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Louis B. Mayer

Biography

Maker and owner of Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer (MGM), which made celebrities out of Clark Gable and Fred Astaire. He renovated a theatre known as The Orpheum in 1907. He was portrayed by Howard De Silva in Mommie Dearest, the 1981 biopic about celebrity Joan Crawford. He previously two kids and was wedded many times. His last relationship was to Lorena Layson in 1948. He elicited different views from celebrities: some, like Katharine Hepburn, loved him, while some, like Elizabeth Taylor, believed he was a monster.

Quick Facts


Full Name Louis B. Mayer
Date Of Birth July 12, 1884
Place Of Birth Minsk, Belarus
Profession Film Producer
Nationality Belarusian, American
Spouse Lorena Layson, Margaret Shenberg
Children Irene Mayer Selznick, Edith Mayer
Parents Jacob Meir, Sarah Meltzer
Siblings Ida Mayer Cummings, Yetta Mayer, J. G. Mayer, Rubin Mayer
Awards Academy Honorary Award, DGA Honorary Life Member Award
Movies Ben-Hur: A Tale of the Christ, He Who Gets Slapped, Virtuous Wives, I Take This Woman, Thy Name Is Woman, In Old Kentucky, The Wanters, Strangers of the Night, Sowing the Wind, Human Desire, The Great Secret, The Invisible Fear, The Inferior Sex, Actor's and Sin, Confessions of a Queen, The Snob, The Eternal Struggle, Tess of the d'Urbervilles, The Famous Mrs. Fair, Daddy's Gone A-Hunting, The Dixie Handicap, Rose o' the Sea, Lady of the Night, The Woman He Married, The Woman in His House, Why Men Leave Home, The Fighting Shepherdess, Lovely Mary, Always in the Way, Somewhere in America, Wine of Youth, Excuse Me, The White Desert, Man and Maid, The Trial of Mary Dugan, The Tower of Lies, The Mystic, Dance Madness, The Pagan, Strangers May Kiss, Redemption, Seven Chances, Man, Woman and Sin, The Cossacks, The Actress, Never the Twain Shall Meet, Kongo, The Smart Set, Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde, Arsène Lupin, Barbara Frietchie
Star Sign Cancer

  • Facts
  • Filmography
  • Awards
  • Salaries
  • Quotes
  • Trademarks
  • Pictures

