SAMUEL GOLDWYN, Jr.
A risk taker and a survivor is the best way to describe Samuel Goldwyn, Jr. Having spent most of his life in the entertainment industry, Mr. Goldwyn produced some of the industry’s most ground-breaking and acclaimed films. His mark has left an indelible impression on several generations of film audiences.
Mr. Goldwyn presided over The Samuel Goldwyn Company -- whose activities encompass feature film development, production and distribution. A long-time member of the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences and former member of the Board of Governors, he also was an officer of the French Order of Arts and Letters. In 1997 at ShowEast, he was the recipient of the Lifetime Achievement Award from the Association of American Exhibitors. Most recently, he was honored by the University of Connecticut with a Doctorate of the Arts.
Mr. Goldwyn produced “Master and Commander,” which received ten Academy Award® nominations including Best Picture and Best Director and was the winner of two Academy Awards®. Among the other films that Goldwyn has produced and/or distributed include: “The Squid and the Whale,” “Amazing Grace,” “Raising Victor Vargas,” “What the Bleep Do We Know,” “Tortilla Soup,” “The Man From Elysian Fields” and “King of Masks.” Other notable company productions and releases include “Lolita” starring Jeremy Irons, “The Preacher’s Wife” with Denzel Washington and Whitney Houston, “Big Night,” “I Shot Andy Warhol,” “Angels and Insects,” “To Live,” “A Prayer for the Dying,” “Sid and Nancy,” “Turtle Diary,” “Prick Up Your Ears,” “Black Robe,” “Mississippi Masala,” “The Playboys” and “Dance with a Stranger.”
Taking chances on films that no other studio would is an important chapter in Mr. Goldwyn’s life. Some of these gems include bringing films based on Shakespearean scripts back into favor with Kenneth Branagh’s “Henry V” and, later, “Much Ado About Nothing.” Never one to back away from controversy, he presented the AIDS drama “Longtime Companion” at a time when the American population and the media were avoiding the subject at all costs. “Desert Hearts,” another Goldwyn film, dealt with the then taboo topic of a lesbian relationship.
Four Goldwyn films have captured the prestigious Palme d’Or at Cannes David Lynch’s “Wild at Heart,” Bille August’s “The Best Intentions,” and Steven Soderbergh’s “Sex, Lies and Videotape.”
Foreign films were another passion, having released Oscar® -nominated “El Crimen Del Padre Amaro,” “3 Men and A Cradle,” Luc Besson’s “La Femme Nikita,” “Faithless,” and Ang Lee’s Oscar®-nominated classics “Wedding Banquet” and “Eat Drink Man Woman.”
He was also a champion of fine documentary works, highlighted by Oscar® -nominated “Super Size Me,” Oscar®-winning “Hotel Terminus,” the multi-Award-winning “35 Up,” Sting’s “Bring on the Night” and the critically-acclaimed “Mystery of Picasso.”
He consistently found a talent pool in Great Britain, producing and presenting such films as “Gregory’s Girl” from director Bill Forsyth, Anthony Minghella’s “Truly, Madly, Deeply,” and the multi-Oscar nominated “Madness of King George” featuring first time first director Nicholas Hytner and “overnight” sensation Nigel Hawthorne.
As a producer, he garnered a reputation as a “discoverer” of talent having provided the forum to launch the careers of numerous stars, producers, directors and writers.
Goldwyn’s “Mystic Pizza” introduced Julia Roberts as a leading lady, “Once Bitten” showcased the talents of then unknown comedian Jim Carrey; “Hollywood Shuffle” served as the springboard for the talented Robert Townsend, and filmmaker Jim Jarmusch and his first film, “Stranger Than Paradise.”
He also was responsible for the television phenomenon, “American Gladiators” which ran for seven seasons in the U.S. and around the world.
In 1987 Mr. Goldwyn took on the monumental task of producing the 59th Annual Academy Awards. The Academy invited him back the following year and Mr. Goldwyn was rewarded with an Emmy Award for Best Variety-Music Programming for his efforts on that show.
In the early 1970’s he produced two successful comedies which helped set the tone for an emerging genre, the black film cycle, with “Cotton Comes to Harlem” starring Godfrey Cambridge and “Come Back Charleston Blue.” Two 1990s releases also helped pave the way for future works by black filmmakers “To Sleep with Anger” and “Straight Out of Brooklyn.”
The son of legendary producer Samuel Goldwyn and actress Frances Howard, Mr. Goldwyn was born and raised in Los Angeles. He later attended the University of Virginia where he majored in English and Drama.
After a stint in the Army during World War II, he went to work in England for J. Arthur Rank Productions as a writer and associate producer and also spent some time in various capacities in the London theatre. Returning to Hollywood, he worked for a short time as writer and producer at Universal Studios before once again joining the military in 1950. This time, he joined the staff of General Dwight D. Eisenhower, where he produced and directed documentary films. His “Alliance for Peace” won first prize at the Edinburgh Film Festival, serving as an auger of things to follow.
Returning to the U.S. in 1952, he picked up where he left off, working for a time under Edward R. Murrow at CBS News. He went on to co-produce the documentary series, “Adventure,” which won a George Foster Peabody Award.
In 1955, Mr. Goldwyn formed his own independent production company. Among the company’s productions were “Man with a Gun” with Robert Mitchum, “Sharkfighters,” “The Proud Rebel” with Alan Ladd and Olivia de Havilland, “The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn,” and “The Young Lovers,” which he also directed.
The new Goldwyn Company was founded in 1979 stemming from Mr. Goldwyn’s vision for a motion picture company with the scope of a major studio and the heart of an old-fashioned family business. Using more than 50 classic American films owned by the original company as building blocks, classics such as “Wuthering Heights,” “Pride of the Yankees,” “Best Years of Our Lives,” “Guys and Dolls,” “Hans Christian Anderson,” and “The Secret Life of Walter Mitty,” the company continues to build a library of fine films.
In addition to his role as Chairman and Chief Executive Officer at The Samuel Goldwyn Company, Mr. Goldwyn served as President of The Samuel Goldwyn Foundation, a non-profit organization with a primary interest in health, education and child services. The Foundation sponsors a yearly writing competition for the University of California system which has a proven track record of launching the careers of talented young screenwriters. The Foundation also constructed the Hollywood Public Library in memory of Frances Howard Goldwyn and created the Samuel Goldwyn Foundation Children’s Center, a day care center serving the entertainment industry.
Mr. Goldwyn passed away on January 9, 2015.