Louis B. Mayer

Louis B. Mayer
Louis B. Mayer and wife.jpg
Mayer with his wife Lorena, 1948
Born
Lazar Meir

(1884-07-12)July 12, 1884
DiedOctober 29, 1957(1957-10-29) (aged 73)
Los Angeles, California, U.S.
Resting placeHome of Peace Cemetery (East Los Angeles)
NationalityAmerican
Other namesLouis Burt Mayer, Ezemiel Mayer, Louis Burton Mayer, Lazar Mayer, Lazar Meir[1]
Occupation
  • Film producer
  • Studio executive
Years active1915–1951
Political partyRepublican
Board member ofMetro-Goldwyn-Mayer
Spouse(s)
  • Margaret Shenberg
    (m. 1904; div. 1947)
  • Lorena Layson
    (m. 1948; his death)
Children2, including Irene Mayer Selznick

Louis Burt Mayer (ər/; July 12, 1884[2] – October 29, 1957) was an American film producer and co-founder of Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer studios (MGM) in 1924. Under Mayer's management, MGM became the film industry's most prestigious movie studio, accumulating the largest concentration of leading writers, directors and stars in Hollywood.

Mayer was born in the Russian Empire and grew up poor in Saint John, New Brunswick, Canada. He quit school at 12 to support his family and later moved to Boston and purchased a small vaudeville theater in Haverhill, Massachusetts called the "Garlic Box" as it catered to poorer Italian immigrants. He renovated and expanded several other theaters in the Boston area catering to higher end audiences. After expanding and moving to Los Angeles, he teamed with film producer Irving Thalberg, and they developed hundreds of high quality story-based films, noted for their wholesome and lush entertainment. Mayer handled the business of running the studio, such as setting budgets and approving new productions, while Thalberg, still in his twenties, supervised all MGM productions.

During his long reign at MGM, Mayer acquired many enemies as well as admirers. Some stars did not appreciate his attempts to control their private lives, while others saw him as a solicitous father figure. He believed in wholesome entertainment and went to great lengths to discover new actors and develop them into major stars.[3]

Mayer was forced to resign as MGM's vice president in 1951, when the studio's parent company, Loew's, Inc., wanted to improve declining profits. Mayer was a staunch conservative, at one time the chairman of California's Republican party. In 1927 he was one of the founders of AMPAS, famous for its annual Academy Awards.[4]

Early life

Mayer was born possibly[5][6] Lazar Meir[note 1] to a Jewish family in (Dumier) Mir,[7] Minsk Governorate, Russian Empire (now Belarus). According to his personal details in the U.S. immigration documents,[8][9] the date was 4 July 1885; according to some studies based on the March 1901 Canada census, the date may have been[10][11] 12 July 1884.[2][6] In addition he gave his birth year as 1882 in his marriage certificate[12] while the April 1910 census states his age as 26 [13](b.1883). His parents were Jacob Meir and Sarah Meltzer, and he had two sisters—Yetta, born in c. 1878, and Ida, born in c. 1883. Mayer first moved with his family to Long Island, where they lived from 1887 to 1892 and where his two brothers were born—Rubin, in April 1888,[14] and Jeremiah, in April 1891.[15] Then, they moved to Saint John, New Brunswick, Canada where Mayer attended school.[16]

His father started a scrap metal business, J. Mayer & Son. An immigrant unskilled in any trade, he struggled to earn a living. Young Louis quit school at age twelve to work with his father and help support his family.[16] He roamed the streets with a cart that said "Junk Dealer", and collected any scrap metal he came across. When the owner of a tin business, John Wilson, saw him with his cart, he began giving him copper trimmings which were of no use, and Mayer considered Wilson to be his first partner and his best friend. Wilson remembered that he was impressed with the boy's good manners and bright personality.[17] Whenever Mayer visited Saint John in later years, he placed flowers on Wilson's grave, just as he did on his mother's.[17]

I had been to his hometown. I knew from whence he sprang. He taught himself grammar. He taught himself manners. If anybody on earth ever created himself, Louis B. Mayer did.

—actress Ann Rutherford[18]

"It was a crappy childhood", said Mayer's nephew Gerald. His family was poor, and Mayer's father spoke little English and had no valuable skills. It thereby became young Mayer's ambition and drive which supported the family.[19] With his family speaking mostly Yiddish at home, his goal of self-education when he quit school was made more difficult.[19]

In his spare time, he hung around the York theater, sometimes paying to watch the live vaudeville shows. He became enamored with the entertainment business. Then in 1904 the 20-year-old Mayer left Saint John for Boston, where he continued for a time in the scrap metal business, got married, and took a variety of odd jobs to support his new family when his junk business lagged.

Other Languages
العربية: لويس بي. ماير
asturianu: Louis B. Mayer
беларуская: Луіс Барт Маер
čeština: Louis B. Mayer
español: Louis B. Mayer
français: Louis B. Mayer
hrvatski: Louis B. Mayer
Bahasa Indonesia: Louis B. Mayer
italiano: Louis B. Mayer
ქართული: ლუი მაიერი
latviešu: Luijs B. Maijers
македонски: Луис Б. Мајер
Nederlands: Louis B. Mayer
português: Louis B. Mayer
română: Louis B. Mayer
Simple English: Louis B. Mayer
srpskohrvatski / српскохрватски: Louis B. Mayer
Türkçe: Louis B. Mayer
українська: Луїс Барт Маєр