Carl Laemmle
Born January 17, 1867 (1867-01-17) (age 150)
Laupheim, Württemberg, Germany
Died September 24, 1939(1939-09-24) (aged 72)
Los Angeles, California
Years active 1909–1936
Laupheim birthplace Laemmle

Birthplace of Carl Laemmle in Laupheim

Carl Laemmle (born as Karl Lämmle, January 17, 1867 – September 24, 1939) was a pioneer in American film making and a founder of one of the original major Hollywood movie studios – Universal.[1] Laemmle produced or was otherwise involved in over four hundred films.

Regarded as one of the most important of the early film pioneers, Laemmle was born on the Radstrasse just outside the former Jewish quarter of Laupheim. He emigrated to the US in 1884, working in Chicago as a bookkeeper or office manager for 20 years. He began buying nickelodeons, eventually expanding into a film distribution service, the Laemmle Film Service.


Laemmle was born on 17 January 1867 in Laupheim, a town within the Kingdom of Württemberg (and after 1871, in Germany). He emigrated to the United States in 1884, and lived in Chicago for almost twenty years.[2]

On April 30, 1912, in New York, Carl Laemmle of IMP, Pat Powers of Powers Motion Picture Company, Mark Dintenfass of Champion Film Company, William Swanson of Rex Motion Picture Company, David Horsley of Nestor Film Company and Charles Baumann and Adam Kessel of the New York Motion Picture Company merged their studios and the Universal Film Manufacturing Company was incorporated.[1] They founded the Universal Motion Picture Manufacturing Company in 1912, with studios in Fort Lee, New Jersey where many early film studios in America's first motion picture industry were based at the beginning of the 20th century.[3][4][5][6] In 1915, the studio moved to 235 acres (0.95 km2) of land in the San Fernando Valley, California.

Universal maintained two East Coast offices:

The first was located at 1600 Broadway, New York City. This building, initially known as The Studebaker building, was razed around 2004-5.[citation needed]

The second location to house Universal's executive offices was located at 730 Fifth Avenue, New York City.

Many years later, 445 Park Avenue was the location of Universal's executive offices.

Laemmle purchased the home of film pioneer Thomas Ince on Benedict Canyon Drive, Beverly Hills, California. The house was razed in the early 1940s. Laemmle also maintained a large apartment for himself and his two children, Rosabelle Laemmle (later Bergerman) and Carl Jr., at 465 West End Avenue, New York City – one block off Riverside Drive and the Hudson River.

In 1916, Laemmle sponsored the $3,000 three foot tall solid silver Universal Trophy for the winner of the annual Universal race at the Uniontown Speedway board track in southwestern Pennsylvania. Universal filmed each race from 1916 to 1922.

In the early and mid-1930s, Laemmle's son, Carl Laemmle, Jr., produced a series of expensive and commercially unsuccessful films for the studio, although there were occasional successes such as 1932's Back Street, 1936's Show Boat, and Universal's famous collection of 1930s horror classics. Carl and Carl Jr. were forced out of the company in 1936.

Laemmle remained connected to his home town of Laupheim throughout his life, by financial support and also by sponsoring hundreds of Jews from Laupheim and Württemberg to emigrate from Nazi Germany to the US, paying both emigration and immigration fees,[7] thus saving them from the Holocaust. To ensure and facilitate their immigration, Laemmle contacted American authorities, members of the House of Representatives and Secretary of State Cordell Hull. He also intervened in the fate of the refugees on board the Template:SS who were ultimately sent back from Havana to Europe in 1939.[8]


Carl Laemmle (seated far right) and Irving Leroy Ress (sitting, far left) at Laemmle's 70th birthday celebration, 1937.

Following his death from cardiovascular disease on September 24, 1939, in Beverly Hills, California, at the age of 72, Laemmle was entombed in the Chapel Mausoleum at Home of Peace Cemetery.

Asked how to pronounce his name, he told The Literary Digest, "The name means little lamb, and is pronounced as if it were spelled 'lem-lee'." [9]

The poet Ogden Nash observed the following about Laemmle's habit of giving his son and nephews top executive positions in his studios:

"Uncle Carl Laemmle
Has a very large faemmle."[10]

The main character in the 1949 novel The Dream Merchants by Harold Robbins, a former Universal Studios employee, is based upon Carl Laemmle.

His niece, Rebekah Isabelle Laemmle, known professionally as Carla Laemmle, appeared in several films until her retirement from acting at the end of the 1930s.

Laemmle was used as a character in The Adventures of Young Indiana Jones.

David Menefee's 2012 novel Sweet Memories features Carl Laemmle prominently.

See alsoEdit


  1. 1.0 1.1 Dick, Bernard F. (May 1, 1997). City of Dreams: The Making and Remaking of Universal Pictures. University Press of Kentucky. ISBN 9780813120164. 
  2. "The Jewish Past of Laupheim". Retrieved October 30, 2013. 
  3. Rose, Liza (April 29, 2012), "100 years ago, Fort Lee was the first town to bask in movie magic", The Star-Ledger,, retrieved 2012-11-11 
  4. Koszarski, Richard (2004), Fort Lee: The Film Town, Rome, Italy: John Libbey Publishing -CIC srl, ISBN 0-86196-653-8, 
  5. "Studios and Films". Fort Lee Film Commission. Retrieved 2011-05-30. 
  6. Fort Lee Film Commission (2006), Fort Lee Birthplace of the Motion Picture Industry, Arcadia Publishing, ISBN 0-7385-4501-5, 
  7. Geiger, Patricia (4 November 2012), "Laemmles Bürgschaften retteten vielen das Leben" (in German), Schwäbische Zeitung,,-Laemmles-Buergschaften-retteten-vielen-das-Leben-_arid,5342696.html, retrieved 7 November 2012 
  8. "Jüdische Zeitung". Retrieved 2007-12-11. 
  9. Charles Earle Funk, What's the Name, Please?, Funk & Wagnalls, 1936.
  10. "Carl Laemmle". Retrieved 2012-09-04. 

Further readingEdit

External linksEdit

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