Producer. Nationality: American. Born: Samuel Goldfisch in Warsaw, Poland, 27 August 1884; emigrated to the United States, 1897; naturalized, 1902. Family: Married 1) Blanche Lasky, 1910 (divorced 1919); 2) Frances Howard, 1925; son: the producer Samuel Goldwyn, Jr. Career: 1895—stayed with relatives in England and worked as blacksmith's helper; 1897—emigrated to the United States: worked as apprentice glovemaker, Gloversville, New York, and went to night school, then glove salesman; 1912—with his brother-in-law, Jesse L. Lasky, formed Jesse L. Lasky Feature Play Company, with Cecil B. De Mille as director (Goldwyn was treasurer); 1916—merged with Zukor's Famous Players (Goldwyn was chairman of the board); 1918—formed Goldwyn company with Edgar Selwyn; 1922—formed Samuel Goldwyn Productions, with no partners (his previous Selwyn company merged with Metro and Mayer companies to form Metro Goldwyn Mayer). Awards: Academy Award for The Best Years of Our Lives , 1946; Irving G. Thalberg
Films as Producer:
Potash and Perlmutter (Badger)
The Eternal City (Fitzmaurice); Cytherea (Fitzmaurice); Tarnish (Fitzmaurice); In Hollywood with Potash and Perlmutter (Green); Greed (von Stroheim) (co)
A Thief in Paradise (Fitzmaurice); His Supreme Moment (Fitzmaurice); The Dark Angel (Fitzmaurice); Stella Dallas (H. King)
Ben-Hur (Niblo) (co); The Winning of Barbara Worth (H. King); Partners Again ( With Potash and Perlmutter ) (H. King)
The Night of Love (Fitzmaurice); The Magic Flame (H. King); The Devil Dancer (Niblo)
Two Lovers (Niblo); The Awakening (Fleming)
The Rescue (Brenon); Bulldog Drummond (Jones); This Is Heaven (Santell); Condemned (Ruggles)
Raffles (D'Arrast and Fitzmaurice); Whoopee! (Freeland); The Devil to Pay (Fitzmaurice)
Street Scene (K. Vidor); One Heavenly Night (Fitzmaurice); Palmy Days (Sutherland); The Unholy Garden (Fitzmaurice); Arrowsmith (Ford); Tonight or Never (LeRoy)
The Greeks Had a Word for Them (V. Sherman); Cynara (K. Vidor); The Kid from Spain (McCarey)
Roman Scandals (Tuttle); The Masquerader (Wallace)
Nana (Arzner); We Live Again (Mamoulian); Kid Millions (Del Ruth)
The Wedding Night (K. Vidor); The Dark Angel (Franklin); Barbary Coast (Hawks); Splendor (Nugent)
Strike Me Pink (Taurog); Dodsworth (Wyler); Come and Get It (Hawks and Wyler); These Three (Wyler); Beloved Enemy (Potter)
Dead End (Wyler); Woman Chases Man (Blystone); Stella Dallas (K. Vidor); The Hurricane (Ford and Heisler)
The Goldwyn Follies (Marshall, and Potter uncredited); The Adventures of Marco Polo (Mayo, and Ford uncredited); The Cowboy and the Lady (Potter)
The Real Glory (Hathaway); Wuthering Heights (Wyler); They Shall Have Music ( Ragged Angels ) (Mayo)
The Westerner (Wyler); Raffles (Wood)
The Little Foxes (Wyler); Ball of Fire (Hawks); The Pride of the Yankees (Wood)
The North Star ( Armored Attack ) (Milestone); They Got Me Covered (Butler)
Up in Arms (Nugent); The Princess and the Pirate (Butler)
Wonder Man (Humberstone)
The Kid from Brooklyn (McLeod); The Best Years of Our Lives (Wyler)
The Secret Life of Walter Mitty (McLeod); The Bishop's Wife (Koster)
A Song Is Born (Hawks); Enchantment (Reis)
Roseanna McCoy (Reis); My Foolish Heart (Robson)
Edge of Doom (Robson); Our Very Own (Miller)
Hans Christian Andersen (C. Vidor); I Want You (Robson)
Guys and Dolls (Mankiewicz)
Porgy and Bess (Preminger)
By GOLDWYN: book—
Behind the Screen , New York, 1923.
