(1891 - 1958)
Harry Cohn was an American movie producer best known as the founder of Columbia Pictures Corporation, now of the world's leading film production and distribution companies.
Cohn was born in New York City on July 23, 1891 to a Jewish family of German descent. Together with his brother and a friend Joe Brandt, Cohn founded the CBC Film Sales Corporation in 1919. Hollywood elites scoffed at the early workings of the company and eventually Brandt sold his portion of the company back to Cohn who then remaned it Columbia Pictures.
Cohn was known as a hard-nosed and autocratic manager and was once called "a real Jekyll-and-Hyde-type guy" by Moe Howard of the Three Stooges since he was known to scream and curse at actors in his office though treated everyone very cordially at social events. Cohn also kept close aquaintances with multiple mob bosses and those friendships are believed to have been key for Cohn to get the money he needed to buy-out Brandt when the partner wished to sell his portion of the company.
In August of 1922, Columbia Pictures released its first feature film; it has never looked back. As the studio grew it merged with big name directors and producers to gain greater notoriety- such as its association with director Frank Capra in the late 1920's - and by the end of the century became one of the largest production companies. In 1982, well after Cohn's death, the studio was bought by Coca-Cola and was later merged with Tri-Star Pictures. In 1989 Columbia was bought out by Sony.
Cohn died of a sudden heart attack in February 1958 that he suffered at the Arizona Biltmore Hotel in Phoenix, Arizona, shortly after having finished dinner. He died in an ambulance en route to St. Joseph's Hospital.
Cohn and his funeral were the subject of the famous quote from Red Skelton, who remarked of Cohn's well-attended funeral, "It proves what Harry always said: Give the public what they want and they'll come out for it."
Photo Credit: The Three Stooges Book of Scripts, Volume II, by Joan Howard Maurer and Norman Maurer (1986), p. 23 Citadel Press. ISBN: 0-8065-1018-8