Producer. Nationality: American. Born: Samuel Goldfisch in Warsaw, Poland, 27 August 1884; emigrated to the United States, 1897; naturalized, 1902. Family: Married 1) Blanche Lasky, 1910 (divorced 1919); 2) Frances Howard, 1925; son: the producer Samuel Goldwyn, Jr. Career: 1895—stayed with relatives in England and worked as blacksmith's helper; 1897—emigrated to the United States: worked as apprentice glovemaker, Gloversville, New York, and went to night school, then glove salesman; 1912—with his brother-in-law, Jesse L. Lasky, formed Jesse L. Lasky Feature Play Company, with Cecil B. De Mille as director (Goldwyn was treasurer); 1916—merged with Zukor's Famous Players (Goldwyn was chairman of the board); 1918—formed Goldwyn company with Edgar Selwyn; 1922—formed Samuel Goldwyn Productions, with no partners (his previous Selwyn company merged with Metro and Mayer companies to form Metro Goldwyn Mayer). Awards: Academy Award for The Best Years of Our Lives, 1946; Irving G. ThalbergAward, 1946; Jean Hersholt Humanitarian Award, 1957; U.S. Freedom Medal, 1971. Died: In Beverly Hills, California, 3 January 1974.
Films as Producer:
Potash and Perlmutter (Badger)
The Eternal City (Fitzmaurice); Cytherea (Fitzmaurice); Tarnish (Fitzmaurice); In Hollywood with Potash and Perlmutter (Green); Greed (von Stroheim) (co)
A Thief in Paradise (Fitzmaurice); His Supreme Moment (Fitzmaurice); The Dark Angel (Fitzmaurice); Stella Dallas (H. King)
Ben-Hur (Niblo) (co); The Winning of Barbara Worth (H. King); Partners Again (With Potash and Perlmutter) (H. King)
The Night of Love (Fitzmaurice); The Magic Flame (H. King); The Devil Dancer (Niblo)
Two Lovers (Niblo); The Awakening (Fleming)
The Rescue (Brenon); Bulldog Drummond (Jones); This Is Heaven (Santell); Condemned (Ruggles)
Raffles (D'Arrast and Fitzmaurice); Whoopee! (Freeland); The Devil to Pay (Fitzmaurice)
Street Scene (K. Vidor); One Heavenly Night (Fitzmaurice); Palmy Days (Sutherland); The Unholy Garden (Fitzmaurice); Arrowsmith (Ford); Tonight or Never (LeRoy)
The Greeks Had a Word for Them (V. Sherman); Cynara (K. Vidor); The Kid from Spain (McCarey)
Roman Scandals (Tuttle); The Masquerader (Wallace)
Nana (Arzner); We Live Again (Mamoulian); Kid Millions (Del Ruth)
The Wedding Night (K. Vidor); The Dark Angel (Franklin); Barbary Coast (Hawks); Splendor (Nugent)
Strike Me Pink (Taurog); Dodsworth (Wyler); Come and Get It (Hawks and Wyler); These Three (Wyler); Beloved Enemy (Potter)
Dead End (Wyler); Woman Chases Man (Blystone); Stella Dallas (K. Vidor); The Hurricane (Ford and Heisler)
The Goldwyn Follies (Marshall, and Potter uncredited); The Adventures of Marco Polo (Mayo, and Ford uncredited); The Cowboy and the Lady (Potter)
The Real Glory (Hathaway); Wuthering Heights (Wyler); They Shall Have Music (Ragged Angels) (Mayo)
The Westerner (Wyler); Raffles (Wood)
The Little Foxes (Wyler); Ball of Fire (Hawks); The Pride of the Yankees (Wood)
The North Star (Armored Attack) (Milestone); They Got Me Covered (Butler)
Up in Arms (Nugent); The Princess and the Pirate (Butler)
Wonder Man (Humberstone)
The Kid from Brooklyn (McLeod); The Best Years of Our Lives (Wyler)
The Secret Life of Walter Mitty (McLeod); The Bishop's Wife (Koster)
A Song Is Born (Hawks); Enchantment (Reis)
Roseanna McCoy (Reis); My Foolish Heart (Robson)
Edge of Doom (Robson); Our Very Own (Miller)
Hans Christian Andersen (C. Vidor); I Want You (Robson)
Guys and Dolls (Mankiewicz)
Porgy and Bess (Preminger)
By GOLDWYN: book—
Behind the Screen, New York, 1923.
By GOLDWYN: articles—
Sight and Sound (London), April-June 1953.
Kine Weekly (London), 13 September 1956.
Journal of Screen Producers Guild (Beverly Hills, California), December 1965.
American Film (Washington, D.C.), vol. 12, no. 10, September 1987.
On GOLDWYN: books—
Johnston, Alva, The Great Goldwyn, New York, 1937.
Griffith, Richard, Samuel Goldwyn, New York, 1956.
Crowthers, Bosley, The Lion's Share: The Story of an Entertainment Empire, New York, 1957.
Easton, Carol, The Search for Samuel Goldwyn, New York, 1976, 1989.
Marx, Arthur, Goldwyn: A Biography of the Man Behind the Mask, New York, 1976.
Marill, Alvin, H., Samuel Goldwyn Presents, South Brunswick, New Jersey, 1976.
Epstein, Lawrence J., Samuel Goldwyn, Boston, Massachusetts, 1981.
Freedland, Michael, The Goldwyn Touch, London, 1986.
Barnes, Jeremy, Sam Goldwyn: Movie Mogul, Englewood Cliffs, New Jersey, 1989.
Berg, A. Scott, Goldwyn: A Biography, New York, 1989; revised edition, 1998.
On GOLDWYN: articles—
Film (New York), November-December 1953.
Films and Filming (London), October 1956.
