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Balaban, Barney (08 June 1887–07 March 1971), motion picture executive, was born in Chicago, Illinois, the son of Israel Balaban, a grocer, and Goldie Manderbursky. At age twelve Balaban began working as a messenger for Western Union, then worked at various jobs until the mid-1910s when he settled as a bookkeeper at the Western Cold Storage Company. With his father, brothers, and a friend (soon thereafter brother-in-law), Sam Katz, Balaban launched the Balaban & Katz movie theater company in 1912. During the next decade Balaban & Katz redefined movie exhibition; the company’s Chicago-based movie palaces became the talk of the film business and enabled Balaban to quit his day job. Thereafter, whenever he worked, Balaban managed the corporation’s books and created many of the principles of modern movie accounting and record keeping....

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Cohn, Harry (23 July 1891–27 February 1958), studio executive, was born in New York City, the son of German and Russian immigrants Joseph Cohn and Bella Hudesman. His father was a tailor, and with his parents, four siblings, and two grandmothers, he shared four rooms on Eighty-eighth Street in abject poverty. At the age of fourteen, in 1905, Cohn quit school to appear in the chorus of a popular play, ...

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Goldwyn, Samuel (birth stated as 27 Aug. 1882, but more likely July 1879–31 January 1974), motion picture pioneer, was born in Warsaw, Poland, the son of Aaron David Gelbfisz, a peddler, and Hannah Reban Jarecka. Goldwyn’s early years are clouded. Although official records show his name at birth as Goldfish, he was in fact born Schmuel Gelbfisz. As the eldest child, he attended ...

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Lasky, Jesse Louis (13 September 1880–13 January 1958), motion picture pioneer, was born in San Francisco, California, the son of Isaac Lasky, a shoe store owner, and Sarah Platt. The family, including his younger sister Blanche, moved to San Jose, California, when Lasky was eight years old. Because of his father’s poor health, the subsequent bankruptcy of his shoe store, and relatives still residing in San Francisco, the Lasky family returned to San Francisco before Lasky could finish high school....

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Zanuck, Darryl F. (05 September 1902–22 December 1979), motion picture producer and film studio head, was born Darryl Francis Zanuck in Wahoo, Nebraska, the son of Frank Zanuck, a hotel manager, and Louise Torpin. Zanuck dropped out of high school and, just one day short of his fourteenth birthday, lied about his age and joined the army. He served briefly on border detail in New Mexico, then in France during World War I. His letters home were printed in the local newspaper and later in the army newspaper ...