Harry Cohn : ハリー・コーン

Harry Cohn (July 23, 1891 – February 27, 1958) was the co-founder, president, and production director of Columbia Pictures Corporation.

Life and career

Cohn was born to a working-class Jewish family in New York City. His mother, Bella Joseph, was from Russia, and his father, Joseph Cohen, was a tailor from Germany. After working for a time as a streetcar conductor, and then as a promoter for a sheet music printer, he got a job with Universal Pictures, where his brother, Jack Cohn, was already employed. In 1919, Cohn joined his brother and Joe Brandt to found CBC Film Sales Corporation. The initials officially stood for Cohn, Brandt, and Cohn, but Hollywood wags noted the company’s low-budget, low-class efforts and nicknamed CBC “Corned Beef and Cabbage.” Harry Cohn managed the company’s film production in Hollywood, while his brother managed its finances from New York. The relationship between the two brothers was not always good, and Brandt, finding the partnership stressful, eventually sold his third of the company to Harry Cohn, who took over as president, by which time the firm had been renamed Columbia Pictures Corporation.

Most of Columbia’s early work was action fare starring rock-jawed leading man Jack Holt. Columbia was unable to shake off its stigma as a Poverty Row studio until 1934, when director Frank Capra’s Columbia comedy It Happened One Night swept the Academy Awards. Exhibitors who formerly wouldn’t touch Columbia product became steady customers. As a horizontally integrated company that only controlled production and distribution, Columbia had previously been at the mercy of theater owners. Columbia expanded its scope to offer moviegoers a regular program of economically made features, short subjects, serials, travelogues, sports reels, and cartoons. Columbia would release a few “class” productions each year (Lost Horizon, Holiday, Mr. Smith Goes to Washington,The Jolson Story, Gilda, All the King’s Men, etc.), but depended on its popular “budget” productions to keep the company solvent. During Cohn’s tenure, the studio always turned a profit.

Cohn did not build a stable of movie stars like other studios. Instead, he generally signed actors who usually worked for more expensive studios (Wheeler & Woolsey, Cary Grant, Katharine Hepburn, Mae West, Humphrey Bogart, Dorothy Lamour, Mickey Rooney, Chester Morris, Warren William, Warner Baxter, Sabu, Gloria Jean, Margaret O’Brien, etc.) to attract a pre-sold audience. Columbia’s own stars generally rose from the ranks of small-part actors and featured players (Jean Arthur, Rita Hayworth, Larry Parks, Julie Bishop, Lloyd Bridges, Bruce Bennett, Jock Mahoney, etc.). Some of Columbia’s producers and directors also graduated from lesser positions as actors, writers, musicians, and assistant directors.

Cohn was known for his autocratic and intimidating management style. When he took over as Columbia’s president, he remained production chief as well, thus concentrating enormous power in his hands. He respected talent above any personal attribute, but he made sure his employees knew who was boss. Writer Ben Hecht referred to him as “White Fang.” An employee of Columbia called him “as absolute a monarch as Hollywood ever knew.” It was said “he had listening devices on all sound stages and could tune in any conversation on the set, then boom in over a loudspeaker if he heard anything that displeased him.” Throughout his tenure, his most popular moniker was “King Cohn.”

Moe Howard of the Three Stooges recalled that Cohn was “a real Jekyll-and-Hyde-type guy… socially, he could be very charming.” Cohn was known to scream and curse at actors and directors in his office all afternoon, and greet them cordially at a dinner party that evening. There is some suggestion that Cohn deliberately cultivated his reputation as a tyrant, either to motivate his employees or simply because it increased his control of the studio. Cohn is said to have kept a signed photograph of Benito Mussolini, whom he met in Italy in 1933, on his desk until the beginning of World War II. (Columbia produced the documentary Mussolini Speaks in 1933, narrated by Lowell Thomas). Cohn also had a number of ties to organized crime. He had a long-standing friendship with Chicago mobster John Roselli, and New Jersey mob boss Abner Zwillman was the source of the loan that allowed Cohn to buy out his partner Brandt. Cohn’s brash, loud, intimidating style has become Hollywood legend and was reportedly portrayed in various movies. The characters played by Broderick Crawford in All The King’s Men (1949) and Born Yesterday (1950), both Columbia pictures, are allegedly based on Cohn, as is Jack Woltz, a movie mogul who appears in The Godfather (1972).

In his own way, Harry Cohn was sentimental about certain professional matters. He remembered the valuable contributions of Jack Holt during Columbia’s struggling years, and kept him under contract until 1941. Cohn hired the Three Stooges in 1934 and, according to Stooge Larry Fine, “he thought we brought him luck.” Cohn kept the Stooges on his payroll until the end of 1957. Cohn was fond of what he termed “those lousy little ‘B’ pictures,” and kept making them, along with two-reel comedies and serials, after other studios had abandoned them.

According to biographer Michael Fleming, Cohn forced Curly Howard of the Stooges to keep working after suffering a series of minor strokes, which likely contributed to a further deterioration of Howard’s health and his eventual retirement and early death.

