Adolph Zukor

Last updated

Adolph Zukor
Adolph Zukor by Apeda 1922.jpg
Born(1873-01-07)January 7, 1873
DiedJune 10, 1976(1976-06-10) (aged 103)
OccupationFilm producer
Years active1903–1959
Known forone of the three founders of Paramount Pictures
Spouse(s)Lottie Kaufman (1897–1956)
Children2
Signature
Signature of Adolph Zukor.png

Adolph Zukor (January 7, 1873 – June 10, 1976) [1] was an Austro-Hungarian-born American film producer best known as one of the three founders of Paramount Pictures. [2] He produced one of America's first feature-length films, The Prisoner of Zenda , in 1913. [3]

Contents

Early life

Zukor was born to a Jewish family in Ricse, Hungary, which was then a part of the Austro-Hungarian Empire. His father, Jacob, who operated a general store, died when he was a year old, while his mother, Hannah Liebermann, died when he was 7. Adolph and his brother Arthur moved in to live with his Uncle Kalman Liebermann. His uncle, Kalman expected his nephews to become rabbis, but instead Adolph served a three-year apprenticeship in the dry goods store of family friends. When he was 16, he decided to immigrate to the US. [4] He sailed from Hamburg on the s/s Rugia on March 1 [5] and arrived in New York City under the name Adolf Zuckery on March 16, 1891. [6] Like most immigrants, he began modestly. After having landed in New York City, he started working in an upholstery shop. A friend then got him a job as an apprentice at a furrier.

Zukor stayed in New York City for two years. When he left to become a "contract" worker, sewing fur pieces and selling them himself, he was twenty years old and an accomplished designer. He was young and adventuresome, and the 1893 Columbian Exposition in Chicago drew him to the Midwest. There he started a fur business. In the second season of operation, Zukor's Novelty Fur Company expanded to 25 men and opened a branch. [7]

Historian Neal Gabler wrote, "one of the stubborn fallacies of movie history is that the men who created the film industry were all impoverished young vulgarians..." Zukor clearly didn't fit this profile. By 1903, he already looked and lived like a wealthy young burgher, and he certainly earned the income of one. He had a commodious apartment at 111th Street and Seventh Avenue in New York City's wealthy German-Jewish section". [7]

In 1918, he moved to New City, Rockland County, New York, where he purchased 300 acres of land from Lawrence Abraham, heir to the A&S Department Stores. Abraham had already built a sizable house, a nine-hole golf course and a swimming pool on this property. Two years later, Zukor bought an additional 500 acres, built a night house, guest house, movie theater, locker room, greenhouses, garages, staff quarters and hired golf architect A.W. Tillinghast to build an 18-hole championship golf course. Today, Zukor's estate is the private Paramount Country Club. [8]

Early film career

In 1903, he became involved in the film industry when his cousin, Max Goldstein, approached him for a loan to invest in a chain of theaters. These theaters were started by Mitchell Mark in Buffalo, New York, and hosted Edisonia Hall. Mark needed investors to expand his chain of theaters. Zukor gave Goldstein the loan and formed a partnership with Mark and Morris Kohn, a friend of Zukor's who also invested in the theaters. Zukor, Mark, and Kohn opened a penny arcade operating as The Automatic Vaudeville Company on 14th Street in New York City. They soon opened branches in Boston, Philadelphia, and Newark, with funding by Marcus Loew. [9] [10]

Famous Players

Zukor is honored with a dinner marking his 25 years in the film industry in 1936. From left: Frank Lloyd, Joseph M. Schenck, George Jessel, Zukor, Darryl F. Zanuck, Louis B. Mayer, and Jesse L. Lasky. Adolph Zukor anniversary 1936.JPG
Zukor is honored with a dinner marking his 25 years in the film industry in 1936. From left: Frank Lloyd, Joseph M. Schenck, George Jessel, Zukor, Darryl F. Zanuck, Louis B. Mayer, and Jesse L. Lasky.