#Fact
1Production executive for John M. Stahl Productions, formed in 1921, in 1922.
2President of Anita Stewart Productions, formed to make pictures for Anita Stewart in 1918. It dissolved in 1920.
3Founder of Louis B. Mayer Productions.
4Sidney Skolsky wrote that the joke on the MGM lot was that "L.B." Mayer stood for "Lionel Barrymore" Mayer because he was the "best actor" on the lot in things he did to persuade people, including melodramatically fainting and crying.
5He was posthumously awarded a Star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame at 1637 Vine Street in Hollywood, California on February 8, 1960.
6Active in Republican Party politics, serving as the vice chairman of the Republican Party of California from 1931 to 1932 and as its state chairman between 1932 and 1933.
7Katharine Hepburn wrote in her autobiography, "L.B. Mayer was a shrewd man with enormous understanding of an artist. He was not stupid, not crude. He was a very sensible fellow, and extremely honest. In all my dealings with Mayer, I can say that he was the most honest person I ever dealt with in my life.".
8Salary as head of Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer in 1937, $1,300,000.
9Last words (spoken to Howard Strickling on October 28, 1957): "Nothing matters! Don't let them worry you. Nothing matters!" L.B. was hallucinating under a morphine drip.
10Lived at 332 Saint Cloud Road in Bel Air, California (Mayer's original home has been torn down).
11During his career at MGM, Mayer only answered to two men: Marcus Loew--who died on September 25, 1927--and his replacement at MGM parent Loew's Inc., Nicholas Schenck. It was an uncomfortable relationship for both men. Schenck inherently understood Mayer's value as a the head of MGM but resented his price. The two men would fight bitterly over the years over business matters, with Schenck repeatedly planting spies (including E.J. Mannix who soon became a Mayer loyalist) to monitor Mayer's business dealings.
12The father of two daughters, Mayer originally thought of production chief Irving Thalberg as a son, but Thalberg's ambitions and his view of himself as the man behind the success of Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer eventually brought them into conflict. After Thalberg's first heart-attack forced the young executive to take a long vacation, Mayer introduced a producer system he likened to a college of cardinals to replace Thalberg as central producer. When Thalberg returned to MGM, he became just an ordinary producer, albeit one who had first choice on projects and MGM resources, including its stars, due to his closeness to Nicholas Schenck, the president of MGM corporate parent Loews's Inc. Schenck, who was the true power and ultimate arbiter at the studio, usually backed up Thalberg. Some Hollywood observers believe that Mayer was relieved by Thalberg's untimely death, though he professed a great deal of grief publicly and likely was saddened by his former mentor's demise, as Thalberg had been instrumental in building MGM into the greatest studio in Hollywood and the world.
13He was a master manipulator, and it was generally acknowledged that of all the great actors on the lot--the Barrymores, Spencer Tracy, Lon Chaney, Greta Garbo--Mayer was the best. He was not above--or beneath--crying, begging, threatening, charming or cursing (often within the same conversation) anyone out on the lot if it meant getting his way. When Robert Taylor tried to hit him up for a raise, Mayer advised the young man to work hard, respect his elders, and in due time he'd get everything he deserved. He hugged Taylor, cried a little and walked him to the door. Asked if he got his raise, the now tearful Taylor is said to have answered, "No, but I found a father." Taylor remained a good company man--and one of the most underpaid top actors on the lot--and enjoyed a 25-year career with the studio.
14Was the father-in-law of producer/studio boss William Goetz (1903-1969), married to Mayer's daughter Edith (Edith Mayer). As one of the initial investors in Darryl F. Zanuck's fledgling 20th Century Pictures (which would soon merge with ailing Fox), Mayer insisted that his son-in-law be hired so as to get him out of MGM. Goetz served as executive vice president of 20th Century-Fox, heading the studio during Zanuck's leave of absence to serve in the military in 1942. Zanuck, fearful of his underling's ambitions, forced him out of the company upon his return in 1943. Ironically, both Mayer and Zanuck felt that Goetz was decidedly unimaginative and a mediocre film executive. That same year Goetz formed International Pictures, which merged with Universal in 1946. Goetz would go on to become one of the most successful movie moguls in the post-television era.
15A self-made man who rose from his apprenticeship at his father's scrap metal business in Canada to become the highest paid corporate executive in the United States, Mayer was not above changing the particulars of his biography. Born in Imperial Russia in Vilna (in what is now Lithuania), Mayer later claimed his birthplace was Minsk (in what is now Belarus), or a village located between the two cities. He changed the year of his birth from 1882 to 1885 (the latter being the date on his tomb), and after being naturalized as an American citizen, he decided that he would celebrate his birthday on the Fourth of July (the exact date of his birth was uncertain, though he knew he had been born in the summer). He added a "B." as his middle initial to give his name more "dignity", and said that it stood for "Burt" or "Burton".
16Mayer, according to Peter Hays' 1991 book "When the Lion Roars", idealized his mother. He was her favorite son, and she was the main influence on his life. She died in 1913, and Mayer kept a picture of her over his bed the rest of his life. With his mother an icon in his eyes, Mayer revered the concept of motherhood. When director Erich von Stroheim expressed the opinion to Mayer that all women were whores, Mayer asked him if he thought of his own mother that way, and then punched him in the face. Mayer told screenwriter Frances Marion, at their first meeting, that she should never write anything that would embarrass Mayer's own wife and two daughters. He told her, "I worship good women, honorable men and saintly mothers.".
17Father-in-law of producer David O. Selznick
18Father of Irene Mayer Selznick.
19Brother of J.G. Mayer and Ida Mayer Cummings.
20Inducted into the Haverhill [Massachusetts] Citizens Hall of Fame.
21Uncle of production manager Al Shenberg, producer Jack Cummings, and directors Fred M. Wilcox and Gerald Mayer.
22Was lampooned by author/MGM writer Aldous Huxley in "Ape and Essence", in which Huxley's character Lou is purported to have denied Jesus Christ a pay raise.
23In his will, excluded daughter Edith (Edith Mayer) and her husband, former MGM executive William Goetz.
24Was highest paid American business executive throughout the 1930s.
25One of the 36 founders of the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences (AMPAS).
26Had appeared as a character in the musical play "In Hell With Harlow".


