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Adolph Zukor

Adolph Zukor

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Adolph Zukor born Adolph Cukor, was a film mogul
Media proprietor
A media proprietor is a person who controls, either through personal ownership or a dominant position in any media enterprise. Those with significant control of a public company in the mass media may also be called "media moguls", "tycoons", "barons", or "bosses".The figure of the media proprietor...

 and founder of Paramount Pictures
Paramount Pictures
Paramount Pictures Corporation is an American film production and distribution company, located at 5555 Melrose Avenue in Hollywood. Founded in 1912 and currently owned by media conglomerate Viacom, it is America's oldest existing film studio; it is also the last major film studio still...


Early life

Zukor was born to a Jewish family in Ricse
Ricse is a village in the Tokaj wine region in Borsod-Abaúj-Zemplén, in Eastern Hungary. Prior to World War II Ricse was home to a thriving Jewish community. The founder of Paramount Pictures, Adolph Zukor, was born in Ricse in 1873 before emigrating to the United States in 1889. -References:-...

, Hungary
Hungary , officially the Republic of Hungary , is a landlocked country in Central Europe. It is situated in the Carpathian Basin and is bordered by Slovakia to the north, Ukraine and Romania to the east, Serbia and Croatia to the south, Slovenia to the southwest and Austria to the west. The...

, which was then a part of the Austro-Hungarian
Austria-Hungary , more formally known as the Kingdoms and Lands Represented in the Imperial Council and the Lands of the Holy Hungarian Crown of Saint Stephen, was a constitutional monarchic union between the crowns of the Austrian Empire and the Kingdom of Hungary in...

 empire. In 1889, at the age of 16, he emigrated to the United States
United States
The United States of America is a federal constitutional republic comprising fifty states and a federal district...

. Like most immigrants, he began modestly. When he first landed in New York, he stayed with his family and worked in an upholstery
Upholstery is the work of providing furniture, especially seats, with padding, springs, webbing, and fabric or leather covers. The word upholstery comes from the Middle English word upholder, which referred to a tradesman who held up his goods. The term is equally applicable to domestic,...

 shop. A friend got him a job as an apprentice at a furrier.

Zukor stayed there for two years. When he left to become a "contract" worker, sewing fur pieces and selling them himself, he was nineteen years old and an accomplished designer. But he was young and adventuresome, and the 1893 Columbian Exposition in Chicago
Chicago is the largest city in the US state of Illinois. With nearly 2.7 million residents, it is the most populous city in the Midwestern United States and the third most populous in the US, after New York City and Los Angeles...

, commemorating Columbus's discovery of America, drew him to the Midwest. Once there, he started a fur business. In the second season of operation, Zukor's Novelty Fur Company expanded to twenty-five men and opened a branch.

Historian Neal Gabler
Neal Gabler
Neal Gabler is a professor, journalist, author, film critic and political commentator.He graduated summa cum laude from the University of Michigan and holds advanced degrees in film and American culture.-Journalist:...

 wrote "one of the stubborn fallacies of movie history is that the men who created the film industry were all impoverished young vulgarians.... Zukor clearly didn't fit this profile. By 1903
1903 in film
The year 1903 in film involved some significant events.-Events:* Thomas Edison demolishes "America's First Movie Studio", the Black Maria.* The three elder Warner Bros...

, he already looked and lived like a wealthy young burgher
In sociology and political science, bourgeoisie describes a range of groups across history. In the Western world, between the late 18th century and the present day, the bourgeoisie is a social class "characterized by their ownership of capital and their related culture." A member of the...

, and he certainly earned the income of one. He had a commodious apartment at 111th Street and Seventh Avenue in New York City
New York City
New York is the most populous city in the United States and the center of the New York Metropolitan Area, one of the most populous metropolitan areas in the world. New York exerts a significant impact upon global commerce, finance, media, art, fashion, research, technology, education, and...

's wealthy German-Jewish section".

