Motion picture pioneer Sol Lesser produced 117 feature films during more than 50 years in the movie industry.
His was a career best remembered for its successes — especially the financial one that enabled him to become one of Hollywood's most notable philanthropists.
Lesser leaped from the relative obscurity of film distribution to the peak of the production field in 1922, when he starred 8-year-old Jackie Coogan in "Oliver Twist," a movie that broke box-office records around the world.
Scores of other successes followed, including the Tarzan films and "Stage Door Canteen," a movie so profitable that Lesser was able to donate $1.5 million of the proceeds to the American Theater Wing, a stage production support group in New York.
His first feature, "What Women Love," starred Annette Kellerman. She was billed as having the world's best figure, frolicking before the camera in a daring, one-piece bathing suit.
Then, bucking conventional wisdom, Lesser followed Charlie Chaplin's lead and starred an urchin.
The public loved Coogan in "Oliver Twist" as much as it had loved him the year before in Chaplin's "The Kid." Coogan then starred in a series of successive Lesser hits, including "Peck's Bad Boy" and "Circus Days."
More movies followed — including the Tarzan features, the "Red House," starring Edward G. Robinson, and "Stage Door Canteen," featuring Katharine Hepburn and an all-star cast.
|1940||Best Picture||Our Town||Nomination|
|1960||Jean Hersholt Humanitarian Award||Win|