Louis Burt Mayer was born Eliezer Meir on July 4, 1882,
in Minsk, Russian Empire (now Belarus).
His family immigrated to Saint John, New Brunswick, Canada when he was very young and Mayer attended school there. In his late
teens, Mayer decided to move to Boston, to pursue more career options.
On November 28, 1907 in Haverhill, Massachusetts, Mayer
opened his first movie theatre. Within a few years he had the largest
theatre chain in New England and in 1916 Mayer partnered with Richard
A. Rowland to create Metro Pictures Corporation based in New York City.
By late 1918, Mayer had set up a Hollywood facility.
Soon afterwards, Mayer left the partnership to start
his own production company, Louis B. Mayer Pictures, and later became
a partner with B.P. Schulberg in the Mayer-Schulberg Studio. In 1924,
Marcus Loew bought Louis B. Mayer Pictures and as part of the deal made
Mayer head of the new Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer (MGM) Corporation. He built
MGM into the most financially successful motion picture studio in the
world. In 1936, Mayer replaced Irving Thalberg to become head of production
as well as studio chief. Mayer became the first executive in America
to earn a million-dollar salary. He was the most famous of the studio
moguls of the Golden Age of Hollywood.
By 1948, due to the introduction of television and
changing public tastes, MGM suffered considerably. Much conflict arose
between Mayer and Nicholas Schenck, president of MGM’s parent,
Loews, Inc. Mayer decided to hire writer and producer Dore Schary as
production chief. Nevertheless, a lot of conflict arose between the
two men; Schary preferred message pictures in contrast with Mayer’s
preference for wholesome films. Three years later, Schenck fired Mayer
from the job he had held for 24 years.
Mayer died on October 29, 1957.