- 1884 – Louis B. Mayer, Russian-born American film producer, co-founded Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer (d. 1957).
Louis B. Mayer
Louis Burt Mayer (born Lazar Meir; 12 July 1882 or 1884 or 1885 to 29 October 1957) was a Canadian-American film producer and co-founder of Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer studios (MGM) in 1924.
Under Mayer’s management, MGM became the film industry’s most prestigious movie studio, accumulating the largest concentration of leading writers, directors, and stars in Hollywood.
Mayer was born in the Russian Empire and grew up poor in Saint John, New Brunswick. He quit school at 12 to support his family and later moved to Boston and purchased a small vaudeville theatre in Haverhill, Massachusetts, called the “Garlic Box” because it catered to poorer Italian immigrants. He renovated and expanded several other theatres in the Boston area catering to audiences of higher social classes. After expanding and moving to Los Angeles, he teamed with film producer Irving Thalberg and they developed hundreds of high-quality story-based films, known for their wholesome and lush entertainment. Mayer handled the business of running the studio, such as setting budgets and approving new productions, while Thalberg, still in his twenties, supervised all MGM productions.
During his long reign at MGM, Mayer acquired many enemies as well as admirers. Some stars did not appreciate his attempts to control their private lives, while others saw him as a solicitous father figure. He believed in wholesome entertainment and went to great lengths to discover new actors and develop them into major stars.
Mayer was forced to resign as MGM’s vice president in 1951, when the studio’s parent company, Loew’s, Inc., wanted to improve declining profits. Mayer was a staunch conservative, at one time the chairman of California’s Republican party. In 1927 he was one of the founders of AMPAS, famous for its annual Academy Awards.
Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer Studios Inc. (also known as Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer Pictures or MGM) is an American media company, founded in 1924, that produces and distributes feature films and television programs. It is based in Beverly Hills, California.
MGM was formed by Marcus Loew by combining Metro Pictures, Goldwyn Pictures, and Louis B. Mayer Pictures into a single company. It hired a number of well known actors as contract players – its slogan was “more stars than there are in heaven” – and soon became one of Hollywood’s major film studios, producing popular musical films and winning many Academy Awards. The company also owned film studios, movie lots, movie theatres and technical production facilities. Its most prosperous era, from 1926 to 1959, was bracketed by two productions of Ben Hur (1959). After that, it divested itself of the Loews movie theatre chain, and, in the 1960s, diversified into television production.
In 1969, Kirk Kerkorian bought 40% of MGM, and dramatically changed the company. He hired new management, reducing the studio’s output to about five films per year; and diversified its products, creating MGM Resorts International and a Las Vegas-based hotel and casino company (which it later divested in the 1980s). In 1980, the studio acquired United Artists. Kerkorian sold the entire company to Ted Turner in 1986, who kept the rights to the MGM library in Turner Entertainment, sold the studio lot in Culver City to Lorimar, and sold back the remnant of MGM back to Kerkorian the same year. After Kerkorian sold and reacquired the company again in the 1990s, he expanded MGM by purchasing Orion Pictures and the Samuel Goldwyn Company, including both of their film libraries. Finally, in 2004, Kerkorian sold the company to a consortium that included Sony Pictures.
In 2010, MGM filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy protection and reorganization. After reorganisation, MGM emerged from bankruptcy later that year under the ownership of its creditors; two former executives at Spyglass Entertainment, Gary Barber and Roger Birnbaum, became co-chairmen and co-CEOs of MGM’s new holding company. After Barber’s departure in 2020, the studio looked to be acquired by another company in order to pay its creditors.
In May 2021, Amazon acquired the studio for $8.45 billion; the deal closed in March 2022.
As of 2022, in the present day, MGM is still producing and distributing feature films and television series. Its major film productions include the Rocky and James Bond franchises, and among its recent television productions is the series The Handmaid’s Tale.