Joseph M. Schenck

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Joseph M. Schenck
Joseph Schenck.jpg
with Darryl F. Zanuck (right), 1937
Born (1878-12-25)December 25, 1878
Rybinsk, Yaroslavl Governorate, Russian Empire
Died October 22, 1961(1961-10-22) (aged 82)
Los Angeles, California, U.S.
Resting place Maimonides Cemetery, Brooklyn, New York
Occupation Film studio executive
Spouse(s) Norma Talmadge (m. 1916; div. 1934)
Relatives Nicholas Schenck (brother)

Joseph Michael Schenck (/ˈskɛŋk/; December 25, 1878 – October 22, 1961) was a Russian-born American film studio executive.

Life and career[edit]

Schenck was born to a Jewish family[1] in Rybinsk, Yaroslavl Oblast, Russia. He and his family  – including younger brother Nicholas  – emigrated to New York City in 1893; he and Nicholas eventually got into the entertainment business, operating concessions at New York's Fort George Amusement Park. Recognizing the potential, in 1909 the Schenck brothers purchased Palisades Amusement Park and afterward became participants in the fledgling motion picture industry in partnership with Marcus Loew, operating a chain of movie theaters.

In 1916, through his involvement in the film business, Joseph Schenck met and married Norma Talmadge, a top young star with Vitagraph Studios. He would be the first of her three husbands, but she was his only wife. Schenck supervised, controlled and nurtured her career in alliance with her mother.[2] In 1917 the couple formed the Norma Talmadge Film Corporation, which became a lucrative enterprise. They divorced in 1934; Schenck then built a home in Palm Springs, California.[3][2]

After parting ways with his brother, Joseph Schenck moved to the West Coast where the future of the film industry seemed to lie. Within a few years Schenck was made the second president of the new United Artists.[4]

The Political Graveyard reports that he was an alternate delegate from California to the 1928 Republican National Convention.[citation needed]

In 1933 he partnered with Darryl F. Zanuck to create Twentieth Century Pictures that merged with Fox Film Corporation in 1935. As chairman of the new 20th Century Fox, he was one of the most powerful and influential people in the film business. Caught in a payoff scheme to buy peace with the militant unions, he was convicted of income tax evasion and spent time in prison before being granted a presidential pardon. Following his release, he returned to 20th Century Fox where he became infatuated with the unknown Marilyn Monroe, and played a key role in launching her career.[citation needed]


One of the founders of the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences, in 1952 he was given a special Academy Award in recognition of his contribution to the development of the film industry. He has a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame at 6757 Hollywood Blvd.


Schenck retired in 1957 and shortly afterward suffered a stroke, from which he never fully recovered. He died in Los Angeles in 1961 at the age of 82, and was interred in Maimonides Cemetery in Brooklyn, New York.[5]


  1. ^ Brook, Vincent (December 15, 2016). From Shtetl to Stardom: Jews and Hollywood: Chapter 1: Still an Empire of Their Own: How Jews Remain Atop a Reinvented Hollywood. Purdue University Press. p. 17. ISBN 9781557537638. 
  2. ^ a b Basinger, Jeanine (2000). Silent Stars. Wesleyan University Press. p. 144. ISBN 0-8195-6451-6. 
  3. ^ Meeks, Eric G. (2012). The Best Guide Ever to Palm Springs Celebrity Homes. Horatio Limburger Oglethorpe. p. 163. ISBN 978-1479328598. 
  4. ^ Schickel, Richard. D.W. Griffith His Life and Work, 1985.
  5. ^ Joseph Michael Schenck at Find a Grave

External links[edit]