In 1912, Adolph Zukor established Famous Players Film Company—advertising "Famous Players in Famous Plays"—as the American distribution company for the French film production Les Amours de la reine Élisabeth starring Sarah Bernhardt. [11] The following year he obtained the financial backing of the Frohman brothers, the powerful New York City theatre impresarios. Their primary goal was to bring noted stage actors to the screen and Zukor went on to produce The Prisoner of Zenda (1913). He purchased an armory on 26th Street in Manhattan and converted it into Chelsea Studios, a movie studio that is still used today. [12]

In 1916, the company merged with Jesse L. Lasky's company to form Famous Players-Lasky.

Paramount Pictures

The Paramount Pictures Corporation was formed to distribute films made by Famous Players-Lasky and a dozen smaller companies which were pulled into Zukor's corporate giant. The consolidations led to the formation of a nationwide film distribution system.

In 1917, Zukor acquired 50% of Lewis J. Selznick's Select Pictures which led Selznick's publicity to wane. Later, however, Selznick bought out Zukor's share of Select Pictures. [13]

Zukor shed most of his early partners; the Frohman brothers, Hodkinson and Goldwyn were out by 1917.

In 1919, the company bought 135 theaters in the Southern states, making the producing concern the first that guaranteed exhibition of its own product in its own theaters. [14] He revolutionized the film industry by organizing production, distribution, and exhibition within a single company.

Zukor believed in employing stars. He signed many of the early ones, including Mary Pickford, Roscoe "Fatty" Arbuckle, Marguerite Clark, Pauline Frederick, Douglas Fairbanks, Gloria Swanson, Rudolph Valentino, and Wallace Reid. With so many important players, Zukor also pioneered "Block Booking" for Paramount Pictures, which meant that an exhibitor who wanted a particular star's films had to buy a year's worth of other Paramount productions. That system gave Paramount a leading position in the 1920s and 1930s, but led the government to pursue it on antitrust grounds for more than 20 years.

Zukor was the driving force behind Paramount's success. Through the teens and twenties, he also built the Publix Theatres Corporation, a chain of nearly 2000 screens. He also ran two production studios, one in Astoria, New York (now the Kaufman Astoria Studios) and the other in Hollywood, California.

In 1926, Zukor hired independent producer B. P. Schulberg, who had an unerring eye for new talent, to run the new West Coast operations. They purchased the Robert Brunton Studios, a 26-acre facility at 5451 Marathon Street, for US$1 million. [14] In 1927, Famous Players-Lasky took the name Paramount Famous Lasky Corporation. Three years later, because of the importance of the Publix Theatres, it became Paramount Publix Corporation.

By then, Zukor was turning out 60 features a year. He made deals to show them all in theaters controlled by Loew's Incorporated, and also continued to add more theaters to his own chain. By 1920, he was in a position to charge what he wished for film rentals. Thus he pioneered the concept, now the accepted practice in the film industry, by which the distributor charges the exhibitor a percentage of box-office receipts.

Zukor, ever the impresario, bought a huge plot of ground at Broadway and 43d Street, over objections of his board of directors, to build the Paramount Theater and office building, a 39-story building that had its grand opening in 1926. He managed to keep stars like Pola Negri, Gloria Swanson, and most important of all, Mary Pickford, under contract and happy to stay at Paramount. At one point, Pickford told Zukor: "You know, for years I've dreamed of making $20,000 a year before I was 20, and I'll be 20 very soon."

"I could take a hint," Zukor recalled wryly. "She got the $20,000, and before long I was paying her $100,000 a year. Mary was a terrific businessman." [14]

Zukor was, primarily, also a businessman. "He did not take the same personal, down-to-the-last-detail interest in the making of his movies that producer-executives such as Samuel Goldwyn and Louis B. Mayer did," wrote The New York Times in Zukor's obit at the age of 103. He became an early investor in radio, taking a 50 percent interest in the new Columbia Broadcasting System in 1928, but selling it within a few years.