Miscellaneous

Miscellaneous

TitleYearStatusCharacter
The Great Divide1925presenter
Excuse Me1925presenter
The Dixie Handicap1924presenter
Greed1924presenter
The Wife of the Centaur1924presenter
So This Is Marriage?1924presenter
The Silent Accuser1924presenter
The Snob1924presenter
He Who Gets Slapped1924presenter
Married Flirts1924presenter
His Hour1924presenter
Red Lily1924presenter
Sinners in Silk1924presenter
Wine of Youth1924presenter
Tess of the D'Urbervilles1924presenter
Bread1924presenter
Why Men Leave Home1924presenter
Women Who Give1924presenter
The Eternal Struggle1923presenter
Strangers of the Night1923presenter
The Famous Mrs. Fair1923presenter
Hearts Aflame1923presenter
Rose o' the Sea1922presenter
One Clear Call1922presenter
The Woman He Married1922presenter
A Question of Honor1922presenter
The Song of Life1922presenter
Her Mad Bargain1921presenter
The Invisible Fear1921presenter
The Child Thou Gavest Me1921presenter
Sowing the Wind1921presenter
Habit1921presenter
Old Dad1920presenter
Harriet and the Piper1920presenter
The Woman in His House1920presenter
The Fighting Shepherdess1920presenter
The Bishop's Emeralds1919presenter
A Midnight Romance1919presenter
That's Entertainment!1974leadership: MGM
West of Zanzibar1928presenter
Memory Lane1926presenter
Mike1926presenter
Fine Clothes1925presenter
The Unholy Three1925presenter
The White Desert1925presenter
Proud Flesh1925presenter
The Sporting Venus1925presenter
Man and Maid1925presenter
Confessions of a Queen1925presenter
The Denial1925presenter
Daddy's Gone A-Hunting1925presenter
Lady of the Night1925presenter

Producer

Producer

TitleYearStatusCharacter
I Take This Woman1940producer - uncredited
Ben-Hur: A Tale of the Christ1925producer - uncredited
Greed1924executive producer - uncredited
Wine of Youth1924producer - uncredited
Why Men Leave Home1924producer
Thy Name Is Woman1924executive producer
The Wanters1923producer
Strangers of the Night1923producer
Rose o' the Sea1922producer
The Woman He Married1922producer
A Question of Honor1922producer
Her Mad Bargain1921producer
The Invisible Fear1921producer
Playthings of Destiny1921producer
Sowing the Wind1921producer
Habit1921producer
Harriet and the Piper1920producer
The Woman in His House1920producer
The Yellow Typhoon1920producer
Polly of the Storm Country1920producer
The Fighting Shepherdess1920producer
The Inferior Sex1920producer
In Old Kentucky1919producer
Human Desire1919producer
Her Kingdom of Dreams1919producer
Mary Regan1919producer
A Midnight Romance1919producer
Virtuous Wives1918producer
Somewhere in America1917producer
The Great Secret1917producer
Lovely Mary1916producer
Dimples1916producer
Barbara Frietchie1915producer
Always in the Way1915producer

Production Manager

Production Manager

TitleYearStatusCharacter
The Wizard of Oz1939executive in charge of production - uncredited

Self

Self

TitleYearStatusCharacter
Hollywood Goes to Town1938Short documentaryHimself
Another Romance of Celluloid1938Documentary shortHimself (uncredited)
Screen Snapshots Series 16, No. 81937Documentary shortHimself
The Candid Camera Story (Very Candid) of the Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer Pictures 1937 Convention1937Documentary shortHimself
Screen Snapshots Series 10, No. 61931ShortHimself
Screen Snapshots Series 9, No. 181930ShortHimself
1925 Studio Tour1925Documentary shortHimself - MGM Vice President
Seeing Stars1922Documentary shortHimself

