Carl Laemmle Sr. and Carl Jr. - Writer

CARL, SR. Producer. Nationality: American. Born: Laupheim, Germany, 17 January 1867, family emigrated to the United States in 1884. Education: Attended schools in Laupheim. Family: Married Recha Stern, 1898; two children including the producer Carl, Jr. Career: Newsboy, salesman and bookkeeper; 1906—opened Whitefront Theatre nickelodeon in Chicago; 1909—defied the Motion Picture Patents Trust and went into production with his Independent Moving Picture Company; 1912—formed Universal Productions; 1914—company moved to lot outside Hollywood. Died: In Beverly Hills, California, 24 September 1939.

CARL, JR. Producer. Nationality: American. Born: Chicago, Illinois, 28 April 1908. Education: Attended Clark School, Chicago. Career: Supervisor of short subjects at Universal while still in his teens; 1927—began supervising Universal's feature films; 1928—associate producer; 1929—in charge of company's total film production; 1936—Universal sold to outside investors and Laemmle, Jr.

Carl Laemmle, Sr. and Carl Laemmle, Jr.
Carl Laemmle, Sr. and Carl Laemmle, Jr.
forced to resign; 1936–37—producer at MGM, but made no films. Award: Academy Award for All Quiet on the Western Front , 1930. Died: Of a stroke, in Los Angeles, California, in 1979.

Films as Producer (Carl, Sr.):


Cheated Hearts (Henley); Colorado (Eason); The Conflict (Paton); Danger Ahead (Sturgeon); The Dangerous Moment (De Sano); Desperate Trails (Ford); False Kisses (Scardon); The Cat (Dawn)


The Altar Stairs (Hillyer); Another Man's Shoes (Conway); Broad Daylight (Cummings); Caught Bluffing (Hillyer); Confidence (Pollard); A Dangerous Game (Baggot); Don't Get Personal (Badger); Don't Shoot (Conway); The Flaming Hour (Sedgwick); The Flirt (Henley); Foolish Wives (von Stroheim); Forsaking All Others (Chautard)


The Flame of Life (Henley); Burning Words (Paton); Crossed Wires (Baggot); Don Quickshot of the Rio Grande (Marshall); Double Dealing (Lehrman); Drifting (Browning); The First Degree (Sedgwick)


Fools Highway (Cummings); Butterfly (Brown); Excitement (Hill); The Family Secret (Seiter); The Fast Worker (Seiter); The Fighting American (Forman); The Gaiety Girl (Baggot)


Daring Days (O'Brien); The Demon (Smith); Fifth Avenue Models (Gade); Phantom of the Opera (Julian)


The Buckaroo Kid (Reynolds); Bucking the Truth (Morante); Down the Stretch (Baggot); The Escape (Morante); The Fighting Peacemaker (Smith); Butterflies in the Rain (Sloman)


Back to God's Country (Willat); Beware of Widows (Ruggles); Blazing Days (Wyler); The Border Cavalier (Wyler); The Broncho Buster (Ernst Laemmle); Call of the Heart (F. Ford); The Cat and the Canary (Leni); Cheating Cheaters (Edward Laemmle); The Cheerful Fraud (Seiter); The Chinese Parrot (Leni); The Claw (Olcott); The Denver Dude (Eason); Desert Dust (Wyler); Fangs of Destiny (Paton); Fast and Furious (Brown); The Fighting Three (Rogell); The Four-Footed Ranger (Paton); The Fourflusher (Ruggles); The Fourth Commandment (Johnson); Galloping Fury (Eason)


Arizona Cyclone (Lewis); Buck Privates (M. Brown); The Clean-Up Man (Taylor); The Cohens and Kellys in Paris (Beaudine); The Count of Ten (Flood); The Fearless Rider (Lewis)


Come Across (Taylor); Courtin' Wildcats (Storm)


Captain of the Guard (Robertson); The Cat Creeps (Julian); The Climax (Hoffman); The Cohens and Kellys in Scotland (Craft); The Concentratin' Kid (Rosson); The Czar of Broadway (Craft); Dames Ahoy! (Craft); East is West (Bell); Embarrassing Moments (Craft); The Fighting Legion (Harry Joe Brown)

Films as Producer (Carl, Jr.):


The Love Brand (Paton)


The Irresistible Lover (Beaudine)


The Last Warning (Leni); We Americans (Sloman); Lonesome (Fejos)


Broadway (Fejos); College Love (Ross); The Last Performance (Fejos)


All Quiet on the Western Front (Milestone); The King of Jazz (Anderson); A Lady Surrenders (Stahl); The Boudoir Diplomat (St. Clair)


The Spirit of Notre Dame (Mack); Dracula (Browning); Frankenstein (Whale); Waterloo Bridge (Whale); The Bad Sister (Henley)