Partner Lasky hung on until 1932, when Paramount nearly collapsed in the Depression years. Lasky was blamed for that and tossed out. In the following year, Paramount went into receivership. Ultimately at fault were Zukor's over-expansion and use of overvalued Paramount stock for purchases. A bank-mandated reorganization team kept the company intact, and, miraculously, Zukor was kept on. In 1935, Paramount-Publix theater chain went bankrupt. In 1936, Barney Balaban became president, and Zukor was bumped up to chairman of the board. In that role, Zukor reorganized the company as Paramount Pictures Inc. and was able to successfully bring the studio out of bankruptcy.

He eventually spent most of his time in New York, but passed the winter months in Hollywood to check on his studio. He retired from Paramount Pictures in 1959 and in 1964, stepped down as chairman and assumed Chairman Emeritus status, [15] a position he held up until his death at the age of 103 in Los Angeles.

Personal life

In 1897, he married Lottie Kaufman; [16] they had two children, Eugene J. Zukor, who became a Paramount executive in 1916, and Mildred Zukor Loew who married Arthur Loew, son of Marcus Loew. [17]

Zukor died from natural causes at his Los Angeles residence at age 103. [18] [19] He is buried at the Temple Israel Cemetery in Hastings-on-Hudson, New York.

Filmography

Producer

YearTitleDirector
1924 Peter Pan Herbert Brenon
1926 Beau Geste Herbert Brenon
1927 Wings William A. Wellman
1928 The Docks of New York Josef von Sternberg
The Wedding March Erich von Stroheim
1931 Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde Rouben Mamoulian
1932 Shanghai Express Josef von Sternberg
1936 The Milky Way Leo McCarey
1937 Souls at Sea Henry Hathaway
1938 Professor Beware Elliott Nugent

Actor

YearTitleRoleNotes
1929 Glorifying the American Girl HimselfUncredited

See also

Related Research Articles

First National Pictures Film production company

First National Pictures was an American motion picture production and distribution company. It was founded in 1917 as First National Exhibitors' Circuit, Inc., an association of independent theatre owners in the United States, and became the country's largest theater chain. Expanding from exhibiting movies to distributing them, the company reincorporated in 1919 as Associated First National Theatres, Inc., and Associated First National Pictures, Inc. In 1924 it expanded to become a motion picture production company as First National Pictures, Inc., and became an important studio in the film industry. In September 1928, control of First National passed to Warner Bros., into which it was completely absorbed on November 4, 1929. A number of Warner Bros. films were thereafter branded First National Pictures until July 1936, when First National Pictures, Inc., was dissolved.

Paramount Pictures American film studio

Paramount Pictures Corporation is an American film production company and a subsidiary of ViacomCBS. It is the fifth oldest film studio in the world, the second oldest film studio in the United States, and the sole member of the "Big Five" film studios still located in the city limits of Los Angeles.

Samuel Goldwyn Polish-American film producer (1879–1974)

Samuel Goldwyn, also known as Samuel Goldfish, was a Polish-American film producer. He was best known for being the founding contributor and executive of several motion picture studios in Hollywood. His awards include the 1973 Golden Globe Cecil B. DeMille Award, the Irving G. Thalberg Memorial Award in 1947, and the Jean Hersholt Humanitarian Award in 1958.

William Wadsworth Hodkinson American businessman and co-founder of Paramount Pictures

William Wadsworth Hodkinson, known more commonly as W. W. Hodkinson, was born in Independence, Kansas. Known as The Man Who Invented Hollywood, he opened one of the first movie theaters in Ogden, Utah in 1907 and within just a few years changed the way movies were produced, distributed, and exhibited. He became a leading West Coast film distributor in the early days of motion pictures and in 1912 he co-founded and became president of the first nationwide film distributor, Paramount Pictures Corporation. Hodkinson was also responsible for doodling the mountain that became the Paramount logo in 1914. After being driven out of Paramount, he established his own independent distribution company, the W. W. Hodkinson Corporation, in 1917, before selling it off in 1924. He left the motion picture business in 1929 to form Hodkinson Aviation Corporation, and later formed the Central American Aviation Corporation and Companía Nacional de Aviación in Guatemala.

