Irving Thalberg

Irving Thalberg

After a preview of the Marie Dressler-Wallace Beery picture Tugboat Annie (1933), Thalberg asked director Mervyn LeRoy if a scene could be improved by making Beery's shoes squeak. LeRoy agreed, but detailed how it would be economically prohibitive to reshoot the scene as the sets had been dismantled and the cast had dispersed. Thalberg responded, "Mervyn, I didn't ask you how much it would cost, I asked you whether it would help the picture." The scene was reshot, an example of Thalberg's perfectionism.

After director King Vidor complained to Thalberg that he was tired of shooting pictures that played in theaters for just one week, he told him about a new kind of realistic war movie he had envisioned. Thalberg was enthusiastic about Vidor's vision, and tried to buy the rights to the hit Broadway play "What Price Glory?" co-written by Maxwell Anderson and World War I Marine veteran Laurence Stallings. Since the rights to the popular anti-war play had already been acquired, he hired Stallings to come to Hollywood and write a screenplay for the new, realistic war picture that Vidor had dreamed about making. Stallings came up with The Big Parade (1925), an anti-war film that dispensed with traditional concepts of heroism, focusing instead on a love story between a Yank soldier and a French girl. After Vidor completed principal photography, Thalberg took the rough cut and previewed it before live audiences in Colorado. Although the audiences responded favorably, Thalberg decided to expand the scope of the picture, as Vidor had created a war picture without many war scenes. He had Vidor restage the famous marching army column sequence with 3,000 extras, 200 trucks

Before marrying Norma Shearer, he was romantically linked to Rosabelle Laemmle (daughter of film mogul Carl Laemmle), actress Constance Talmadge and socialite Peggy Hopkins Joyce.

Brother-in-law of Douglas Shearer and Athole Shearer, son-in-law of Edith Shearer.

Contracted rheumatic fever at the age of 17, and the prognosis was negative. His mother, Henrietta, ignored the physicians' opinions and sent Irving back to high school to finish up and get his diploma.

Cousin of Louis M. Heyward.

Had two children, Irving, Jr. and Katherine. As adults, Irving, Jr. became a professor of philosophy at the University of Illinois at Chicago, and Katherine owned a bookstore in Colorado.

He was reportedly the person who created the term "film editor" as opposed to simply "cutter." He first applied the term to Margaret Booth.

Interred at Forest Lawn, Glendale, California, USA, in the Great Mausoleum, Sanctuary of Benediction, end of the hall, on the left hand side, the very last private room marked "Thalberg."

Is portrayed by John Rubinstein in The Silent Lovers (1980) (TV)

Is portrayed by Robert Evans in Man of a Thousand Faces (1957)

On the day of his funeral, MGM closed for the entire day, and every Hollywood studio shut down operations for five minutes of silence at 10:00 AM PST. Such honors were rare, but Marie Dressler and Jean Harlow received similar consideration.

On the evening of his death, during the live performance of Lux Radio Theater, "Quality Street", Cecil B. DeMille announced of the passing of Irving Thalberg and offered 10 seconds of silence in tribute.

One of the 36 founders of the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences (AMPAS)

Owing to Thalberg's habit in his lifetime of not seizing the spotlight for himself, Hollywood's memorials to him after his death were relatively sedate, although heartfelt. MGM renamed their administration facility the Thalberg Building, and the Academy of Motion Picture Arts & Sciences created the Thalberg Award to acknowledge "Creative producers, whose bodies of work reflect a consistently high quality of motion picture production."

The character of Monroe Stahr, the hero of F. Scott Fitzgerald's final novel ("The Last Tycoon ) was based on him. Fitzgerald also based the story "Crazy Sunday", on a party he attended at his home.

The father of two daughters, Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer Vice President-Production Louis B. Mayer originally thought of Thalberg, his production chief, as a son, but Thalberg's ambitions and his view of himself as the man behind the success of MGM eventually brought them into conflict. After Thalberg's 1933 heart-attack forced the young executive to take a long vacation, Mayer introduced a producer system he likened to a college of cardinals to replace Thalberg as the central producer. When Thalberg returned to MGM, he became just an ordinary producer, albeit one who had first choice on projects and MGM resources, including its stars, due to his closeness to Nicholas Schenck, the president of MGM corporate parent Loews's Inc. Schenck, who was the true power and ultimate arbiter at the studio, usually backed up Thalberg. Some Hollywood observers believe that Mayer was relieved by Thalberg's untimely death, though he professed a great deal of grief publicly and likely was saddened by his former mentor's demise as Thalberg had been instrumental in building MGM into the greatest studio in Hollywood and the world.

Took a screen credit only once in his lifetime: He credited himself as "I.R. Irving" for the screenplay he wrote for The Dangerous Little Demon (1922).

Was a notorious hard worker, often putting in 12-hour workdays. He was also notorious for running behind schedule with his appointments. Actors, directors, writers and others would wait days if not weeks on the bench outside of his office before finally meeting face-to-face with Thalberg. Writer George S. Kaufman once quipped about that famous bench that on a clear day you can see Thalberg.

Writer Charles MacArthur said about him, "He's too good to last. The lamb doesn't lie down with the lion for long.".