik Bruhn, one of the greatest premier male dancers of the 20thcentury, noted for his outstanding classical technique and immense stage presence. He epitomized the ethereally handsome prince and cavalier on the international ballet stage. The film's director, Charles Vidor somehow had to cope with Petit's creative driving force, stimulus and momentum--he contributed to every scene and camera setup, and many credited him as the impetus for the film's visual magic.

Personal Quotes (70)

Pictures are for entertainment, messages should be delivered by Western Union.
A verbal contract isn't worth the paper it's written on.
In two words: im-possible.
My wife's hands are very beautiful. I'm going to have a bust made of them.
Include me out.
Anyone who goes to a psychiatrist should have his head examined.
When you're a star, you have to take the bitter with the sour.
If you can't give me your word of honor, will you give me your promise?
What we need now is some new, fresh clichés.
[on his longtime friend and partner, Louis B. Mayer] The reason so many people turned up at his funeral is this: they wanted to make sure he was dead.
Every director bites the hand that lays the golden egg.
Too caustic? To hell with the costs, we'll make the picture anyway.
A wide screen just makes a bad film twice as bad.
Flashbacks are a thing of the past.
A hospital is no place to be sick.
I don't care if my pictures never make a dime, so long as everyone keeps coming to see them.
I'll give you a definite maybe.
I read part of it all the way through.
This new atom bomb is dynamite.
You've got to take the bull by the teeth.
Don't talk to me while I'm interrupting.
Our comedies are not to be laughed at.
Tell me, how did you love my picture?
I never liked you, and I always will.
Don't pay any attention to the critics; don't even ignore them.
If I could drop dead right now, I'd be the happiest man alive!
I never put on a pair of shoes until I've worn them five years.
The scene is dull. Tell him to put more life into his dying.
I was always an independent producer, even when I had partners.
Go see it and see for yourself why you shouldn't see it.
I'd hire the devil himself if he'd write me a good story.
A producer shouldn't get ulcers; he should give them.
For your information, I would like to ask a question.
I may not be always right, but I'm never wrong.
This makes me so sore it gets my dandruff up.
When I want your opinion, I'll give it to you.
A bachelor's life is no life for a single man.
It's more than magnificent; it's mediocre.
[on Fredric March] I'm overpaying him, but he's worth it.
Color television! Bah, I won't believe it until I see it in black and white.
When everybody's happy with the rushes, the picture's always a stinker.
We'd do anything for each other; we'd even cut each other's throats for each other.
We want a story that starts out with an earthquake and works its way up to a climax.
Why should people go out and pay to see bad movies when they can stay at home and see bad television for nothing?
[upon visiting the set of Dead End (1937), a film about life amid the grinding poverty of a New York City slum] Why do directors always try to make slums so dirty? Clean it up.
. . . We've all passed a lot of water since then.
Never make forecasts, especially about the future.
I don't think anyone should write his autobiography until after he's dead.
[on William Wyler's films] I made them -- Willy only directed then.
[on Mary Pickford] It took longer to make one of Mary's contracts than it did to make one of Mary's pictures.
[on Charles Chaplin] Charlie Chaplin is a great artist. I don't agree with many of the things he says and does, but he's the greatest artist our motion picture business has ever had and I'd make a picture with him tomorrow if he wanted to.
[when told by a director that the character Goldwyn wanted to cut out of a picture to save money was actually the main villain, and without him there would be no story] Well, it's a great man who can say he's always wrong.
Motion pictures should never embarrass a man when he brings his wife to the theatre.
The picture makers will inherit the earth.
In this business it's dog eat dog, and nobody's going to eat me.
I am a rebel. I make a picture to please me. If it pleases me, there is a chance it will please others. But it has to please me first.
Actors think with their hearts. That's why so many of them die broke.
It's a mistake to remake a great picture because you can never make it better. Better you should find a picture that was done badly and see what can be done to improve it.
When someone does something good, applaud! You will make two people happy.
I don't want any yes-men around me. I want everyone to tell me the truth - even though it costs him his job.
]when asked by his secretary if she should destroy all files that were over ten years old] Yes, but keep copies.
Let's have some new clichés.
We have that Indian scene. We can get the Indians from the reservoir.
[on the Mardi Gras celebration in New Orleans] Even if they had it in the streets, I wouldn't go.
True, I've been a long time making up my mind, but now I'm giving you a definite answer. I won't say yes, and I won't say no -- but I'm giving you a definite maybe.
I want to make a picture about the Russian secret police--the GOP.
Modern dancing is old fashioned.
Keep a stiff upper chin.
The trouble with this business is the dearth of bad pictures.
Don't worry about the war. It's all over but the shooting.

See also

Other Works | Publicity Listings | Official Sites | Contact Info

Contribute to This Page