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Samuel Goldwyn (ca. July 1879 – 31 January 1974) was an American film producer, and founding contributor executive of several motion picture studios.

Biography

Goldwyn was born Schmuel Gelbfisz in Warsawmarker, Congress Polandmarker, Russian Empiremarker to a Polish Jewish family. At an early age he left Warsaw on foot and penniless. He made his way to Birminghammarker, Englandmarker, where he remained with relatives for a few years using the Anglicized name Samuel Goldfish. In 1898, he emigrated to the United Statesmarker, but fearing refusal of entry, he got off the boat in Nova Scotiamarker, Canadamarker, before moving on to New Yorkmarker in January 1899. He found work in upstate Gloversville, New Yorkmarker, in the bustling garment business. Soon his innate marketing skills made him a very successful salesman. After four years, as vice-president for sales, he moved back to New York Citymarker.

Paramount

Gelbfisz became a naturalized citizen of the United States in 1902. At the time, the fledgling film industry was expanding rapidly and in his spare time, an enraptured Gelbfisz went to see as many movies as possible. Before long, he went into the business with Vaudeville performer Jesse L. Lasky, his brother-in-law at the time, and Adolph Zukor, a theater owner. Together, the three produced their first film, using an ambitious young director named Cecil B. DeMille. Disputes arose between the partners and Gelbfisz left after a few years but their company evolved to later become Paramount Pictures. Shortly before this, he also divorced his first wife, Blanche Lasky, with whom he had a daughter, Ruth.

Goldwyn Pictures

In 1916 Samuel Gelbfisz partnered with Broadwaymarker producers Edgar and Archibald Selwyn, using a combination of both names to call their movie-making enterprise the Goldwyn Pictures Corporation. Seeing an opportunity, Samuel Gelbfisz then had his name legally changed to Samuel Goldwyn, which he used for the rest of his life. The Goldwyn Company proved moderately successful but it is their "Leo the Lion" trademark for which the organization is most famous. Eventually the company was acquired by Marcus Loew and his Metro Pictures Corporation but by then Samuel Goldwyn had already been forced out by his partners and was never a part of the new studio that became Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer.

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.

Samuel Goldwyn Studio



After his departure from Goldwyn Pictures Corporation, he established Samuel Goldwyn Inc., eventually opening Samuel Goldwyn Studio on Santa Monica Blvd. in West Hollywoodmarker. For 35 years, Goldwyn built a reputation in filmmaking and an eye for finding the talent for making films, although, contrary to some erroneous claims, he did not discover actor Gary Cooper. He used director William Wyler for many of his productions and hired writers such as Ben Hecht, Sidney Howard, Dorothy Parker, and Lillian Hellman. (According to legend, at a heated story conference Goldwyn scolded someone--in most accounts Mrs. Parker--who recalled he had once been a glove maker and retorted: "Don't you point that finger at me. I knew it when it had a thimble on it!" Another time, when he demanded a script that ended on a happy note, she said: "I know this will come as a shock to you, Mr. Goldwyn, but in all history, which has held billions and billions of human beings, not a single one ever had a happy ending.")

For more than three decades, Goldwyn made numerous successful films and received Best Picture Oscar nominations for Arrowsmith (1931), Dodsworth (1936), Dead End (1937), Wuthering Heights (1939), and The Little Foxes (1941). The leading actors in several of Goldwyn films were also Oscar-nominated for their performances.

Throughout the 1930s, Goldwyn released all his films through United Artists, but beginning in 1941, and continuing almost through the end of his career, Goldwyn released his films through RKO Radio Pictures.

Oscar

In 1946, the year he was honored by the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences with the Irving G. Thalberg Memorial Award, Goldwyn's drama The Best Years of Our Lives, starring Myrna Loy, Fredric March, Teresa Wright and Dana Andrews, won the Academy Award for Best Picture. In the 1950s Samuel Goldwyn turned to making a number of musicals including the 1955 hit Guys and Dolls starring Marlon Brando, Jean Simmons, Frank Sinatra, and Vivian Blaine. This was the only independent film that Goldwyn ever released through MGM. (Goldwyn had previously made several musicals starring Eddie Cantor and Danny Kaye, as well as 1938's The Goldwyn Follies.) Two years later, in 1957, he was awarded The Jean Hersholt Humanitarian Award for his outstanding contributions to humanitarian causes.

In his final film, made in 1959, Samuel Goldwyn brought together African-American actors Sidney Poitier, Dorothy Dandridge, Sammy Davis, Jr. and Pearl Bailey in a film rendition of the George Gershwin opera, Porgy and Bess. Released by Columbia Pictures, the film was nominated for three Oscars, but won only one. It was also a critical and financial failure, and the Gershwin family reportedly disliked the film and eventually pulled it from distribution. The reception of the film was a huge disappointment to Goldwyn.

On March 27, 1971, Goldwyn was presented with the Presidential Medal of Freedom by President Richard Nixon.

Samuel Goldwyn died at his home in Los Angeles in 1974 from natural causes, at the probable age of 94. He was interred in the Forest Lawn Memorial Park Cemeterymarker in Glendale, Californiamarker. In the 1980s, Samuel Goldwyn Studio was sold to Warner Bros.. There is a theater named for him in Beverly Hillsmarker and he has a star on the Hollywood Walk of Famemarker at 1631 Vine Street.

