Carole Lombard, Fred MacMurray and director Mitchell Leisen welcome a guest to the set of "Swing High, Swing Low" -- the man who approved their paychecks, if he didn't necessarily sign them. He's Adolph Zukor, founder of Paramount, who at the time this picture was taken -- near the end of 1936 or in early 1937 -- was about to celebrate his 64th birthday and 25th anniversary with the company.
Today, we thought we'd focus on Zukor, who the New York Times described in his obituary as "the completely atypical movie tycoon -- unflamboyant, deliberate, mild-mannered, predictable, almost self-effacing."
Perhaps Zukor acted that way because unlike Louis B. Mayer, Harry Cohn or others, he normally had relatively little direct involvement in film production, delegating that authority to others. He spent most of his time in New York, administering the business side of things, making a trip or two to the West Coast each year...so it's likely that during her seven years at Paramount, Carole met him only a few times. Below is a picture from 1934, as Zukor posed with several new actresses signed by the studio; I believe that's Gail Patrick and Ida Lupino seated at his left.
The Times obit said "Zukor, who preferred to work from behind the scenes, was a true visionary who shrewdly saw, well before most others did, that the motion picture could become the great mass entertainment and artistic medium that it is today."
On Jan. 5, 1937, two days before Zukor's birthday, Paramount ran a multi-page spread in the trade paper Film Daily honoring his quarter-century in the business:
The spread also promoted some of Paramount's upcoming product, and yes, "Swing High, Swing Low" was among them:
Many of his colleagues and rivals paid tribute to Zukor in the Jan. 6 Film Daily; some of the comments are so much Hollywood hyperbole, but many of them speak well of a man who had relatively few enemies in the industry:
Paramount would honor Zukor on the night of his birthday with a gala dinner at one of its soundstages. It was previewed in the Jan. 6 Film Daily...
...and reported on Jan. 8, with Lombard among those appearing on the nationwide radio broadcast (although given the lateness of the dinner for East Coast press times, this may have been written in advance):
When the dinner was held, no one could have known that Zukor would be around for nearly four more decades...as the aforementioned Times obit didn't go to print until June 1976, when he was 103 and Hollywood was beginning to move in a different direction, thanks largely to Steven Spielberg's "Jaws," released the previous summer.
Sitting on the arm of a plush chair, Lombard looks chic in our latest LiveJournal header, Paramount p1202-140.