Polish-born US film producer who became one of the legendary names of Hollywood.
Goldwyn was born in Warsaw and emigrated to the USA via England at the age of thirteen. Beginning as a glovemaker's apprentice, he became a successful salesman and then entered the emerging film business, with his brother-in-law, Jesse Lasky (1880–1958), and Cecil B. de Mille. Their first film, Squaw Man (1914), was highly successful and numerous films followed. Subsequently he joined Edgar Selwyn in forming the Goldwyn Company, a name made by combining the ‘Gold’ of Goldfish with the ‘wyn’ of Selwyn. In 1918 he adopted the name Goldwyn as his own. After the creation of Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer in 1924 he became an independent producer and released his films through the United Artists Corporation. His second wife, Frances Howard, whom he married in 1925, worked with him. Their son, Samuel Goldwyn Jr (1926– ), also became a producer.
An astute businessman, Goldwyn brought the best talents together: photographer Gregg Toland (1904–48), such writers as Lillian Hellman, Robert Sherwood (1896–1955), and Maxwell Anderson (1888–1959), and directors of the calibre of King Vidor (1894–1982), Howard Hawks, and William Wyler (1902–81). His association with Wyler was particularly successful, resulting in the The Best Years of Our Lives (1946), which won a special Academy Award. Goldwyn was also very strict about the moral standpoint of his films and effectively set the standard that all Hollywood film-makers had to follow for thirty years. Ronald Colman, Gary Cooper, and David Niven were among the numerous stars he signed up. Memorable films included Bulldog Drummond (1929), Wuthering Heights (1939), The Westerner (1940), and The Little Foxes (1941) with Bette Davis.
Goldwyn was famous for his unique use of English – ‘A verbal contract isn't worth the paper it's written on’ is one of the many Goldwynisms that have become as legendary as the man himself.