Grandchildren

Samuel Goldwyn's grandsons include Francis Goldwyn, founder of the Manhattan Toy Company and Managing Member of Quorum Associates LLC, actor Tony Goldwyn and film producer John Goldwyn. His granddaughter, Catherine Goldwyn, created Sound Art, a non-profit organization that teaches popular music all over Los Angeles. His other granddaughter, Liz Goldwyn, has a film on HBO called Pretty Things, featuring interviews with queens from the heyday of burlesque. Her book, an extension of the documentary titled, Pretty Things: The Last Generation of American Burlesque Queens, was published in October 2006 by HarperCollins.

The Samuel Goldwyn Foundation

Samuel Goldwyn's will created a multi-million dollar charitable foundation in his name. Among other endeavors, the Samuel Goldwyn Foundation funds the Samuel Goldwyn Writing Awards, provided construction funds for the Frances Howard Goldwyn Hollywood Regional Library, and provides ongoing funding for the Motion Picture & Television Country House and Hospital.

The Samuel Goldwyn Company

Several years after the Sr. Goldwyn's death, his son, Samuel Goldwyn Jr., initiated an independent film and television distribution company dedicated to preserving the integrity of Goldwyn's ambitions and work. The rights to the classic Goldwyn library (among other pre-1996 Goldwyn company holdings) are now held by MGM.

Goldwynisms

Samuel Goldwyn was also known for malapropisms, paradoxes, and other speech errors called 'Goldwynisms' ("A humorous statement or phrase resulting from the use of incongruous or contradictory words, situations, idioms, etc.") being frequently quoted, such as:
  • “A bachelor’s life is no life for a single man.”
  • “A verbal contract isn’t worth the paper it’s written on.”
  • “Anyone who would go to a psychiatrist ought to have his head examined!”
  • “Can she sing? She’s practically a Florence Nightingale.”
  • “Color television! Bah, I won’t believe it until I see it in black and white.”
  • “Don’t worry about the war. It’s all over but the shooting.”
  • “Every director bites the hand that lays the golden egg.”
  • “Flashbacks are a thing of the past.”
  • “For your information, just answer me one question!”
  • “Gentlemen, include me out.”
  • “Gentlemen, listen to me slowly.”
  • “Give me a couple of years, and I’ll make that actress an overnight success.”
  • “God makes stars. I just produce them.”
  • “He treats me like the dirt under my feet.”
  • “I don’t care if it doesn’t make a nickel. I just want every man, woman, and child in America to see it.”
  • “I don’t think anyone should write his autobiography until after he’s dead.”
  • “I had a great idea this morning, but I didn’t like it.”
  • “I paid too much for it, but it’s worth it.”
  • “I read part of it all the way through.”
  • “If I look confused it’s because I’m thinking.”
  • “In two words: im-possible.”
  • “I’m willing to admit that I may not always be right, but I am never wrong.”
  • “Keep a stiff upper chin.”
  • “Let’s have some new clichés.”
  • “Modern dancing is old fashioned.”
  • “Our comedies are not to be laughed at.”
  • “Pictures are for entertainment, messages should be delivered by Western Union.”
  • “Tell them to stand closer apart.”
  • “That’s our strongest weak point.”
  • “That’s the kind of ad I like, facts, facts, facts.”
  • “The next time I send a damn fool for something, I go myself.”
  • “There is a statue of limitation.”
  • “They stayed away in droves.”
  • “We have that Indian scene. We can get the Indians from the reservoir.”
  • “Why did you name him Sam? Every Tom, Dick and Harry is named Sam!”
  • “Why should people go out and pay to see bad movies when they can stay home and see bad television for nothing.”
  • “You fail to overlook the crucial point.”
  • “You’ve got to take the bitter with the sour.”
  • “How come you did what I told you to do, when you know I don't know what I'm talking about." [Original source: Sherman Dreyer, originator/producer of CBS Radio's “University of Chicago Round Table", quoting Goldwyn while Dreyer was later producing a syndicated T.V. show titled “Communism, R.M.E." ]
  • "I don't want to be surrounded by 'yes men'. I want people who'll disagree with me, even if it costs them their jobs."
  • "Do you know why so many people went to Jack Warner's funeral? They wanted to make sure he was really dead."
  • "I want to go where the hand of man has never set foot."
  • "The A-bomb is dynamite."
  • "Destroy the old files, but make copies first."
  • Upon being told that a book he had purchased for filming, The Well of Loneliness, couldn't be filmed because it was about lesbians, he replied: "That's all right, we'll make them Hungarians."
  • Upon being told that a dictionary had included the word "Goldwynism" as synonym for malapropism, he raged: "Goldwynisms! They should talk to Jesse Lasky!"


Having many writers in his employ, Goldwyn may not have come up with all of these on his own. In fact Charlie Chaplin took credit for penning the 'im-possible' line on him; and the "damn fool...I go myself" quote has also been attributed to Michael Curtiz.

These led to the reference in the Cole Porter song Anything Goes:

"When Sam Goldwyn can with great convictioninstruct Anna Sten in diction,then Anna shows,Anything goes!"

References

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