Producers and Directors

The list will be added to from time to time

DeMILLE, Cecil B.(August 12, 1881 – January 21, 1959) Film producer known for his epic productions - often biblical (King of Kings and two version of The Ten Commandments thought of as a poor director for actors, although his handling of huge numbers of extras and his flair for set pieces is well known He was held to be something of a tyrant on the set. He is known for his appearance as himself in Sunset Blvd.

FREED, Arthur ( born Grossman on September 9, 1894 – April 12, 1973) Lyricist and producer. Worked with Marx brothers and was hired by MGM. Associate producer of The Wizard of Oz. Fought to keep "Over the Rainbow" in the film. Brought many Broadway performers to films and worked on their careers. His films Amercan In Paris and Gigi won Academy Awards but Singin' in the Rain may be his most famous film

GRIFFITH, D.W. (January 22, 1875 – July 23, 1948) Early director who did much to establish film grammar. Famous for his directing Birth of a Nation Intolerance. The Squaw Man.and Broken Blossoms. Quite early he was involved with Edison (as an actor) and then with Biograph Studios and Triangle Films. Later he is involved in the founding of United Artists.

INCE, Thomas (November 6, 1882 – November 19, 1924) Considered the father of the Western. Was involved in Triangle Motion Picture Company with Griffith..Built studio at Culver City which would become MGM. Died on yacht owned by William Randolph Hurst but was rumored to have been murdered by Hurst over Marion Davies

LASKY, Jesse (September 13, 1880 – January 13, 1958) Producer and founder of Paramount pictures with Adolph Zuckor. Lasky's sister married Samuel Goldwyn. Lasky, Goldwyn, DeMille and Oscar Apfel formeed Jesse L. Lasky Featured Play Company and made The Squaw Man which is considereed the first feature film made in Holywood.

LEWTON, Val (1904–1951) (RKO Pictures). Nephew of Alla Nazimova. Producer oflow budget RKO :"terror" films of the 1940's as a response Universal Studio's "horror/monster" films. Teamed with a number of directors who went on to bigger things including Jacques Tourneur and Robert Wise

PORTER, EDWIN (April 21, 1870 – April 30, 1941)

PREMINGER, Otto (1905–1986) Director of film which challlenged the production code: The Moon is Blue, Anatomy of a Murder, Man with the Golden Arm.

SELZNICK, David O. (May 10, 1902 – June 22, 1965) Oscar winning producer (Gone With the Wind RebessaWorked for MGM (assistant story editor from 1926-1928); Paramount (1928-1931) and RKO (head of production).In 1933 returned to MGM when Thalberg became ill and set up a second high prestige unit parallel to Thalberg's.Walter Wanger hired then too.

THALBERG, Irving (May 30, 1899 – September 14, 1936) Producer with a knack for selecting good material and suitable performers. Worked with Cark Laemmle at Universal until lured away to Louis G Mayer Productions which links with Metro to become MGM. married to actress Norma Shearer

TOURNEUR, Jacques (November 12, 1904–December 19, 1977) Paris born son of director Maurice Tourneur. Worked with RKO on B list pictures including the first 3 Val Lewton horror films Cat People. Walked with a Zombie and Leopard Man after which he was promotoed to A level films.

WANGER, Walter(July 11, 1894 – November 18, 1968) (original name was Feuchtwanger, but shortened to Wanger and pronounced it to rhyme with "Stranger") Producer. Along with Selznic, he replaced Thalberg at MGM when Thalberg was ill. Produced Cleopatra

WARNER (Harry, Albert, Sam, Jack (1892–1978) (original family name was Wonskolaser) Founders of Warner Brothers with the oldest and youngest most well known. Friction between Harry and Jack was legendary as was the deal made by Harry with Boston banker Serge Semenenko which pushed Harry out of the company. It caused an irrepairable rift between Jack and his two surviving (Sam had died earlier). One of their most important films is The Jazz Singer which catapulted them into a major studio. They had a huge star list (James Cagney, Bette Davis, Joan Crawford etc.). The studio was known for its gritty social films and was the first studio to take an anti-Nazi stand.

WASSERMAN, Lew(is) (22 March 1913 – 3 June 2002) Talent agent for M(usic) C(orporation) of A(merica). He supported and later was instrumental in the dismanteling the studio system.

. WELLES, (George) Orson (May 6, 1915 – October 10, 1985) Multifaceted in stage, radio and film prduction ( film director, actor, theatre director, screenwriter, and producer) Welles is known for his radio broadcast of War of the Worlds which was taken as real by many and caused a panic; his stage production of a "voodoo" Macbeth and a number of feature films starting with Citizen Kane. His temperment caused serious problems for him and made it more and more difficult for him to raise money for productions.

