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Louis B. Mayer was a film mogul and the most influential person in Hollywood from the mid-1920s to the late-1940s.
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Recently having merged his company with Samuel Goldwyn's studios to give birth to Metro-Goldwyn, Loew found himself without a head executive for the company. Soon Metro-Goldwyn became Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer and the iconic MGM Studios was born. Over the next 25 years, Mayer built the studio's reputation on a string of glamorous and mostly uncontroversial films. Some of the biggest hits of Mayer's era were Ben-Hur (1925), Grand Hotel (1932),
Dinner at Eight (1933) and The Good Earth (1937).
At its height MGM, was Hollywood's kingmaker (and queenmaker), churning out more films and stars than any other studio. The MGM lot itself was legendary—over 150 acres and as self-sufficient as a town, complete with its own opium den, barbershop and 24-hour dining establishment. Also housed on the property was none other than the iconic MGM lion, whose digs amounted to an onsite zoo.
Louis B. Mayer himself had gained a reputation of leonine proportions not long after his arrival in Hollywood. Characterized by his strong will and tell-it-straight relationships, Mayer once told Robert Young, "Put on a little weight and get more sex, we have a whole stable of girls here." Clearly, the approach worked; MGM was the most successful studio in Hollywood, even managing to stay profitable through the Great Depression. For almost a decade Mayer held the rank of highest paid man in America, a far cry from his days diving in the Bay of Fundy for scrap metal.
By 1948, the heyday of the Hollywood studio era had begun to fade. MGM had gone years without an Oscar and relations between Mayer and other executives began to fray as profit margins thinned. In 1951, Mayer left MGM after 27 years at the helm. Six years later, on October 29, 1957, the legendary producer and executive died of leukemia.
One of Hollywood's first true moguls, there is no denying his influence on the early years of the film industry's boom, but as Mayer himself once said, "The sign of a clever auteur is to achieve the illusion that there is a sole individual responsible for magnificent creations that require thousands of people to accomplish."
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