Carl Laemmle


Carl Laemmle

Laupheim, Landkreis Biberach, Baden-Württemberg, Germany
Death 24 Sep 1939 (aged 72)
Hollywood, Los Angeles County, California, USA
Burial East Los Angeles, Los Angeles County, California, USA
Plot Chapel Mausoleum, Corridor of Love, far righthand corner
Memorial ID 4540 View Source
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Motion Picture Pioneer. Founder of Universal Studios. Born in Laupheim, Germany, he left school at 13 and arrived in Chicago in 1884 to seek his fortune. He studied accounting and became manager of a clothing store in Oshkosh, Wisconsin, before returning to Chicago in 1905 to set up a retail shop. While looking for a suitable location, Laemmle grew intrigued by the crowds he saw lining up outside the city's many storefront nickelodeons. He opened his own Chicago cinema, the White Front Theatre, in 1906, and a second one two months later. As his theatre chain grew he expanded into distribution and within a few years the Laemmle Film Service was among the largest exchanges in the United States and Canada. In 1909, Thomas Edison's Motion Picture Patents Company (MPPC) began its quest to monopolize the infant movie industry and attempted to force Laemmle out of business by refusing to supply his exchange. He courageously fought back, filing anti-trust action against the MPPC and announcing he would go into film production himself. He formed the Independent Motion Picture Company (IMP) in Manhattan and shot its debut film, the one-reel "Hiawatha" (1909), in the wilds of New Jersey. Other IMP crews were sent to California and Cuba to evade Edison's spies. At a time when the dominant Patents studios refused to give actors screen credit, fearing increased salary demands, Laemmle pioneered in publicizing his performers by name. His most famous exploit involved his acquisition of the Biograph Company's most popular performer, Florence Lawrence, in 1910. Laemmle planted a report in the newspapers that "The Biograph Girl" had been killed in a streetcar accident; the following day he took out an ad in the trades denouncing the story as a hoax and stating that Lawrence, now "The IMP Girl", was scheduled to make a personal appearance in St. Louis. Upon her arrival the actress was mobbed by hysterical fans. This successful stunt marked the birth of the Star System in American movies. In 1912 Laemmle won his suit against the MPPC and merged his IMP with several smaller producers to create the Universal Film Manufacturing Company, later shortened to Universal. Its initial feature, "Traffic in Souls" (1913), proved there was big money to be made in sexploitation; it cost $7500 to make and grossed over half a million. Laemmle used the profits to build the world's largest film studio, the 230-acre Universal City near Hollywood. The guest of honor at its 1915 Grand Opening was Laemmle's former enemy, Thomas Edison. He pioneered again in 1916 by launching the first Universal Studios Tour, where for 25 cents visitors could wander the backlots, inspect the working dairy farm (where eggs and milk could be purchased), and watch movies being made. In the 1920s, with the rise of megastudios like MGM and Paramount, Universal settled into a niche as a B studio, producing an occasional A film for prestige. The latter included Erich von Stroheim's "Foolish Wives" (1922) and the Lon Chaney classics "The Hunchback of Notre Dame" (1923) and "The Phantom of the Opera" (1925). The eccentric Laemmle was jokingly called "Uncle Carl" for his rampant nepotism. At one time he had over 70 relatives on his payroll and he lost the services of Irving Thalberg, his brilliant young production chief, when Thalberg refused to marry his daughter. His son, Carl Laemmle, Jr., became head of production at 21 in 1929. But Junior's lavish spending, along with Depression-era setbacks, drove the studio into severe financial difficulties. In 1936 Laemmle was forced to sell Universal to the British investment firm Standard Capital for a little over $5 million; he and his entire family were ousted from the empire he had built from scratch. His few remaining years were spent in wealthy retirement in Beverly Hills. Universal Studios is still a major force in Hollywood and its tour is one of America's most popular tourist attractions.

Bio by: Bobb Edwards


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  • Maintained by: Find a Grave
  • Added: 14 Feb 1999
  • Find a Grave Memorial 4540
  • Find a Grave, database and images ( : accessed ), memorial page for Carl Laemmle (17 Jan 1867–24 Sep 1939), Find a Grave Memorial ID 4540, citing Home of Peace Memorial Park, East Los Angeles, Los Angeles County, California, USA ; Maintained by Find a Grave .