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Lasky, Jesse L.


LASKY, JESSE L. (1880–1958), U.S. film producer. Born in San Francisco, California, Lasky was one of the founders of the motion picture industry. As a young man he was a newspaper reporter, a gold prospector in Alaska, and then vaudeville promoter. His partnership with the producer Cecil B. De Mille started in 1911, when they collaborated in presenting an operetta based on the story of California. In 1913 Lasky and his brother-in-law Samuel *Goldwyn organized the Jesse L. Lasky Feature Play Company. Their first film, The Squaw Man, directed by first-time director DeMille, was so successful that it at once established them (and Hollywood) in the motion picture business. In 1917, the Lasky company was merged with the Famous Players Company, headed by Adolph *Zukor. After several name changes, it ultimately became known as Paramount Pictures. Lasky was in charge of film production and remained in that position until 1932. After 1932, Lasky was a producer for the Fox Film Corporation, then for rko Radio Pictures, and from 1940 to 1944 for Warner Brothers. He produced more than a hundred films, among them The Cocoanuts (1929); The Power and the Glory (1933); The White Parade (Oscar nomination for Best Picture, 1934); Sergeant York (Oscar nomination for Best Picture, 1941); the Adventures of Mark Twain (1942); Rhapsody in Blue (1945), a film based on the life of George Gershwin; and The Great Caruso (1951). In 1957 Lasky's autobiography I Blow My Own Horn was published.

His son, jesse lasky, jr. (1910–1988), born in New York, wrote fiction, plays, and film scripts. He wrote the screenplays for such films as Reap the Wild Wind (1942); Samson and Delilah (1949); Salome (1953); and The Ten Commandments (1956). He also wrote the screenplays for several television series, such as The Saint (1962); Danger Man (1964); and The Protectors (1972). Among his published works are Naked in a Cactus Garden (1961), Whatever Happened to Hollywood? (1975), Love Scene: The Story of Laurence Olivier and Vivien Leigh (with P. Silver, 1978), and The Offer (1981).


Current Biography Yearbook 1958 (1959), 238; Current Biography, 8 (April 1947), 33–35; W. Irwin, The House That Shadows Built (1928), 197–208. add. bibliography: I. Edmonds and R. Mimura, Paramount Pictures and the People Who Made Them (1980); B. Lasky, Candle in the Sun (1957).

[Stewart Kampel /

Ruth Beloff (2nd ed.)]

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