Louis B. MayerLegendary studio chief Louis B. Mayer considered himself a patriot for the United States—despite being born in the Ukraine and growing up in Canada. It was for this reason that he chose to maintain his birthday was the same as that of the country he loved (the real date is widely thought to be the 12th of the month). Throughout his career Mayer preserved his brand of conservative patriotism by stumping for Herbert Hoover’s presidential bids and naming names before the House Un-American Activities Committee in 1947. “Mr. Motion Picture,” as William R. Wilkerson of The Hollywood Reporter used to call him, began modestly with one Massachusetts movie theater to his name in 1907. By 1924 Mayer had merged his own thriving studio enterprise with those of Samuel Goldwyn and Marcus Loew of Metro Pictures to form Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer. During his reign as head of the studio, he became the highest paid executive in the country and made stars out of Joan Crawford, Clark Gable, Greta Garbo, Jean Harlow, Jimmy Stewart and Spencer Tracy, understanding that Hollywood was a “business of making idols… Everything else was secondary.”

Factoid: Louis B. Mayer’s empire was built on a foundation laid by The Birth of a Nation (1915), which he purchased a copy of after pawning his wife’s wedding ring.

Photo courtesy of AMPAS.