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Jesse L. Lasky - Photo in New York, 1915,  two years after he entered the movie business an an independent producer.  (Aberdeen collection). 

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Jesse L. Lasky

SIMPP Member (1945)


The son of a shoe salesman, Lasky was born in San Francisco in 1880. As a young man he traveled to Alaska in search of gold. Attracted to the theater, he embarked on a tour of the America in a duo act with his sister Blanche (who later became the first wife of Samuel Goldwyn).

He worked his way into theatrical production and made a name for himself by 1913, when his brother-in-law Sam Goldwyn (then known as Goldfish) pursuaded him to form the Jesse L. Lasky Feature Play Company. They hired Cecil B. DeMille, a first time film director, to go out west to shoot their first feature. DeMille moved the Lasky company into a barn in a suburb of Los Angeles called Hollywood. Thus the Jesse L. Lasky Feature Play Company became the first permanent feature film company actually located in the town of Hollywood.

Jesse L. Lasky Sr., and Mary Pickford at an award ceremony.

From 1914 on, Lasky released his films through the Hodkinson distribution company called Paramount Pictures. In 1916, another Hodkinson production company Famous Players, merged with the Lasky Feature Play Company to form Famous Players-Lasky. The company took control of Paramount from Hodkinson, making Famous Players-Lasky to largest movie company at the time. Jesse Lasky, as vice-president in charge of production, was one of the most important executive producers in Hollywood during the silent era.

Famous Players-Lasky changed names several times, finally to be known as Paramount Pictures following a restructuring during the Depression. However, during the turmoil that threw Paramount into receivership, Jesse Lasky was forced to leave his job as head of production in 1932.

He began a new career as an independent producer releasing through various studios including Fox and RKO. He also partnered with Mary Pickford to form Pickford-Lasky Productions which made a few features in the mid-1930s. In 1941 he produced his most successful independent movie Sergeant York starring Gary Cooper and directed by Howard Hawks. Lasky briefly joined SIMPP at the end of World War II.

His autobiography, "I Blow My Own Horn," was published in 1957. He died January 13, 1958.

Jesse L. Lasky - photo by Witzel.


SOURCES:

Lasky, Jesse L., I Blow My Own Horn.

See Bibliography.

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