WISE, Robert (1914–2005) Verstile director who started as an editor, editing such films as Citizen Kane and Magnificentt Ambersons. He later edited Val Lewton and Jacques Tourneur's Cat People and ultimately was allowed to replace Gunther von Fritsch as the director of Curse of the Cat People His varied works include The Setup a boxing film, The Day the Earth Stood Still a science fiction film, The Haunting a horror film in the Val Lewton Traditon, and two musicals, West Side Story and The Sound of Music.

ZUCKOR, Adolph (January 7, 1873 – June 10, 1976) Established "Famous Players Company" which had Chelsea Studios in Manhattan. With Jesse Lasky this became "Famous Players - Lasky" which finally became Paramount Studios with which he remained throught his life..



The early history of films is in the NY Metropolitan area. Battles develop between Edison and his company over patents that Edison held and used to try to block other companies from making films. Ultimately Edison and several other comapnies form "The Trust" which tried to force independent producers into using their film and projection systems. There were lengthy legal battles in which Edison either outlasted the other party in the law suit or lost. Most independents could not afford the costs of the lengthy law suits. The companies which banded together to form the Motion Picture Patents Company included Edison, Biograph, Vitagraph, Essanay, Selig, Lubin, Kalem, American Star, American Pathé. A mojor distributor George Kleine and Eastman Kodak the major film supplier were also involved. The Trust was effective in stopping foreign films from coming into the US .

The Motion Picture Patents Company ("The Trust")

Edison Manufacturing Company was Thomas Edison's Co and lasted from 1894-1911 when it became Thomas A. Edison, Inc and closed in 1918. Had the first "studio" The Black Maria" in West Orange NJ and later one in Manhattan and one in the Bronx.

Biograph Founded by J. Stuart Blackton and Albert E. Smith in 1897 in. NY William Kennedy Laurie Dickson formerly with Edison and then American Mutoscope becomes involved and the 2 companies merge.

Vitagraph founded 1897 (J. Stuart Blackton, Albert E. Smith) bought by Warner Brothers 1925. Made more movies than anyone else by 1907.Made Battle Cry of Peace which was censored by the US government for not being pro-war enough. May be one of the first examples of givernment censorship with films.

Essanay 1907 Chicago based company originally Peerless Film Manufacturing Co.) George K. Spoor and Gilbert M. Anderson. Changed name in 1907 Made Charlie Chaplin shorts. Anderson played "Bronco Billy" a very popular character and had appeared in The Great Train Robbery

Selig Polyscope Co, 1986 Chicago based but became the first permanent movie studio in Edendale district of Los Angeles. Tom Mix and Fatty Arbuckle were stars. Closed in 1918

Lubin Siegmund Lubin fprms Lubin Manujfacturing in 1902 and incorporates in 1909 in Philadelphia, Pa. Made film equipment and distibution. Company went bankrupt in 1916. Lubin films used a Liberty Bell trademark and is the first company to produce a film with Oliver Hardy of Laurel and Hardy fame.

Kalem Founded in 1907 in NYC by George Kleine, Sam Long and Frank Marion, Kleine had been involved in distrinution while Long and Marion were working for Biograph

American Star Marie-Georges-Jean Méliès company in America. The company went bankrupt in 1913

American Pathé Founded in France in 1896 by Charles, Émile, Théophile and Jacques Pathé.

The Independents or "Pirates" or "Outlaws"

Fox Films William Fox formed in 1915 by merging 2 of his companies, Greater N.Y. Film Rental and Fox Office Atrractions. Studios were in Ft. Lee, NJ. Fox was interested in building theaters rather than film production. Fox bought Edendale studios and Selig Polyscope Company in Los Angeles. Merges with 20th Century in 1935. Spyros Skouras was Fox West Coast theater manager and became president.Joe Schenck became chair and CEO of merged companies

Majestic Films Formed in 1906 as the Western Film Milwaukee, Wisconsin by John R. Freuler (1872-1958), Harry E. Aitken (1877-1956) and Roy Aitken (1882-1976). Mutual Film Corporation. (Harry E. Aitken) In 1910 Freuler is also a partner in American Film Manufacturing Company. In 1912 they acquire Thanhauser studios and all become the Mutual Film Corporation which is famous for Charlie Chaplin films. They also added Mack Sennett's Keystone and Majestic Studios (which would become D.W. Griffith's Reliance-Majestic Studios) to the company..along with the New York Motion Picture Company. In 1915 Keystone, Thomas Ince's Kay Bee Studio (a part of NY Motion Picture) and Reliance-Majestic Studio leave Mutual and become Triangle Film Corp.

