Joseph M. Schenck

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Joseph M. Schenck
Joseph M Schenck.jpg
Schenck in 1921
Joseph Michael Schenck

(1876-12-25)December 25, 1876
DiedOctober 22, 1961(1961-10-22) (aged 84)
Resting placeMaimonides Cemetery, Brooklyn, New York
Other namesOssip Schenker
OccupationFilm studio executive
(m. 1916;div. 1934)
Relatives Nicholas Schenck (brother)

Joseph Michael Schenck ( /ˈskɛŋk/ ; December 25, 1876 [1] – October 22, 1961) was a Russian-born American film studio executive.


Life and career

Schenck was born to a Jewish family [2] in Rybinsk, Yaroslavl Oblast, Russian Empire. He emigrated to New York City on July 19, 1892 under the name Ossip Schenker; [3] and with his younger brother Nicholas eventually got into the entertainment business, operating concessions at New York's Fort George Amusement Park. Recognizing the potential, in 1909 the Schenck brothers purchased Palisades Amusement Park and afterward became participants in the fledgling motion picture industry in partnership with Marcus Loew, operating a chain of movie theaters.

In 1916, through his involvement in the film business, Joseph Schenck met and married Norma Talmadge, a top young star with Vitagraph Studios. He would be the first of her three husbands, but she was his only wife. Schenck supervised, controlled and nurtured her career in alliance with her mother. [4] In 1917 the couple formed the Norma Talmadge Film Corporation, which became a lucrative enterprise. They divorced in 1934; Schenck then built a home in Palm Springs, California. [4] [5]

After parting ways with his brother, Joseph Schenck moved to the West Coast where the future of the film industry seemed to lie. Within a few years Schenck was made the second president of the new United Artists. [6]

The Political Graveyard reports that he was an alternate delegate from California to the 1928 Republican National Convention.[ citation needed ]

Schenck with Darryl F. Zanuck (right) in 1937 Joseph Schenck.jpg
Schenck with Darryl F. Zanuck (right) in 1937

In 1933 he partnered with Darryl F. Zanuck to form Twentieth Century Pictures to produce motion pictures for United Artists, until 20th Century merged with Fox Film in 1935. As chairman of the new 20th Century Fox, he was one of the most powerful and influential people in the film business. Caught in a payoff scheme to buy peace with the militant unions, he was convicted of income tax evasion and spent time in prison before being granted a presidential pardon. Following his release, he returned to 20th Century Fox where he became infatuated with the unknown Marilyn Monroe, and played a key role in launching her career. [7]


One of the founders of the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences, in 1952 he was given a special Academy Award in recognition of his contribution to the development of the film industry. He has a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame at 6757 Hollywood Blvd.


Schenck retired in 1957 and shortly afterward suffered a stroke, from which he never fully recovered. He died in Los Angeles in 1961 at the age of 84, and was interred in Maimonides Cemetery in Brooklyn, New York.

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  1. Naturalisation details. "". .
  2. Brook, Vincent (December 15, 2016). From Shtetl to Stardom: Jews and Hollywood: Chapter 1: Still an Empire of Their Own: How Jews Remain Atop a Reinvented Hollywood. Purdue University Press. p. 17. ISBN   9781557537638.
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  5. Meeks, Eric G. (2012). The Best Guide Ever to Palm Springs Celebrity Homes. Horatio Limburger Oglethorpe. p. 163. ISBN   978-1479328598.
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  7. Pener, Degen (29 October 2011). "Drugs, Affairs and Secret Divorces: Inside the Scandalous History of the Holmby Hills Estate Once Owned by Tony Curtis, Cher and Sonny Bono". The Hollywood Reporter. Retrieved 2020-01-18.