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The not-so-big finales of Hollywood’s movie moguls

By Donald H. Harrison

Donald H. Harrison

SAN DIEGO–When one of their movies was over, Hollywood movie moguls typically filmed a placard reading “The End.” But how were the end of their own lives marked on their tombstones?

In an engaging article in the Winter 2012 issue of Western States Jewish History, Regina Merwin tracks down the gravestones and tombs of such early film greats as Carl Laemmle, Louis B. Mayer, the four Warner Brothers, William Fox, Jesse Lasky, Harry Cohn, Irving Thalberg, Samuel Goldwyn, Marcus Loew and Adolf Zukor. She also reprised some of the information about their respective funerals.

You can find Lammle’s “gated marble family crypt” at Home of Peace Memorial Park, 4334 Whittier Boulevard, Los Angeles, the same cemetery where Louis B. Mayer has a crypt in the Corridor of Immortality. The plaque on the Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer studio head’s crypt reads simply: “Louis B. Mayer, Beloved Husband and Father.” Visitors have to know in advance where to go to recognize the grave of the Louis B. Mayer. Not so with Jesse Lasky; his crypt in the Abbey of the Psalms mausoleum at Hollywood Memorial Cemetery, 6000 Santa Monica Boulevard, Los Angeles, has a plaque bearing in six lines the following inscription: “Beloved son of California who in 1913 headed the company that produced the first feature length motion picture made in Hollywood. His greatness never lacked simplicity. Carry the song along the passage, You the soul of there is, In Glory Forevermore.”

Harry Cohn was baptized post-mortem by his wife. “Cohn’s crypt suggests a giant cross with a Star of David at the intersection,” wrote Merwin. Cohn’s funeral was well attended, despite the fact that Cohn was not well liked in the movie industry. “It was this funeral turnout that inspired the quip attributed to Red Skelton: ‘Well, it only proves what they always say–give the people what they want, and they’ll come out for it.'”

Irving Thalberg also had a large funeral, but he was considerably more popular. When a service at the Wilshire Boulevard Temple ended, Thalberg’s widow, Norma, was accompanied by Louis B. Mayer and Loew’s chief Joe Schenk to Forest Lawn Cemetery for burial. “As the casket was carried into the sanctuary, Wallace Beery, piloting his own plane, dropped flowers from the sky.”

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Harrison is editor of San Diego Jewish World.  He may be contacted at [email protected]

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