Back Street (Stahl); Murders in the Rue Morgue (Florey); Once in a Lifetime (Mack); Air Mail (Ford); The Old Dark House (Whale)


Only Yesterday (Stahl); Out All Night (Taylor); The Invisible Man (Whale); Don't Bet on Love (Roth); The Mummy (Freund)


Imitation of Life (Stahl); The Countess of Monte Cristo (Freund); By Candlelight (Whale); Glamour (Wyler); Little Man, What Now? (Borzage); One More River (Whale)


The Good Fairy (Wyler); The Bride of Frankenstein (Whale); Night Life of the Gods (L. Sherman); Remember Last Night (Whale)


Show Boat (Whale)


By LAEMMLE (Sr.): articles—

"Mes débuts dans le cinéma," in Anthologie du cinéma , edited by Marcel Lapierre, Paris, 1946.

"This Business of Motion Pictures," in Film History (Bristol), vol. 3, no. 1, 1989.

On LAEMMLE (Sr.): books—

Gordon, R., Carl Laemmle & Universal Pictures: A Tribute , New York, 1976.

Drinkwater, John, The Life and Adventures of Carl Laemmle , London, 1931, 1978.

Gabler, Neal, An Empire of Their Own: How the Jews Invented Hollywood , New York, 1988.

On LAEMMLE (Sr.): articles—

Film Weekly , vol. 5, no. 137, 30 May 1931.

Film Weekly , vol. 12, no. 311, 28 September 1934.

Motion Picture Herald , vol. 136, no. 14, 30 September 1939.

Zierold, Norman, in The Hollywood Tycoons , London, 1969.

Classic Images (Muscatine, Iowa), January 1983.

Simmons, Jerold, "Film and International Politics: the Banning of All Quiet on the Western Front in Germany and Austria, 1930–1931," in Historian , November 1989.

Everschor, Franz, in Film-Dienst (Cologne), 4 August 1992.

* * *

Carl Laemmle, Sr., founded one of the major Hollywood studios, Universal Pictures. His life was a true "rags to riches" tale. He had made his way to the United States from Germany three decades before the movie industry was created. In 1906, at age 39, he opened a nickelodeon in Chicago. Once he had fought off takeover attempts by the Motion Pictures Patents Trust, Laemmle, Sr. began to expand his operations into filmmaking. He moved to Hollywood and built Universal City Studios in 1915.

During the late 1910s and early 1920s Universal City Studios functioned as the largest, most modern moviemaking operation in the world. But while Famous Players-Lasky moved up to number one in the industry by signing top stars and expanding its feature film budgets, Laemmle maintained a conservative business posture. He continued doing what had worked so well in the past, making low-budget formula films. Indeed the studio became famous as a place for developing such talents as director John Ford and studio executive Irving Thalberg, and then losing them to the more prosperous Paramount Pictures and Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer.

With the coming of the Great Depression and the attendant economy drives required, Universal was able only to play a marginal role during the lucrative Studio Era, producing low-budget films, including such horror classics as Dracula , The Mummy , The Invisible Man , and The Bride of Frankenstein . Universal Pictures never did obtain much power or prestige, but Laemmle, Sr., was able to set up his son in the business. Someone in Hollywood once noted that, contrary to what Ernest Hemingway wrote, in Lotus land it was "the son also rises." That cynic must have had Carl Laemmle, Jr., in mind.

By 1929 Carl Laemmle, Jr., was in charge of all film production at a major Hollywood studio. His only line experience had been as a writer of a popular series of two-reel comedies, The Collegians , for Universal in the mid-1920s. Since his father owned and operated the company, Carl, Jr., in 1927, at age 19, was suddenly supervising feature films. One year later he was appointed an associate producer and in that capacity produced the flamboyant screen version of Broadway , a spectacle meant to outdo all talkie spectacles that had come before.

The Great Depression severely limited what Laemmle, Jr., could do. Still, despite the fact the company immediately went into the red and would be sold to outside investors seven years later, Laemmle never looked back. Indeed at first he did make a splash. He invested considerable resources in All Quiet on the Western Front , a daring pacifist tale told from the German point of view. The picture won the Oscar for best picture in 1930, and brought respectability to a studio best known for its low-budget dramas and B-westerns.

But Laemmle could not afford to spend more than one million dollars for every film, regardless of how much prestige it bought the family company. Gradually he moved Universal more and more into the red. Eventually, despite all Laemmle, Sr.'s efforts, he could not get out from under mounting debts and in March 1936 sold Universal to a group of rich eastern bankers. Laemmle, Jr., politely retired, just as his last major effort, a film version of Show Boat , was being released. Laemmle, Sr., retired to become an elder statesman of the film business; Laemmle, Jr., not yet 30, would live in quiet obscurity for four more decades, making no more contributions to the motion picture business.

—Douglas Gomery

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