Louis Mayer: Hollywood’s Real Life Vito Corleon

By Phin Upham

Try to imagine a real life Vito Corleon stalking the back lots of Hollywood. That’s how one might describe Louis Mayer. Astute movie fans might notice that Mayer’s name is one part of MGM, formed in 1924. Mayer had a taste for the elaborate, and his productions were decadent and costly. Yet his studio produced some classic films we have grown to know and love over the years, including Ben Hur and Grand Hotel. MGMs films were top notch in the golden age of Hollywood thanks in no small part to Mayer’s vision.

Mayer bought his way in to film, you could say, by purchasing the rights to distribute The Birth of a Nation. A recognized film today, but a sensation in 1914.Mayer pawned his wife’s wedding ring to get the money he needed to buy the film. Once the deal was inked, he began a distribution agency in Boston that soon expanded into a New York talent agency. But Mayer knew he could only get so far outside of Hollywood, and so he made the move just four years after that first risky venture. He formed the Louis B. Mayer Pictures Corporation when he arrived.

Mayer was known as an aggressive producer. He spent a lot of time hunting off the lot for talent and staged elaborate productions. He was very much hands-on with his operation and grew it fairly successfully. Enough to attract the attention of Marcus Loew and Samuel Goldwyn. The trio merged and formed MGM, Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer, a Hollywood behemoth at its height.

About the Author: Phin Upham is an investor at a family office/ hedgefund, where he focuses on special situation illiquid investing. Before this position, Phin Upham was working at Morgan Stanley in the Media and Telecom group. You may contact Phin on his Phin Upham website or Facebook page.