In 1918, he moved to New City, Rockland County, New York
New City, New York
New City is a hamlet , in the Town of Clarkstown Rockland County, New York, United States, part of the New York Metropolitan Area. The hamlet is a suburb of New York City, located 18 miles north of the city at the closest point, Riverdale, The Bronx...

, where he purchased three hundred acres of land from Lawrence Abraham, heir to the A&S Department Stores. Abraham had already built a sizable house, a nine-hole golf course and a swimming pool on this property. Two years later, Zukor bought an additional five hundred acres, built a night house, guest house, movie theater, locker room, greenhouses, garages, staff quarters and hired famed golf architect A.W. Tillinghast to build an eighteen hole championship golf course. Today, Zukor's estate is a private country club known as Paramount Country Club.

Early movie career

He became involved in the motion picture
A film, also called a movie or motion picture, is a series of still or moving images. It is produced by recording photographic images with cameras, or by creating images using animation techniques or visual effects...

 industry when in 1903 his cousin, Max Goldstein approached him for a loan. Mitchell Mark
Mitchell Mark
Mitchell Mark aka Mitchell H. Mark was a pioneer of motion picture exhibition in the United States.-Biography:...

 needed investors in order to expand his chain of similar theaters that had begun in Buffalo, New York
Buffalo, New York
Buffalo is the second most populous city in the state of New York, after New York City. Located in Western New York on the eastern shores of Lake Erie and at the head of the Niagara River across from Fort Erie, Ontario, Buffalo is the seat of Erie County and the principal city of the...

 with Edisonia Hall
Edisonia Hall
Edisonia Hall was a generic name for exhibition halls that displayed the various inventions of Thomas Alva Edison's company. These included the phonograph, the Vitascope, the Kinetoscope and other such devices....

. The arcade salon was to feature Thomas Edison
Thomas Edison
Thomas Alva Edison was an American inventor and businessman. He developed many devices that greatly influenced life around the world, including the phonograph, the motion picture camera, and a long-lasting, practical electric light bulb. In addition, he created the world’s first industrial...

's marvels: phonographs, electric lights and moving pictures. Zukor not only gave Goldstein the money but insisted on forming a partnership to open another one. Another partner in the venture was Marcus Loew
Marcus Loew
Marcus Loew was an American business magnate and a pioneer of the motion picture industry who formed Loews Theatres and Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer .-Biography:...


Famous players

In 1912
1912 in film
The year 1912 in film involved some significant events.-Events:*Mack Sennett, who had previously worked as an actor and comedy director with D. W. Griffith, formed a new company with New York City entrepreneur Adam Kessel called Keystone Studios...

, Adolph Zukor established Famous Players Film Company
Famous Players Film Company
The Famous Players Film Company was founded in 1912 by Adolph Zukor in partnership with the Frohman brothers, the powerful New York City theatre impresarios. The company advertised "Famous Players in Famous Plays" and its first release was the French film Les Amours de la reine Élisabeth starring...

 -- advertising "Famous Players in Famous Plays" -- as the American distribution company for the French
The French Republic , The French Republic , The French Republic , (commonly known as France , is a unitary semi-presidential republic in Western Europe with several overseas territories and islands located on other continents and in the Indian, Pacific, and Atlantic oceans. Metropolitan France...

 film production Les Amours de la reine Élisabeth
Les Amours de la reine Élisabeth
Les Amours de la reine Élisabeth , Les Amours d'Elisabeth, Reine d'Angleterre or La reine Élisabeth is a 1912 short 4-reel French silent film based on the love affair between Elizabeth I of England and the Earl of Essex...

starring Sarah Bernhardt
Sarah Bernhardt
Sarah Bernhardt was a French stage and early film actress, and has been referred to as "the most famous actress the world has ever known". Bernhardt made her fame on the stages of France in the 1870s, and was soon in demand in Europe and the Americas...

. The following year he obtained the financial backing of the Frohman brothers
Frohman brothers
The Frohman brothers were important American Broadway theatre owners and theatrical producers who also owned and operated motion picture production companies.The brothers were:*Daniel Frohman *Gustave Frohman...

