Samuel Goldwyn was born Schmuel Gelbfisz in Warsaw, Poland, in 1882. At an early age he left his home, penniless and on foot, and made his way to Birmingham, England, where he remained with relatives for several years. In 1898, he emigrated to the United States, but fearing refusal of entry, he got off the boat in Nova Scotia, Canada. He found work in upstate New York in the booming garment business.
His drive and ambition made him a very successful salesman and, after several years, he moved to New York City and entered the nascent film business with his brother-in-law, Jesse Lasky, a former vaudeville performer, and Adolph Zukor, a theater owner. Together, the three produced their first film, using an ambitious young director named Cecil B. DeMille, in 1914. Disputes arose between the partners and Goldwyn left after a couple of years, but their company evolved to later become Paramount Pictures.
In 1916, Goldwyn (at this time he referred to himself as Goldfish) partnered with Broadway producers Edgar and Archibald Selwyn, using a combination of both names to call their company Goldwyn Pictures. Seeing an opportunity, he then had his surname legally changed to Goldwyn. The production company was moderately successful, but it was their roaring Leo the Lion trademark for which the organization is most famous. Eventually the company was acquired by Marcus Loew and his Metro Pictures, but by then Goldwyn had already been forced out by his partners and was never a part of the new studio that came to be known as Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer.
After his departure from Goldwyn Pictures, he established Samuel Goldwyn Productions. For more than three decades, Goldwyn produced numerous successful films and won the Academy Award for Outstanding Motion Picture for The Best Years Of Our Lives (1946).
Another seven of his productions [see left] were nominated for Outstanding Motion Picture. His final film was released in 1959.
Goldwyn married Blanche Lasky, the sister of Jesse Lasky, his first business partner, in 1910. They had one child and were divorced in 1915, around the time Goldwyn left the partnership. He married the actress Francis Howard in 1925. They also had one child.
Goldwyn is remembered as a ruthless businessman who lacked formal education and his sometimes crude manners combined with an explosive temper left him few close friends.
He died in Los Angeles, in 1974, at the age of 94.