Wednesday, July 12, 2017

Lazar Meir, 1884-1957

Today marks the birth anniversary of an immigrant named Lazar Meir. Unsurprisingly, he anglicized his name in North America, changing it to Louis B. Mayer, a name you probably recognize much more readily. I didn't realize that Mayer's family emigrated first to Canada; Mayer then came to the US from New Brunswick. Mayer was one of the movie moguls who merged his studio into Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer in 1924; Mayer remained head of the studio for a quarter century.

I'm not certain how many movies Louis B. Mayer's name is on. Obviously, the Mayer part is on pretty much all of them, since the opening title cared with Leo the Lion says "Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer". But as Louis B. Mayer? I don't think his name was ever actually listed as a producer, much in the same way that Irving Thalberg's name wasn't on the screen until after his death. And to be honest, I don't think Mayer actually did the things that the producer does, being the actual head of the studio rather than a producer like Thalberg. IMDb lists only one sound movie where Mayer was the producer, 1940's I Take This Woman.

IMDb also mentions that Mayer is credited as a "presenter" on a bunch of silents; this was a credit that came just over the title on the first card. I think some other studios kept their bosses' names on the opening card well into the sound era; Jack Warner being in charge of production comes to mind.

Mayer as a studio head was a tough man and the stories of what studio bosses did to stars are legion. And yet I don't think there would be many of those stars and their movies if it weren't for the toughness of the bosses.

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