For two generations, Louis B. Mayer (1885–1957) was one of the most respected and feared men in the American film industry. From his early days as an independent producer to his long reign at MGM, Mayer had an unparalleled eye for both the bottom line and his personal view of quality films. He created more stars, as publicity claimed, than there were in heaven. Although viewed as a nemesis by most directors, Mayer oversaw much of the best work of King Vidor, Vincente Minnelli, George Cukor, and Ernst Lubitsch. This exhibition is prompted by the publication of Scott Eyman’s Lion of Hollywood: The Life and Legend of Louis B. Mayer (Simon & Schuster, 2005), which promises to be the definitive biography of this titan. While the exhibition highlights some of Mayer’s lesser-known films, also included are two features of which he was especially proud: The Big Parade (1925/1930), shown in both the recently preserved silent and sound versions with tinting not seen since the original release, and Meet Me in St. Louis (1944). On May 4, Eyman signs copies of his book and introduces the New York premiere of Warner Bros.’ recently preserved print of Vidor’s The Big Parade (1925). He will also introduce several other screenings in the program.
Organized by Charles Silver, Associate Curator, Department of Film and Media.