, the powerful New York City theatre impresarios. Their primary goal was to bring noted stage actors to the screen and Zukor went on to produce The Prisoner of Zenda
The Prisoner of Zenda
The Prisoner of Zenda is an adventure novel by Anthony Hope, published in 1894. The king of the fictional country of Ruritania is drugged on the eve of his coronation and thus unable to attend his own coronation. Political forces are such that in order for the king to retain his crown his...

1913 in film
The year 1913 in film involved some significant events.-Events:* The Squaw Man, the first Hollywood feature film, is made.* December 29, Charlie Chaplin signs a contract with Mack Sennett to begin making films at Keystone Studios.* D. W...

). He purchased an armoury
Armory (military)
An armory or armoury is a place where arms and ammunition are made, maintained and repaired, stored, issued to authorized users, or any combination of those...

 on 26th Street in Manhattan and converted it into Chelsea Studios
Chelsea Studios
Chelsea Studios is a television studio and sound stage at 221 West 26th Street in the Chelsea neighborhood of New York City.-History:The building was originally an armory that was home to Ninth Mounted Calvary which moved to 14th Street in 1914....

, a movie studio that is still used today.

Paramount Pictures

The studio evolved into Famous Players-Lasky
Famous Players-Lasky
Famous Players-Lasky Corporation was an American motion picture and distribution company created on July 19, 1916 from the merger of Adolph Zukor's Famous Players Film Company -- originally formed by Zukor as Famous Players in Famous Plays -- and Jesse L...

 with co-director Jesse L. Lasky
Jesse L. Lasky
Jesse Louis Lasky, Sr. was a pioneer Hollywood film producer. He was a key founder of Paramount Pictures with Adolph Zukor, and father of screenwriter Jesse L...

 and then Paramount Pictures
Paramount Pictures
Paramount Pictures Corporation is an American film production and distribution company, located at 5555 Melrose Avenue in Hollywood. Founded in 1912 and currently owned by media conglomerate Viacom, it is America's oldest existing film studio; it is also the last major film studio still...

, of which he served as president until 1936
1936 in film
The year 1936 in film involved some significant events.-Events:*May 29 - Fritz Lang's first Hollywood film Fury, starring Spencer Tracy and Bruce Cabot, is released.*November 6 - first Porky Pig animated cartoon...

 when he was elevated to chairman of the board. He revolutionized the film industry by organizing production, distribution, and exhibition within a single company. Zukor was a director and producer. He retired from Paramount Pictures in 1959
1959 in film
The year 1959 in film involved some significant events, with Ben-Hur winning a record 11 Academy Awards.-Events:* The Three Stooges make their 190th and last short film, Sappy Bull Fighters....

 and thereafter assumed Chairman Emeritus status, a position he held up until his death at the age of 103 in Los Angeles
Los Angeles, California
Los Angeles , with a population at the 2010 United States Census of 3,792,621, is the most populous city in California, USA and the second most populous in the United States, after New York City. It has an area of , and is located in Southern California...

. He was a leading character in The Biograph Girl
The Biograph Girl
The Biograph Girl is a musical with a book by Warner Brown, lyrics by Brown and David Heneker, and music by Heneker. Its plot focuses on the silent film era and five pioneers of American cinema - actresses Mary Pickford and Lillian Gish, directors D.W...

, a 1980 musical about the silent film era.

Further reading

  • Adolph Zukor, The Public Is Never Wrong: My 50 Years in the Picture Industry (New York: G. P. Putnam, 1953)
  • David Balaban, The Chicago Movie Palaces of Balaban and Katz (Arcadia Publishing, 2006)
  • Neal Gabler
    Neal Gabler
    Neal Gabler is a professor, journalist, author, film critic and political commentator.He graduated summa cum laude from the University of Michigan and holds advanced degrees in film and American culture.-Journalist:...

    , An Empire of Their Own: How the Jews Invented Hollywood (New York: Anchor Books, 1989)
  • Will Irwin, The House That Shadows Built (Garden City, New York: Doubleday, Doran, 1928)

External links