Jesse L. Lasky American film producer and co-founder of Paramount Pictures

Jesse Louis Lasky was an American pioneer motion picture producer. He was a key founder of Paramount Pictures with Adolph Zukor and William Wadsworth Hodkinson, and father of screenwriter Jesse L. Lasky Jr.

Lewis J. Selznick American businessman

Lewis J. Selznick was an American producer in the early years of the film industry. After initial involvement with World Film at Fort Lee, New Jersey, he established Selznick Pictures in California.

Marcus Loew Film pioneer, owner of Loews/M-G-M

Marcus Loew was an American business magnate and a pioneer of the motion picture industry who formed Loew's Theatres and the Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer film studio (MGM).

Loews Wonder Theatres

The Loew's Wonder Theatres were movie palaces of the Loew's Theatres chain in and near New York City. These five lavishly designed theaters were built by Loew's to establish its preeminence in film exhibition in the metropolitan New York City area and to serve as the chain's flagship venues, each in its own area. All five theaters are still standing. One operates as a community performing arts center; one is a commercial live entertainment venue; and three are currently used as churches, with one of those also used for entertainment.

Famous Players Film Company

The Famous Players Film Company was a film company founded in 1912 by Adolph Zukor in partnership with the Frohman brothers, powerful New York City theatre impresarios. Discussions to form the company were held at The Lambs, a famous theater club where Charles and Daniel Frohman were members. The company advertised "Famous Players in Famous Plays" and its first release was the French film Les Amours de la reine Élisabeth (1912) starring Sarah Bernhardt and Lou Tellegen. Its first actual production was The Count of Monte Cristo, directed by Edwin S. Porter and starring James O'Neill, the father of dramatist Eugene O'Neill.

Famous Players-Lasky American motion picture company

Famous Players-Lasky Corporation was an American motion picture and distribution company created on July 19, 1916, from the merger of Adolph Zukor's Famous Players Film Company—originally formed by Zukor as Famous Players in Famous Plays—and the Jesse L. Lasky Feature Play Company.

Famous Players may refer to

Paramount Theatre (New York City)

The Paramount Theatre was a noted 3,664-seat movie palace located at 43rd Street and Broadway on Times Square in New York City. Opened in 1926, it was a premiere showcase theatre and New York headquarters of Paramount Pictures. Adolph Zukor, founder of Paramount predecessor Famous Players Film Company, maintained an office in the building until his death in 1976. The Paramount Theatre eventually became a popular live performance venue. The theater was closed in 1964 and its space converted to office and retail use. The tower which housed it, known as the Paramount Building at 1501 Broadway, is in commercial use as an office building and is still home to Paramount Pictures offices.

Hiram Abrams early American movie mogul/one of the first presidents of Paramount Pictures and the first managing director of United Artists

Hiram Abrams was an early American movie mogul and one of the first presidents of Paramount Pictures. He was also the first managing director of United Artists.

Barney Balaban was an American film executive who was the president of Paramount Pictures from 1936 to 1964 and an innovator in the cinema industry.

Balaban and Katz

Balaban and Katz Theater Corporation, or B&K, was a theatre corporation which owned a chain of motion picture theaters and founded by Barney Balaban, his six siblings, and Sam Katz.

Block booking

Block booking is a system of selling multiple films to a theater as a unit. Block booking was the prevailing practice among Hollywood's major studios from the turn of the 1930s until it was outlawed by the U.S. Supreme Court's decision in United States v. Paramount Pictures, Inc. (1948). Under block booking, "independent ('unaffiliated') theater owners were forced to take large numbers of [a] studio's pictures sight unseen. Those studios could then parcel out second-rate product along with A-class features and star vehicles, which made both production and distribution operations more economical." The element of the system involving the purchase of unseen pictures is known as blind bidding.

