Sol Lesser

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Sol Lesser
Sol Lesser.jpg
Sol Lesser ca. 1920
Born (1890-02-17)February 17, 1890
Spokane, Washington, U.S.
Died September 19, 1980(1980-09-19) (aged 90)
Hollywood, California, U.S.
Resting place Hillside Memorial Park, Culver City, California
Occupation Film producer
Years active 1913–1958
Spouse(s) Fay Grunauer Lesser (1913-?) (2 children) [1]
Children Julian Lesser (1915-2005)[2]
Marjorie Lesser Fasman
Family Great grandchildren - Joshua Alexander Lesser

Sol Lesser (February 17, 1890 – September 19, 1980) was an American film producer and presenter.


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.

His productions usually had higher budgets than the usual independent features; Lesser was able to produce entire series with name stars like Bela Lugosi, George O'Brien, and Bobby Breen.

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.

Later films include Our Town (1940) and the all-star wartime revue Stage Door Canteen (1943). Toward the end of his life he was actively involved in restoring many of his early productions.

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.

Lesser was buried at Hillside Memorial Park in Culver City, California.[3]


Sol Lesser was the recipient of The Jean Hersholt Humanitarian Award in 1960. He has a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame.


Ad for What Women Love (1920)
Poster for My Boy (1922)
Lobby card for Ferocious Pal (1934)
Lobby card for Hawaii Calls (1938)
Poster for Stage Door Canteen (1943)
Academy Award for Kon-Tiki (1950)
Year Title Notes
1920 What Women Love [4]
1921 One Man in a Million [5]
1922 My Boy [4]
1922 Oliver Twist [4]
1922 Trouble [4]
1922 Bing Bang Boom [5]
1923 Circus Days [4]
1923 Daddy [4]
1923 Drug Traffic, TheThe Drug Traffic [4]
1924 Captain January [4]
1924 Helen's Babies [4]
1924 Mine with the Iron Door, TheThe Mine with the Iron Door [5]
1924 When a Man's a Man [4]
1925 Re-Creation of Brian Kent, TheThe Re-Creation of Brian Kent [4]
1930 Eyes of the World, TheThe Eyes of the World [4]
1932 South Sea Adventures [4]
1932 With Williamson Beneath the Sea [4]
1932 Amazon Head Hunters, TheThe Amazon Head Hunters [4]
1933 Jaws of Justice [4]
1933 Matto-Grosso [4]
1933 Thunder over Mexico [4]
1933 Tarzan the Fearless Serial[5]
1933 Return of Chandu, TheThe Return of Chandu Serial[5]
1934 Peck's Bad Boy [4]
1934 Ferocious Pal [5]
1934 Fighting to Live [4]
1934 Chandu on the Magic Isle [4]
1934 Dude Ranger, TheThe Dude Ranger [4]
1935 Hard Rock Harrigan [4]
1935 Thunder Mountain [4]
1935 Whispering Smith Speaks [4]
1935 When a Man's a Man [4]
1935 Cowboy Millionaire, TheThe Cowboy Millionaire [4]
1935 Calling of Dan Matthews, TheThe Calling of Dan Matthews [4]
1936 Let's Sing Again [4]
1936 Rainbow on the River [4]
1936 O'Malley of the Mounted [4]
1937 Californian, TheThe Californian [4]
1937 Make a Wish [4]
1937 Western Gold [4]
1937 Roll Along, Cowboy [4]
1937 Secret Valley [4]
1937 It Happened Out West [4]
1938 Breaking the Ice [4]
1938 Hawaii Calls [4]
1938 Rawhide [4]
1938 Tarzan's Revenge [4]
1938 Peck's Bad Boy with the Circus [4]
1938 Panamint's Bad Man [4]
1938 Hawaiian Buckaroo [4]
1939 Fisherman's Wharf [4]
1939 Way Down South [4]
1939 Everything's on Ice [4]
1939 Escape to Paradise [4]
1940 Our Town [4]
1941 That Uncertain Feeling [4]
1942 Tuttles of Tahiti, TheThe Tuttles of Tahiti [4]
1943 Stage Door Canteen [4]
1943 Tarzan's Desert Mystery [4]
1943 Tarzan Triumphs [4]
1944 Three Is a Family [4]
1945 Tarzan and the Amazons [4]
1947 Tarzan and the Leopard Woman [4]
1947 Red House, TheThe Red House [4]
1947 Tarzan and the Huntress [4]
1948 Tarzan and the Mermaids [4]
1949 Tarzan's Magic Fountain [4]
1950 Tarzan and the Slave Girl [4]
1950 Kon-Tiki Academy Award, Best Documentary Feature[4]
1951 Tarzan's Peril [4]
1952 Tarzan's Savage Fury [4]
1952 Under the Red Sea [4]
1952 Without Warning! [4]
1953 Tarzan and the She-Devil [4]
1953 Vice Squad [4]
1953 3D Follies, TheThe 3D Follies [4]
1955 Quest for the Lost City [4]
1955 Tarzan's Hidden Jungle [4]
1957 Man on the Prowl [4]
1957 X the Unknown [4]
1958 Tarzan's Fight for Life [4]
1958 Tarzan and the Trappers TV pilot


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