Special Report Adolph Zukor–a Personal Remembrance

Adolph Zukor, who died in his sleep at his Los Angeles apartment June 9 at the age of 103, was one of the last surviving founders of the Hollywood film industry and one, who according to his own promise, outlived all of his enemies.

He was born in Ricse, a village in Hungary on Jan. 7, 1873–a year when the U.S. Cavalry was still fighting Indians on the Western plains, a subject that was to be grist for many hundreds of Hollywood movies. He came to New York in 1889 with $40 in his pocket and worked his way up the ladder from a sweeper for a New York furrier to a respected member of the film trade. Together with Marcus Loew, he opened the first Penny Arcade in 1903. Later he switched from moving picture machines to the Nickelodeon showing two-reelers in converted stores with the image projected onto the screen.

This writer became acquainted with Adolph Zukor, the movie tycoon, in March 1967 at which time he was 94. I was then president of the Hollywood Foreign Press Association.

BERNHARDT IN A CAN

I presented Mr. Zukor with a plaque in recognition of his unique contribution to the founding of the Hollywood film industry. During our meeting, Zukor told me about his first successful venture in 1912 when he brought the full-length Sarah Bernhardt feature. “Queen Elizabeth,” over from France. He recalled that the customers waited in line to see the “God-like” Bernhardt on stage. Hardly anyone at that time could imagine that a talent of such magnitude could be transported across the ocean in a tin can.

In association with Charles Frohman, Zukor formed the Famous Players Film Ltd., its name taken from the slogan. “Famous Players in Famous Plays.” Films such as “The Prisoner of Zenda” with James K. Hackett. “The Count of Monte Cristo,” with James O’Neill and features with Minnie Maddern Fiske, Mary Pickford and Ethel Barrymore followed.

Just as Stanislavsky’s meeting with Nemirovich-Danchenko some 20 years earlier had resulted in the formation of the Moscow Art Theater, a lunch at Delmonico’s in New York with Jesse L. Lasky inspired the merger of Famous Players-Lasky Corp. in 1916. This was the forerunner of the Paramount empire. Samuel Goldwyn, who had been Lasky’s partner since 1913, went on his own shortly afterwards to form Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer in Culver City.

In 1917, Famous-Lasky absorbed Paramount and Zukor became president. He was at the helm of the firm until 1935 at which time he assumed the chairmanship of the company. He remained with Paramount until his death.

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