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.