By GOLDWYN: articles—
Sight and Sound (London), April-June 1953.
Kine Weekly (London), 13 September 1956.
Journal of Screen Producers Guild (Beverly Hills, California), December 1965.
American Film (Washington, D.C.), vol. 12, no. 10, September 1987.
On GOLDWYN: books—
Johnston, Alva, The Great Goldwyn , New York, 1937.
Griffith, Richard, Samuel Goldwyn , New York, 1956.
Crowthers, Bosley, The Lion's Share: The Story of an Entertainment Empire , New York, 1957.
Easton, Carol, The Search for Samuel Goldwyn , New York, 1976, 1989.
Marx, Arthur, Goldwyn: A Biography of the Man Behind the Mask , New York, 1976.
Marill, Alvin, H., Samuel Goldwyn Presents , South Brunswick, New Jersey, 1976.
Epstein, Lawrence J., Samuel Goldwyn , Boston, Massachusetts, 1981.
Freedland, Michael, The Goldwyn Touch , London, 1986.
Barnes, Jeremy, Sam Goldwyn: Movie Mogul , Englewood Cliffs, New Jersey, 1989.
Berg, A. Scott, Goldwyn: A Biography , New York, 1989; revised edition, 1998.
On GOLDWYN: articles—
Film (New York), November-December 1953.
Films and Filming (London), October 1956.
Zierold, Norman, in The Moguls , New York, 1969.
Films in Review (New York), December 1969, corrections in February 1970.
Positif (Paris), February 1976.
Cinématographe (Paris), May 1984.
Classic Images (Indiana, Pennsylvania), August 1984.
Film History , vol. 2, no. 2, June-July 1988.
Sarris, Andrew, "'We Are Dealing With Facts, Not Realities'," in Film Comment (New York), March-April 1989.
Greene, R., "The Big Picture," in Boxoffice (Chicago), August 1996.
Cousins, Russell, "Sanitizing Zola: Dorothy Arzner's Problematic Nana," in Literature/Film Quarterly (Salisbury), October 1996.
* * *
Samuel Goldwyn was one of the great independent producers during the heyday of the Hollywood studio system. Most of his films performed well at the box office, with critics, and at the Academy Awards.
Goldwyn's success was due, in part, to his genius for promoting his films and manipulating publicity about them. Perhaps more important to his success was his insistence that his films be well-crafted and of high quality—imbued, that is, with what became known as the Goldwyn Touch. Goldwyn's approach to movie-making was to buy the best available scripts, successful plays, and novels, and hire the best available writers, directors, and crews to bring them to the screen. The script for These Three , for example, was Lillian Hellman's adaptation of her Broadway hit play The Children's Hour ; the director was William Wyler (with whom Goldwyn eventually collaborated on seven films, including their most successful film, The Best Years of Our Lives , which won seven Oscars); and the cinematographer was Gregg Toland, whose credits include most of the Wyler-Goldwyn collaborations, John Ford's The Grapes of Wrath , and Orson Wells's Citizen Kane , the film that established Toland's reputation as one of the greatest cinematographers in film history.
Goldwyn hated working with partners, so he usually financed his films himself, sparing no expense. For instance, Goldwyn paid Bette Davis $385,000—an exorbitant sum in 1940—to appear in The Little Foxes . And when halfway through the filming of Nana , Goldwyn decided that the rough cut lacked the Goldwyn Touch, he scrapped the whole production, throwing away the $411,000 that he had already spent on the film, and started all over with Dorothy Arzner replacing George Fitzmaurice as director.
Sam Goldwyn is remembered for his "Goldwynisms"—unintentionally humorous statements springing from Goldwyn's unorthodox way of thinking, such as, "Include me out," or "A verbal contract isn't worth the paper it's written on." He is remembered for his fierce independence and his desire to control every aspect of the production and marketing of his films, often to the dismay of his directors, stars, writers, and especially his partners. Most of all, he is remembered for his films and the quality that he brought to them—the Goldwyn Touch.
—Clyde Kelly Dunagan