ArtsAutosBooksBusinessEducationEntertainmentFamilyFashionFoodGamesGenderHealthHolidaysHomeHubPagesPersonal FinancePetsPoliticsReligionSportsTechnologyTravel

Sam Goldwyn, Hollywood Pioneer

Updated on October 11, 2011

Sam Goldwyn

Sam Goldwyn was one of the most influential of the small group of rich, powerful men who controlled Hollywood during the Golden Age. His astonishing rags-to-riches story is that of a true pioneer, like a movie fantasy that came true.

His career spanned multiple generations of film production and he had an instrumental role in the formation of the two largest Hollywood studios, Paramount Pictures and Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer. Eventually, however, he opted out of studio executive management, motivated in part by his "lone wolf" nature as well as his inability to deal with partners. He reinvented himself as an independent producer, forming a production company that became the model for the independents who followed.

Early Years

Samuel Goldwyn was born Schmuel Gelbfisz, the oldest of six children in a family of Hasidic Jews in Warsaw, during summer of 1879. At age 15, his father died and the teenager left home on a foot-journey across Europe. He immigrated to Birmingham in England where he lived with relatives and worked as a blacksmith's helper, using the anglicised name, Samuel Goldfish, until he had earned enough money to make the journey to America.

The 19-year-old Samuel Goldfish landed in Canada in 1898, and briefly lived in Manhattan, before settling in Gloversville in Upstate New York. He worked in a glove factory then became a salesman at which he excelled. Within five years, he was a successful New York glove dealer.

He became a naturalized citizen of the United States in 1902. In the early years of the century, the fledgling film industry, which was expanding rapidly, attracted his interest, and he convinced his brother-in-law Jesse L. Lasky (then a stage producer) to go into business. They formed the Jesse L. Lasky Feature Play Company with the ambitious dream of filming a feature length movie. They hired the then-unknown aspiring playwright Cecil B. DeMille to go out west to direct their first feature The Squaw Man. The new company proved very successful and Goldwyn's partners credited him with being the business mastermind behind the operation with the job of finding buyers for movies before they were completed, while DeMille was in charge of the filmmaking and Lasky served as producer. Sam Goldwyn had arrived.

Sam and Frances Goldwyn
Sam and Frances Goldwyn

Hollywood Success

The success of the company spawned a merger with Adolph Zukor's Famous Players and Goldwyn started to take a greater role in the production of films, and in the administration of the company. He proved a prickly partner, however, and he alienated Zukor, his brother-in-law Lasky, and the studio's biggest star Mary Pickford. Within months of the merger being finalised in 1916 he resigned. His $7,500 initial investment had soared to $900,000 and the the company he left later evolved into Paramount Pictures.

Goldfish's next venture was a partnership with the famous theatrical Selwyn family. They merged their names and formed Goldwyn Pictures in 1917. Then Samuel Goldfish decided that he liked the name so much, that he legally changed his name to Samuel Goldwyn in December 1918.

As Goldwyn Pictures expanded, Sam Goldwyn found difficulties working within the large studio environment, and its tangle of investors and partners. Again, he faced being forced out. He sold his shares with a desire to become a lone wolf in the industry. Meanwhile, his shares in Goldwyn Pictures were acquired by Metro, and in a succession of mergers, the studio known as Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer (MGM) was born. So, bizarrely, Goldwyn was never part of the final management structure of the company that bears his name. This was to upset him his entire life, but Goldwyn's son said that if he could get free publicity from people thinking he was involved with MGM, he'd always take it.

In 1923, Sam Goldwyn formed his own studio and independent production company. He was in business until 1959, well-known for his frequent malapropisms and for producing many critically-acclaimed films such as "The Best Years of Our Lives", "Wuthering Heights", and "Stella Dallas". Goldwyn retired in 1959, and died in 1974.

Goldwyn was married to Blanche Lasky from 1910 to 1915. In 1925, he married actress Frances Howard to whom he remained married for the rest of his life. Their son, Samuel Goldwyn, Jr. would eventually join his father in the business.

Goldwynisms

Goldwyn has become as famous for his misquotes, or Goldwynisms, as for his success in the Hollywood movie industry. Some are apochryphal, some are genuine, all are worth hearing again. Sometimes its misuse of language, but he also had a sharp, acerbic wit. Only Goldwyn knew when he was deliberately being funny or when he was hashing the language.

Here is a selection of the best:

"An oral contract isn't worth the paper it's written on."

"Gentlemen, include me out."

"Anyone who goes to a psychiatrist ought to have his head examined."

"They stayed away in droves."

"I don't want yes-men around me. I want everyone to tell the truth, even if it costs them their jobs."

"I read part of it all the way through."

"I had a great idea this morning, but I didn't like it."

"Tell them to stand closer apart."

"For your information, just answer me one question!"

"In two words, impossible."

"A hospital is no place to be sick."