Personal life

Cohn expected, or at least asked for, sex from female stars in exchange for employment (although similar stories were connected to many producers in Hollywood at the time). Harry Cohn’s relationship with Rita Hayworth was fraught with aggravation. Hayworth’s biography If This Was Happiness, describes how she refused to sleep with Cohn and how this angered him. However, because Hayworth was such a valuable property Cohn kept her under contract because she made him money. During the years they worked together, each did their best to irritate the other despite their lengthy work relationship which produced good results. Cohn wanted to groom Mary Castle as Hayworth’s successor. Kim Novak, another Columbia star, reportedly endured similar treatment from Cohn. When Joan Crawford was subjected to Cohn’s advances after signing a three-picture contract with Columbia, she quickly stopped him by saying, “Keep it in your pants, Harry. I’m having lunch with Joan and the boys [Cohn’s wife and children] tomorrow.”

According to writer Joseph McBride, Jean Arthur quit the business because Cohn used to attack actresses.

In a BBC documentary, Sammy Davis Jr – The Kid in the Middle. it was disclosed that Cohn, in order to end Kim Novak’s relationship with a black man, had mobsters threaten Sammy Davis, Jr. with blinding or having his legs broken if he did not marry a black woman within 48 hours.

Cohn was married to Rose Barker from 1923 to 1941, and to actress Joan Perry (1911–1996) from July 1941 until his death in 1958. Perry later married actor Laurence Harvey. His niece was Leonore “Lee” Cohn Annenberg, the wife of billionaire publishing magnate Walter Annenberg of Philadelphia. Her father was Maxwell Cohn, brother of Harry and Jack Cohn.

Death

Along with Jack Warner, Cohn was the last Hollywood movie mogul of the studio system era, retaining power after the departures of such rivals as Darryl F. Zanuck and Louis B. Mayer. He suffered a sudden heart attack in February 1958 at the Arizona Biltmore Hotel in Phoenix, Arizona, shortly after having finished dinner, and died in an ambulance en route to St. Joseph’s Hospital.

Cohn’s well-attended funeral was the subject of the famous quote from Red Skelton, who remarked, “It proves what Harry always said: give the public what they want and they’ll come out for it.” He is interred in the Hollywood Forever Cemetery in Hollywood.

ハリー・コーン(1891年7月23日 – 1958年2月27日)はコロムビア映画の社長でディレクター。横暴で知られ、キング・コングにかけてキング・コーンと呼ばれた。

生涯

ニューヨークで労働者階級の東欧ユダヤ系の家庭に生まれ育つ。成功してからは、自らの出自を軽蔑していたふしが見られる。車掌として働いた後、楽譜の印刷会社で営業をしていたのがきっかけでユニバーサル映画に入社(ユニバーサルには既に兄ジャック・コーンがいた)。1924年、兄およびハリー・ブラントと共にコロムビアの前身であるCBC映画販売社の創立に加わる。兄ジャックがニューヨークで財務を担当したのに対して、ハリーはハリウッドにおける映画製作を担当した。兄弟の仲は時としてしっくり行かなかったが、ブラントはハリーと親しくなり、やがて会社の株の3分の1をハリーに売り渡すまでになった。

コーン兄弟の時代にコロムビアは急成長を遂げた。最初は主にB級映画を作っていたが、やがて名匠フランク・キャプラを迎え、ジーン・アーサー、ストゥージ三兄弟、リタ・ヘイワース、ウィリアム・ホールデンなどの名優を配して評価を上げた。ハリー・コーンが牛耳っている間はコロムビアは絶対赤字になるまいと、業界ではもっぱらの噂だった。

コーンは独裁的かつ威嚇的なやり方で有名だった。従業員からは「ハリウッド始まって以来の完全な暴君」と呼ばれ、スタジオを「私的警察国家のように」牛耳っていると評された。「スタジオのあらゆる音声機器には盗聴器が仕掛けてあり、誰かに悪口を言われようものなら、すぐさま拡声器で怒鳴りつける」との評判だった。従業員のやる気を最大限に引き出すため、あるいは単にスタジオでの支配力を増大させるために、暴君としての評判が壊れないよう細心の注意を重ねていたという説もある。彼は1933年にイタリアでムッソリーニに会い、サイン入りの肖像写真を貰って、第二次世界大戦が始まるまで机の上に飾っていた。マフィアのジョン・ロッセーリは旧友であり、ユダヤ系ギャングのアブナー・ツヴィルマンからは、ブラントから会社の株を買い占めるときに資金を借りた。出演契約をエサにして女優にセックスを要求したという話もあるが、この種の要求自体は、当時のハリウッドのプロデューサーとしては別に珍しくもなかった。

1949年にオスカーに輝いた政治映画『オール・ザ・キングスメン』(コロムビア社製作)では、主役の権力にとりつかれ横暴になった政治家を演じるブロデリック・クロフォードは監督のロバート・ロッセンから『この役を演じるにはハリー・コーンを思い浮かべてくれればいい』とアドバイスを言われたという。

既にアカデミー賞助演男優賞に複数回ノミネートされた実績のあるピーター・フォークに対して「同じギャラを払うなら、ちゃんと2つ目がある役者を使うよ」と発言し、オーディションで落とした。

1958年に亡くなった際には大規模な葬儀がおこなわれた。出席者の一人レッド・スケルトンは、「『人が見たがっているものを出せ、そうすりゃ人は見に来るんだ』と言うが、本当だね」と冗談を言った。(ゴシップコラムニストのヘッダ・ホッパーは「ハリーを嫌うには、行列に並ばなきゃね」と付け加えた。)ハリーの亡骸は、ハリウッド関係者専用のハリウッド・フォーエヴァー墓地に眠っている。

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