Sol Lesser ca. 1920
|Born||February 17, 1890|
Spokane, Washington, U.S.
|Died||September 19, 1980 (aged 90)|
|Resting place||Hillside Memorial Park, Culver City, California|
|Spouse(s)||Fay Grunauer Lesser (1913-?) (2 children)|
|Children||Julian Lesser (1915-2005)|
Marjorie Lesser Fasman
|Family||Great grandchildren - Joshua Alexander Lesser|
Sol Lesser (February 17, 1890 – September 19, 1980) was an American film producer. He received a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame in 1960 and was awarded the Jean Hersholt Humanitarian Award in 1961.
In 1913, while living in San Francisco, Sol Lesser learned that the authorities were about to clean out the Barbary Coast district, a raucous area of gambling houses, saloons and brothels. He grabbed a camera and a friend, future Hollywood cameraman Hal Mohr, and roamed the area, especially the parts that were best-known before the area was shut down. (The Barbary Coast was not actually closed down until 1917.) This film is now considered a lost film.
The resulting film was The Last Night of the Barbary Coast, an early example of an exploitation film that was sold directly to movie theater owners by Lesser. With the profits from the film, he bought several theaters, and soon owned a cinema chain.
Sol Lesser signed Jackie Coogan to a movie contract in 1922, establishing both as major Hollywood names. The Coogan-Lesser hits included Oliver Twist and Peck's Bad Boy. Lesser made a successful transition to sound films, with his own Principal Pictures company; he would either distribute his productions himself under the Principal name, or arrange for a major studio to release them under their own trademarks. In 1933, Lesser produced Thunder Over Mexico a compilation film made from Eisenstein's Que Viva Mexico! with the permission of Upton Sinclair, who had commissioned the Soviet film maker, and his wife.
In 1933 Lesser succeeded in buying screen rights to Edgar Rice Burroughs' Tarzan character. A serial with screen newcomer Buster Crabbe resulted, but Burroughs, deciding to make his own Tarzan films, refused to renegotiate with Lesser. Burroughs's movie enterprises were short-lived, and the rights passed to Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer. Lesser would not return to the Tarzan property until 1943, after MGM relinquished the rights. Lesser's new Tarzan films were produced for RKO and starred Johnny Weissmuller and later Lex Barker and Gordon Scott, and Lesser devoted himself to these jungle adventures for the rest of his career.
Lesser retired in 1958. "I had reached the age that one either finishes on top or far below. I decided I would end on top, and I was satisfied," he said.
- Sol Lesser at Find a Grave
- "Sol Lesser". AFI Catalog of Feature Films. American Film Institute. Retrieved February 5, 2016.
- "Sol Lesser Productions, Inc". AFI Catalog of Feature Films. American Film Institute. Retrieved February 5, 2016.
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