Archive Footage

Archive Footage

TitleYearStatusCharacter
Sinatra: All or Nothing at All2015TV Mini-Series documentaryHimself
And the Oscar Goes To...2014TV Movie documentaryHimself - MGM Studio Head
1939: Hollywood's Greatest Year2009TV Movie documentaryHimself
Gable and Crawford2008Video documentary shortHimself
Trumbo2007DocumentaryHimself
Royal Wedding: June, Judy and Jane2007Video documentary shortHimself
The Pirate: A Musical Treasure Chest2007Video documentary shortHimself
Girl 272007DocumentaryHimself
Private Screenings2006TV SeriesHimself
Stardust: The Bette Davis Story2006TV Movie documentaryHimself (uncredited)
Garbo2005DocumentaryHimself
Facing the Past2005Video documentary shortHimself
Irving Thalberg: Prince of Hollywood2005TV Movie documentaryHimself
So Funny It Hurt: Buster Keaton & MGM2004TV Movie documentaryHimself
On Your Marx, Get Set, Go!2004Video documentary shortHimself (photo)
Love Find Andy Hardy Intro2004Video documentary shortHimself
Cecil B. DeMille: American Epic2004TV Movie documentaryHimself
American Masters1993-2004TV Series documentaryHimself
Checking Out: Grand Hotel2004Video documentary shortHimself - At the premiere
Biography1997-2003TV Series documentaryHimself
Begin the Beguine2003Video documentary shortHimself
Captured on Film: The True Story of Marion Davies2001TV Movie documentaryHimself (uncredited)
The Rat Pack1999TV Series documentaryHimself
Junket Whore1998DocumentaryHimself
Hollywoodism: Jews, Movies and the American Dream1998TV Movie documentaryHimself
Judy Garland's Hollywood1997Video documentary
Sobbin' Women: The Making of 'Seven Brides for Seven Brothers'1997TV Short documentaryHimself
Great Performances1996TV SeriesHimself
The First 100 Years: A Celebration of American Movies1995TV Movie documentaryHimself
The Casting Couch1995Video documentary
MGM: When the Lion Roars1992TV Mini-Series documentaryHimself
The Wonderful Wizard of Oz: 50 Years of Magic1990TV Movie documentaryHimself
The Making of a Legend: Gone with the Wind1988TV Movie documentaryHimself - Head of MGM
Hollywood the Golden Years: The RKO Story1987TV Series documentaryHimself
Greta Garbo: The Temptress and the Clown1986TV Movie documentaryHimself
Showbiz Goes to War1982TV Movie
Hollywood1980TV Mini-Series documentaryHimself
Hollywood on Trial1976DocumentaryHimself
Hollywood: The Dream Factory1972TV Movie documentaryHimself - film clips
Hollywood: The Selznick Years1969TV Movie documentaryHimself (uncredited)
The Judy Garland Show1964TV SeriesHimself
Hollywood: The Great Stars1963TV Movie documentaryHimself (uncredited)
Actor's and Sin1952Louis B. Mayer (Woman of Sin sequence)

Won awards

Won awards

YearAwardCeremonyNominationMovieAward shared with
1960Star on the Walk of FameWalk of FameMotion PictureOn 8 February 1960. At 1637 Vine Street.
1952DGA Honorary Life Member AwardDirectors Guild of America, USA
1951Honorary AwardAcademy Awards, USAFor distinguished service to the motion picture industry.


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#Quote
1Wherever I go there are girls who want to become actresses. I have a sixth sense for it. She would follow me into my stateroom if I snapped my fingers, and stay all night. Just for a bit role in any picture. But I am not interested in fast affairs. I am interested in "relationships". I am a human being. I need warmth - like an orchid.
2There's only one way to succeed in this business. Step on those guys. Gouge their eyes out. Trample on them. Kick them in the balls. You'll be a smash.
3[To Billy Wilder on his production of Sunset Blvd. (1950)] You bastard! You have disgraced the industry that made and fed you. You should be tarred and feathered and run out of Hollywood.
4If it's an MGM film, it has to LOOK like an MGM film.
5[In October 1937 "Photoplay"] Hollywood brings the world to the United States and the United States to the world. This interchange - of writing brains, talent, music, traditions - is important to world peace. It is equally important to good entertainment which knows no geography and has no international boundary lines.
6If a story makes me cry, I know it's good.
7[when told that television would be a serious competitor to the film industry] That's a lot of crap. Our position has never been more secure. Who in hell is going to look at those pigmy screens?
8[in the March 1925 issue of "The Motion Picture Director"] Of the many artists who help to make up the finished film none is more important than the director. He can always improve a story... He is largely responsible for the acting of his cast and there are hundreds of little details of picture making that are entirely within his hands.
9[in the March 1925 issue of "The Motion Picture Director"] When a picture is screened it is largely a reflection of the mind that directed it. If it is a failure the cause of that failure can often be traced directly to the man with the megaphone. I will also state that many screen successes are almost entirely due to directorial ability.
10The sign of a clever auteur is to achieve the illusion that there is a sole individual responsible for magnificent creations that require thousands of people to accomplish.
11Be smart, but never show it.
12I want to make beautiful pictures about beautiful people.


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