"I'm willing to admit that I may not always be right, but I am never wrong."

"Can she sing? She's practically a Florence Nightingale."

"Let's have some new cliches."

"Never make forecasts, especially about the future."

"I don't think anyone should write his autobiography until after he's dead."

"Modern dancing is old fashioned."

"This makes me so sore it gets my dandruff up."

"Put it out of your mind. In no time, it will be a forgotten memory."

Goldwyn and Wife Frances,  During Filming of Porgy and Bess, photo by Gjon  Mili
Goldwyn and Wife Frances, During Filming of Porgy and Bess, photo by Gjon Mili | Source

Comments

    0 of 8192 characters used
    Post Comment

    • gunsock profile imageAUTHOR

      gunsock 

      10 years ago from South Coast of England

      Thanks for the kind comment MrMarmalade. Goldwyn's an interesting character and must have been formidable to deal with in person.

    • MrMarmalade profile image

      MrMarmalade 

      10 years ago from Sydney

      Great hub on a very famous person

    working

    This website uses cookies

    As a user in the EEA, your approval is needed on a few things. To provide a better website experience, hubpages.com uses cookies (and other similar technologies) and may collect, process, and share personal data. Please choose which areas of our service you consent to our doing so.

    For more information on managing or withdrawing consents and how we handle data, visit our Privacy Policy at: https://hubpages.com/privacy-policy#gdpr

    Show Details
    Necessary
    HubPages Device IDThis is used to identify particular browsers or devices when the access the service, and is used for security reasons.
    LoginThis is necessary to sign in to the HubPages Service.
    Google RecaptchaThis is used to prevent bots and spam. (Privacy Policy)
    AkismetThis is used to detect comment spam. (Privacy Policy)
    HubPages Google AnalyticsThis is used to provide data on traffic to our website, all personally identifyable data is anonymized. (Privacy Policy)
    HubPages Traffic PixelThis is used to collect data on traffic to articles and other pages on our site. Unless you are signed in to a HubPages account, all personally identifiable information is anonymized.
    Amazon Web ServicesThis is a cloud services platform that we used to host our service. (Privacy Policy)
    CloudflareThis is a cloud CDN service that we use to efficiently deliver files required for our service to operate such as javascript, cascading style sheets, images, and videos. (Privacy Policy)
    Google Hosted LibrariesJavascript software libraries such as jQuery are loaded at endpoints on the googleapis.com or gstatic.com domains, for performance and efficiency reasons. (Privacy Policy)
    Features
    Google Custom SearchThis is feature allows you to search the site. (Privacy Policy)
    Google MapsSome articles have Google Maps embedded in them. (Privacy Policy)
    Google ChartsThis is used to display charts and graphs on articles and the author center. (Privacy Policy)
    Google AdSense Host APIThis service allows you to sign up for or associate a Google AdSense account with HubPages, so that you can earn money from ads on your articles. No data is shared unless you engage with this feature. (Privacy Policy)
    Google YouTubeSome articles have YouTube videos embedded in them. (Privacy Policy)
    VimeoSome articles have Vimeo videos embedded in them. (Privacy Policy)
    PaypalThis is used for a registered author who enrolls in the HubPages Earnings program and requests to be paid via PayPal. No data is shared with Paypal unless you engage with this feature. (Privacy Policy)
    Facebook LoginYou can use this to streamline signing up for, or signing in to your Hubpages account. No data is shared with Facebook unless you engage with this feature. (Privacy Policy)
    MavenThis supports the Maven widget and search functionality. (Privacy Policy)
    Marketing
    Google AdSenseThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    Google DoubleClickGoogle provides ad serving technology and runs an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    Index ExchangeThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    SovrnThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    Facebook AdsThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    Amazon Unified Ad MarketplaceThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    AppNexusThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    OpenxThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    Rubicon ProjectThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    TripleLiftThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    Say MediaWe partner with Say Media to deliver ad campaigns on our sites. (Privacy Policy)
    Remarketing PixelsWe may use remarketing pixels from advertising networks such as Google AdWords, Bing Ads, and Facebook in order to advertise the HubPages Service to people that have visited our sites.
    Conversion Tracking PixelsWe may use conversion tracking pixels from advertising networks such as Google AdWords, Bing Ads, and Facebook in order to identify when an advertisement has successfully resulted in the desired action, such as signing up for the HubPages Service or publishing an article on the HubPages Service.
    Statistics
    Author Google AnalyticsThis is used to provide traffic data and reports to the authors of articles on the HubPages Service. (Privacy Policy)
    ComscoreComScore is a media measurement and analytics company providing marketing data and analytics to enterprises, media and advertising agencies, and publishers. Non-consent will result in ComScore only processing obfuscated personal data. (Privacy Policy)
    Amazon Tracking PixelSome articles display amazon products as part of the Amazon Affiliate program, this pixel provides traffic statistics for those products (Privacy Policy)