Plitt Theatres was a major movie theater chain in the United States and went under a number of names, Publix Theaters Corporation, Paramount Publix Corporation, United Paramount Theatres, American Broadcasting-Paramount Theatres and ABC Theatres and operated a number of theater circuits under various names.

Mary Pickford filmography Wikipedia list article

Mary Pickford (1892–1979) was a Canadian-American motion picture actress, producer, and writer. During the silent film era she became one of the first great celebrities of the cinema and a popular icon known to the public as "America's Sweetheart".

Stephen Andrew Lynch, known more commonly as S.A. Lynch, was an early motion picture industry pioneer.

The Automatic Vaudeville Company was a short-lived American entertainment business founded in 1903 by Adolph Zukor, David Warfield and Marcus Loew, which owned a chain of penny arcades.

References

  1. Bernstein, Matthew (February 2000). Zukor, Adolph. American National Biography Online. Oxford University Press.
  2. Obituary Variety (June 16, 1976), p. 76.
  3. "Adolph Zukor Is Dead at 103; Built Paramount Movie Empire", The New York Times
  4. "Adolph Zukor Is Dead at 103; Built Paramount Movie Empire", The New York Times
  5. Passenger list. "Ancestry. Com".
  6. 1891 passenger list. "Ancestry.com".
  7. 1 2 Gabler, Neal (1988). An empire of their own: how the Jews invented Hollywood (1st ed.). New York: Crown Publishers. p.  16. ISBN   0-517-56808-X.
  8. Trager, James (1979). The people's chronology: a year-by-year record of human events from prehistory to the present . Austin, Texas, United States: Holt, Rinehart and Winston. p.  823.
  9. Albin Krebs, "Adolph Zukor Is Dead at 103; Built Paramount Movie Empire", The New York Times, June 11, 1976
  10. Ed Solero, "Crystal Hall", Cinema Treasures
  11. Wu, Tim, The Master Switch : The Rise and Fall of Information Empires, New York : Alfred A. Knopf, 2010. ISBN   978-0-307-26993-5. Cf. especially p. 62 on the film and Sarah Bernhardt. Sections of the book are on the film industry's early days and the then independent film studios such as Paramount.
  12. New York: The Movie Lover's Guide: The Ultimate Insider Tour of Movie New York - Richard Alleman - Broadway (February 1, 2005) ISBN   0-7679-1634-4
  13. "Lewis J. Selznick". Variety . January 31, 1933. p. 2.
  14. 1 2 3 "Adolph Zukor Is Dead at 103; Built Paramount Movie Empire". Nytimes.com. Retrieved September 14, 2019.
  15. "Personalities: Jun. 12, 1964 - TIME". Content.time.com. June 12, 1964. Retrieved September 14, 2019.
  16. New York Times: "Adolph Zukor Is Dead at 103; Built Paramount Movie Empire" by ALBIN KREBS June 11, 1976
  17. Ingham, John N. (1983). Biographical Dictionary of American Business Leaders, Volume 4. Greenwood. p. 1702. ISBN   978-0313239106.
  18. Krebs, Albin (June 11, 1976). "Obituary: Adolph Zukor Is Dead at 103; Built Paramount Movie Empire". The New York Times . Archived from the original on February 7, 2002. Retrieved December 24, 2020.
  19. "Famed moviemaker Adolph Zukor dies". The San Bernardino Sun . Los Angeles. AP. June 11, 1976. p. 3. Retrieved December 24, 2020 via Newspapers.com.

Further reading

The composition at Juhasz-kut (Shepherd Well) is one of the sights of Ricse. The well and its composition was donated to the village by Adolph Zukor, who was born here. Ricse Sheperd Well.jpg
The composition at Juhász-kút (Shepherd Well) is one of the sights of Ricse. The well and its composition was donated to the village by Adolph Zukor, who was born here.