Samuel Goldwyn

Samuel Goldwyn


Samuel Goldwyn
Film: West side of the 1600 block of Vine Street
Born Schmuel Gelbfisz on Aug. 22, 1882 in Warsaw, Poland
Died Jan. 31, 1974 in Beverly Hills, Calif.

When he died in 1974, Samuel Goldwyn was the last survivor of the triumvirate that helped make Los Angeles the world's film capital. It was his foresight that led to the filming of "The Squaw Man" (1914) in a Hollywood lemon grove.

Like most of Hollywood's founding fathers, Goldwyn was an untutored immigrant who came to movies after apprenticing in more mundane businesses: He was a glove merchant in upstate New York before starting a picture company with industry pioneers Jesse Lasky — whose sister was his first wife — and Cecil B. DeMille.

To understand Goldwyn, all you need to know is that he wept easily. The irrepressible Hollywood mogul cried when he won an Oscar for producing "The Best Years of Our Lives." He cried every time he watched the ending of "Stella Dallas," a movie he liked so much he made it twice, first as a 1925 silent film, then as a 1937 talkie with Barbara Stanwyck.

And the Polish-born mogul cried when he told the story of arriving in New York and seeing the Statue of Liberty on his way to Ellis Island, the fabled arrival point of generations of immigrants to America. His emotions were real, but the story was a fabrication. Having heard that dockside clerks could send immigrants back home, Goldwyn had actually disembarked in Halifax, Nova Scotia, and walked the 500-odd miles to New York City in the dead of winter.

His life was a reinvention, one script polish after another, starting with his name: He was born Schmuel Gelbfisz, changed his name to Goldfish when he came to America and then to Goldwyn, naming himself after the studio he'd created, which gives you a pretty good idea of where his priorities in life lay.

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    Academy Awards

    Year Category Work
    1938 Irving G. Thalberg Memorial Award Nomination
    1946 Irving G. Thalberg Memorial Award Win
    1957 Jean Hersholt Humanitarian Award Win

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