Adolph Zukor

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Adolph Zukor
Adolph Zukor 001.jpg
Born (1873-01-07)January 7, 1873
Ricse, Austria-Hungary
Died June 10, 1976(1976-06-10) (aged 103)
Los Angeles, California, U.S.
Ethnicity Jewish
Occupation Film producer
Years active 19031959
Known for founder of Paramount Pictures
Spouse(s) Lottie Kaufman (1897–1956)
Children Eugene J. Zukor
Mildred Zukor Loew

Adolph Zukor (January 7, 1873 – June 10, 1976)[1] was an American film mogul and founder of Paramount Pictures.[2]

Early life[edit]

Zukor was born to a Jewish family in Ricse, Hungary, which was then a part of the Austro-Hungarian empire. In 1889, at the age of 16, he promised Mella Baumoel, a girl almost 4 years older than he, that he would send for her one day and they would be married, and he emigrated to the United States. Like most immigrants, he began modestly. When he first landed in New York, he stayed with his family and worked in an upholstery shop. A friend got him a job as an apprentice at a furrier. Mella arrived in the U.S. too late to wed him; they never spoke again.[citation needed]

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. He was young and adventuresome, and the 1893 Columbian Exposition in Chicago drew him to the Midwest. There he started a fur business. In the second season of operation, Zukor's Novelty Fur Company expanded to 25 men and opened a branch.[3]

Historian Neal Gabler 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, he already looked and lived like a wealthy young burgher, and he certainly earned the income of one. He had a commodious apartment at 111th Street and Seventh Avenue in New York City's wealthy German-Jewish section".[3]

In 1918, he moved to New City, Rockland County, New York, where he purchased 300 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 500 acres, built a night house, guest house, movie theater, locker room, greenhouses, garages, staff quarters and hired golf architect A.W. Tillinghast to build an 18 hole championship golf course. Today, Zukor's estate is the private country club Paramount Country Club.[4]

Early movie career[edit]

He became involved in the motion picture industry when in 1903 his cousin, Max Goldstein approached him for a loan. Mitchell Mark needed investors to expand his chain of similar theaters that began in Buffalo, New York with Edisonia Hall. The arcade salon, the Automatic Vaudeville Company on 14th Street in New York City was to feature Thomas Edison'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.[citation needed]

Famous players[edit]

Zukor is honored with a dinner marking his 25 years in the film industry in 1936. From left: Frank Lloyd, Joseph M. Schenck, George Jessel, Zukor, Darryl F. Zanuck, Louis B. Mayer, and Jesse L. Lasky.

In 1912, Adolph Zukor established Famous Players Film Company—advertising "Famous Players in Famous Plays"—as the American distribution company for the French film production Les Amours de la reine Élisabeth starring Sarah Bernhardt.[5] The following year he obtained the financial backing of the Frohman brothers, 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 (1913). He purchased an armory on 26th Street in Manhattan and converted it into Chelsea Studios, a movie studio that is still used today.[6]

Paramount Pictures[edit]

The studio evolved into Famous Players-Lasky with co-producer Jesse L. Lasky and then Paramount Pictures, of which he served as president until 1936 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.[citation needed]

He retired from Paramount Pictures in 1959 and thereafter assumed Chairman Emeritus status, a position he held up until his death at the age of 103 in Los Angeles.

Personal life[edit]

In 1897, he married Lottie Kaufman;[7] they had two children, Eugene J. Zukor, who became a Paramount executive in 1916, and Mildred Zukor Loew who married Arthur Loew, son of Marcus Loew.[8]

Further reading[edit]

The composition at Juhász-kút (Sheperd Well) is one of the sights of Ricse. The well and its composition was given to the village by Adolph Zukor, who was born here.
  • 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, 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)

See also[edit]


  1. ^ Bernstein, Matthew (February 2000). Zukor, Adolph. American National Biography Online (Oxford University Press). 
  2. ^ Obituary Variety (June 16, 1976), page 76.
  3. ^ a b Gabler, Neal (1988). An empire of their own: how the Jews invented Hollywood (1st ed.). New York: Crown Publishers. p. 16. ISBN 0-517-56808-X. 
  4. ^ Trager, James (1979). The people's chronology: a year-by-year record of human events from prehistory to the present. Austin, Texas, United States: Holt, Rinehart and Winston. p. 823. 
  5. ^ Wu, Tim, The Master Switch : The Rise and Fall of Information Empires, New York : Alfred A. Knopf, 2010. ISBN 978-0-307-26993-5. Cf. especially p.62 on the film and Sarah Bernhardt. Sections of the book are on the film industry's early days and the then independent film studios such as Paramount.
  6. ^ New York: The Movie Lover's Guide: The Ultimate Insider Tour of Movie New York - Richard Alleman - Broadway (February 1, 2005) ISBN 0-7679-1634-4
  7. ^ New York Times: "Adolph Zukor Is Dead at 103; Built Paramount Movie Empire" by ALBIN KREBS June 11, 1976
  8. ^ Ingham, John N. (1983). Biographical Dictionary of American Business Leaders, Volume 4. Greenwood. p. 1702. ISBN 978-0313239106. 

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