3 Things You Didn’t Know About Louis B. Mayer

Louis B Mayer cartoon

Three things you didn’t know about Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer studio boss, Louis B. Mayer:

1. Your money or your life

On June 26, 1942 Louis B. Mayer received a rambling three page letter purportedly from six men who wanted him dead but would accept $250,000 to let him live. The letter began: “MR MAYER, IS YOUR LIFE WORTH $250,000 TO YOU BECAUSE IF IT ISN’T – YOU WILL BE A VERY DEAD MAN INSIDE OF TWO SHORT WEEKS!” A news clipping from the Los Angeles Times was attached about an unsolved murder. At the top had been scrawled: “THIS MAN THOUGHT WE WERE KIDDING.” A post card was sent a week later demanding the money should be left addressed to “Robert Sexton” at the Ambassador Hotel. On July 13th, two men – Meyer Phillip Grace (39, a former boxer) and Channing Drexel Lipton (25, noted as a gas attendant but the son of former MGM writer Lew Lipton) – attempted to pick up the parcel and were immediately arrested by the FBI. The matter went to trial but despite it looking like an open and shut case, Grace and Lipton were acquitted. Strangely enough, there is an Australian connection: Channing Drexel Lipton married in Sydney in 1955.

2. Dr. Louis B. Mayer

In May 1939, L.B. was awarded an honorary Doctor of Laws degree from the University of New Brunswick for “cultural advancement of moving pictures.” He later attended a luncheon given by the New Brunswick Premier, A. A. Dysart and his cabinet, where he was also bestowed the “freedom of the city of Saint John” by the mayor. In his speech L.B. told the audience, “Refuse to be discouraged. Sweat and sweat some more, work and work some more. If you have anything at all you’re bound to get there. I have a great investment in Saint John. My mother lies buried in Saint John. I’m coming home to my mother. I am sentimental enough to feel she knows I am being honored by my home folks. I believe she knows and is smiling. My heart is overflowing.”

3. Female doctor

Jessie Marmorston became L.B.’s doctor after he witnessed her take charge when one of the men at a Sunday night poker game frequented by MGM execs died of a massive coronary. Marmoston was issuing orders, telling everyone what to do or get out of the way. L.B. was stunned and asked who this woman was. Someone said she was a doctor and then and there he decided she would be his doctor too. L.B. saw Marmorston almost daily – he would send his car to pick her up from her home – and not only relied on her as his personal physician but also vented about his family and the business. Marmorston became his sounding board and her regard for him in return was enormous. Despite their very close friendship, Marmorston always called him “Mr. Mayer” and he always referred to her as “Doctor.”

RIP ~ Louis B Mayer ~ July 12, 1884 – October 29, 1957

With thanks to Lion of Hollywood: The Life and Legend of Louis B. Mayer by Scott Eyman.

8 comments on “3 Things You Didn’t Know About Louis B. Mayer

  1. “I am sentimental enough to …believe she knows and is smiling.”

    I believe L B Mayer knows his grand niece is honoring him, and is smiling, too!

  2. Were Grace and Lipton acquitted on the grounds of procedural reasons?

    • Good question! I remember being so shocked they were acquitted that I didn’t fully take in why. I’ll go back to the news reports and reply with the answer shortly.

    • Hi Naomi,

      I did some more research and found that news reports from the time simply don’t explain the acquittal. The jury acquitted both men on the charge of extortion but disagreed over the charge of bodily harm (to Louis B. Mayer) and it appears it was not taken up by prosecuters at a later date. It seems that sentiment turned against LB because he was effectively put on trial as a result of Lipton’s testimony that he acted out of frustration related to his father’s “blacklisting” and alleged affair. The victim became the acccused. Really odd.

      • That is odd and sounds like the kind of thing that would feed the imagination of a writer if one was inclined towards historical fiction.

  3. Alicia, I am enjoying your blog very much. I have the DVD “When the Lion Roared” and it is a favorite of mine as is anything to do with MGM.

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