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Louis Burt Mayer

MAYER, LOUIS BURT (1885–1957), U.S. motion picture executive. Born in Russia, he was taken to Canada at the age of two. In 1907 Mayer bought a burlesque theater in Haverhill, Massachusetts, began showing films there, and soon owned all the theaters in the city. Moving to Hollywood in 1918, he formed the Louis B. Mayer Pictures Corporation, which merged to form Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer in 1924, with Mayer as vice president in charge of production. His bold use of talent and his gift for understanding public taste made MGM enormously successful. He made The Merry Widow in 1925, and he turned the early Goldwyn production of Ben Hur (1927) into one of the greatest of silent pictures. A string of moneymaking successes included The Good Earth (1932), the Andy Hardy series, and Treasure Island (1950).

Mayer was a great exponent of the star system. In addition to "finding" Greta Garbo and Greer Garson, he helped to establish such stars as Norma Shearer, Lon Chaney, Joan Crawford, and Clark Gable. The powerful "L.B.," as he was called, liked films with children and presented such child stars as Jackie Cooper, Mickey Rooney, Peter Lawford, Judy Garland, and Elizabeth Taylor. He also knew how to find managerial talent. At MGM, where he remained a power until 1951, he had a series of brilliant production men, from Irving Thalberg to Dore Schary. For seven years he was the highest paid executive in the United States. From 1931 to 1936, he was president of the Association of Motion Picture Producers.


B. Crowther, Hollywood Rajah (1960); Current Biography Yearbook 1958 (1958); New York Times (Oct. 30, 1957), 29; (Nov. 1, 1957), 27; G. Jessel, Elegy In Manhattan (1961), 103–6.

Sources: Encyclopaedia Judaica. © 2007 The Gale Group. All Rights Reserved.