Famous Players Film Company Famous Players Film Company and Jesse J,. Lasky's Feature Plays company had a deal with Paramount Pictures Corp (a distributor) to distribute their films. Discovering their 65% (Lasky)/35% Paramount split could be 100% Lasky, he and Adolph Zukor took over Paarmount by secretly bying up the stock and ousting the president. The company becomes Paramount Films. They become enbroiled in battles with theaters because of the deals they force on exhibitors.

Independent Motion Pictures Company (IMP) 1909 Ft. Lee, NJ (Carl Laemmle).. Internal schisms led to disorganization and IMP and several other companies became part of Univerasal Film Manufacturing with Laemmle as president. In 1925 it becomes Universal Pictures Company, Inc Ericj von Strohheim nearly bankrupt the studio with Foolish Wives and Blind Husbands., but Lon Chaney became a huge star for them. Irving Thanberg was important to the studio but was lured away by Louis B. Mayer to MGM in 1924 . Universal never quite recovered. The studio was famous for All Quiet on the Western Front (1930) and it series of horror/monster films in the 1930's and 40's,


20th Century (after 1935 20th Century Fox)Twentieth Century was formed in 1933 by Darryl F. Zanuck (from Warner Brothers), Joseph Schenck (from United Artists) , Raymond Griffith, William Goetz (from Fox films). Spyros Skouras come from Fox after 1935 merger

MGM (Metro Goldwyn Mayer) Goldwyn (Gelbfisch), Jesse Lasky, C.B. DeMille, Arthur Friend, Marcus Loew, Arthur Freed

RKO (Radio-Keith-Orpheum) Joseph P. Kennedy, David Sarnoff, Floyd Odlum.Val Lewton

Paramount (Adolph Zuckor)

Warner Brothers (Harry, Al, Sam and Jack)


Universal (1912) Carl Laemmle made Universal from IMP and 8 smaller companies. Famous for horror films of the 20's and 40's. Becomes Universal International in 1945

Columbia (1919) Cohn-Brandt-Cohn Film Sales now SONY owns. Started by Jack amd Harry Cohn and Joe Brandt in 1922 as Cohn-Brandt-Cohn Film Sales and 2 years later became Columbia Pictures. In 20's Frank Capra was an important director there.

United Artists (1919) D.W. Griffith, Charlie Chaplin, Douglas Fairbanks, Mary Pickford. Studio formed to have more control of their own work. William S. Hart (cowboy star) was initially interested but left before it formed, It was an early opponent of what would become the studio system.By 1924 Griffith had dropped out. Jospeh Schenk became president and brought commitments from his relatives Norma and Constance Talmadge and Buster Keaton. Contracted with Sam Goldwyn. Alexander Korda and Howard Hughes. Sound ended careers of Diarbanks and Pickford. Schenk left in 1933 to form 20th Century with Darryl Zanuck. Virtually gone by 1940. In 1951 revitalized by Arthur Krim and Robert Benjamin. Pickford and Fairbanks went along, but Chaplin balked, but ultimately agreed and then sold off his stock when he couldno longer com back to the US. These were bankers who bankrolled independent producers so they were a production company without a studio hence little overhead. In the next years they released African Queen (1951), Moulin Rouge (1952) and finally Marty (1955)

MINORS (POVERTY ROW) (list not complete)

Republic (1935-1959) Was a consolidation of six separate studios (Monogram, Mascot, Liberty, Majestic, Chesterfield, and Invincible) that used a film lab called Consolidated Film Industries headed by Herbert J. Yates. Yates convinced these six to merge under the name Republic Studios and he would then have a production company tied to his film lab. Monogram and Majestic broke off again and resumed their own production with Majestic being the independent production arm of Columbia.

Monogram (1931-1953) After 1933 it changes name to Allied Artists. Created from W. Ray Jonston's Rayart (later Raytone with sound) and Trem Carr's Sono Art-World Pictures

PRC (Producers Releasing Corporation) (Late 30’s to mid 40’s) Evolved from Producing Distributiong Company. Made low budget films largely with character actors or idle actors. Bpught by Pathe Inductries and then merged into Eagle-Lion Films, Inc who distributed the films. In 1955 United Artists bought the company.

Grand National(1936-1939) Became part of Astor Pictures and finally was absorbed by PRC

INDEPENDENTS (list not complete)

Samuel Goldwyn

Walt Disney

David O’Selznick

Walter Wanger