Laemmle, Carl

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LAEMMLE, CARL (1867–1939), U.S. film producer and founder of Universal Studios. Born in Laupheim, Germany, Laemmle immigrated to the United States at the age of 17. In 1906 he bought a makeshift theater in Chicago, which made huge profits and Laemmle used this money to buy up a dozen other theaters. But films came to Chicago only intermittently, so Laemmle organized a wholesale motion-picture exchange business. The exchange grew in power and Laemmle organized similar ventures in other cities. When the need for fresh films became apparent, Laemmle established a company to produce features. His first film appeared in 1909, Hiawatha. Later Laemmle began to hire well-known actors like Mary Pickford to appear in his films. He gave them a listing in the credits, thereby inaugurating the star system. In 1912 Laemmle and several others organized the Universal Film Manufacturing company, which later became Universal Studios. He purchased the site of Universal City in California and developed it into one of the largest motion-picture studios in the world. Laemmle produced the first full-length feature picture, Traffic in Souls, a five-reeler that cost $5,000 to make. Despite misgivings about its length it earned $500,000. In 1935, Laemmle sold Universal City and retired. He spent much time and money aiding refugees driven from Nazi Germany.


J. Drinkwater, The Life and Adventures of Carl Laemmle (1931); L. Jacobs, The Rise of the American Film (1968), index.

[Stewart Kampel]