Zierold, Norman, in The Moguls, New York, 1969.
Films in Review (New York), December 1969, corrections in February 1970.
Positif (Paris), February 1976.
Cinématographe (Paris), May 1984.
Classic Images (Indiana, Pennsylvania), August 1984.
Film History, vol. 2, no. 2, June-July 1988.
Sarris, Andrew, "'We Are Dealing With Facts, Not Realities'," in Film Comment (New York), March-April 1989.
Greene, R., "The Big Picture," in Boxoffice (Chicago), August 1996.
Cousins, Russell, "Sanitizing Zola: Dorothy Arzner's Problematic Nana," in Literature/Film Quarterly (Salisbury), October 1996.
* * *
Samuel Goldwyn was one of the great independent producers during the heyday of the Hollywood studio system. Most of his films performed well at the box office, with critics, and at the Academy Awards.
Goldwyn's success was due, in part, to his genius for promoting his films and manipulating publicity about them. Perhaps more important to his success was his insistence that his films be well-crafted and of high quality—imbued, that is, with what became known as the Goldwyn Touch. Goldwyn's approach to movie-making was to buy the best available scripts, successful plays, and novels, and hire the best available writers, directors, and crews to bring them to the screen. The script for These Three, for example, was Lillian Hellman's adaptation of her Broadway hit play The Children's Hour; the director was William Wyler (with whom Goldwyn eventually collaborated on seven films, including their most successful film, The Best Years of Our Lives, which won seven Oscars); and the cinematographer was Gregg Toland, whose credits include most of the Wyler-Goldwyn collaborations, John Ford's The Grapes of Wrath, and Orson Wells's Citizen Kane, the film that established Toland's reputation as one of the greatest cinematographers in film history.
Goldwyn hated working with partners, so he usually financed his films himself, sparing no expense. For instance, Goldwyn paid Bette Davis $385,000—an exorbitant sum in 1940—to appear in The Little Foxes. And when halfway through the filming of Nana, Goldwyn decided that the rough cut lacked the Goldwyn Touch, he scrapped the whole production, throwing away the $411,000 that he had already spent on the film, and started all over with Dorothy Arzner replacing George Fitzmaurice as director.
Sam Goldwyn is remembered for his "Goldwynisms"—unintentionally humorous statements springing from Goldwyn's unorthodox way of thinking, such as, "Include me out," or "A verbal contract isn't worth the paper it's written on." He is remembered for his fierce independence and his desire to control every aspect of the production and marketing of his films, often to the dismay of his directors, stars, writers, and especially his partners. Most of all, he is remembered for his films and the quality that he brought to them—the Goldwyn Touch.
—Clyde Kelly Dunagan
Polish-born American film producer Samuel Goldwyn (born 1882) was notable among Holly wood executives for his belief that artistic aspirations need not conflict with commercial success.
Samuel Goldwyn (original surname, Goldfish) was born in Warsaw on Aug. 17, 1882, ran away from home at the age of 9, and arrived in the United States 4 years later. He learned English in night school, supporting himself as a glove salesman.
In 1913 Goldwyn joined vaudeville producer Jesse L. Lasky and theatrical director Cecil B. DeMille in forming the first feature motion picture company on the West Coast. Their initial production, The Squaw Man (1913), was an instant success, as was Carmen (1915). When Lasky and DeMille merged with another film producer in 1916, Goldwyn became an independent producer and distributor. In 1919 he was instrumental in importing the European masterpiece The Cabinet of Dr. Caligari, which, despite its box office failure, helped establish Goldwyn's reputation.
Among Goldwyn's early films were Jubilo (1919), a drama about farm life; The Penalty (1922), a story of drug addiction; Stella Dallas (1925), a mature domestic drama; and The Winning of Barbara Worth (1927), the western that introduced Gary Cooper. Goldwyn was credited with making Cooper—and later Laurence Olivier and Danny Kaye— a movie star.
Goldwyn met the challenge of talking pictures by seeking writers who could furnish literate dialogue. Such literary figures as Lillian Hellman, Ben Hecht, Robert E. Sherwood, and Sidney Howard wrote scripts worthy of the talented directors Goldwyn chose. Goldwyn's first talking picture, Bulldog Drummond (1929), was a witty satire by Howard. Arrowsmith (1931), adapted from Sinclair Lewis's novel, was directed by John Ford. The Wedding Night (1935), about a strife-torn New England family, was powerfully directed by King Vidor.
With the highly acclaimed film of Lewis's Dodsworth (1936), Goldwyn began his long association with director William Wyler, collaborating on such excellent films as These Three (1936); Lillian Hellman's adaptation of her controversial play The Children's Hour; Wuthering Heights (1939), brilliantly acted by Laurence Olivier; The Little Foxes (1941), also written by Hellman; and The Best Years of Our Lives (1946), which won nine Academy Awards.
Other important Goldwyn productions included The Secret Life of Walter Mitty (1947), Hans Christian Andersen (1952), and Guys and Dolls. His last film was Porgy and Bess (1959). His impact and influence on the movie industry was significant.
Goldwyn was also known for his quick wit and humor. He was reported to have commented, "Pictures are for entertainment, messages should be delivered by Western Union." When asked about his autobiography, Goldwyn reportedly replied, "I don't think anybody should write his autobiography until after he's dead."
Goldwyn's Behind the Screen (1923) gives historical and autobiographical information. A well-written and entertaining biography is Alva Johnston, The Great Goldwyn (1937). Background information is in Richard Griffith and Arthur Mayer, The Movies: The Sixty-year Story of the World of Hollywood and Its Effect on America (1957), and Richard Schickel, Movies: The History of an Art and an Institution (1964). Arthur Marx chronicles the life of the famed film producer in Goldwyn: the Man Behind the Myth (1976). □