11 January 2015
Last updated at 10:26
Goldwyn Jr was part of one of Hollywood’s major dynasties
Samuel Goldwyn Jr, a champion of independent film and son to one of the founding fathers of Hollywood cinema, has died aged 88.
Among his achievements, he was credited with giving Julia Roberts her big break in the 1988 comedy-drama, Mystic Pizza.
A confessed Anglophile, he financed and produced many British films including The Madness of King George, Truly Madly Deeply and Kenneth Branagh’s Henry V.
He died from congestive heart failure, his son told the Los Angeles Times.
“The independent film business really began with Sam in the late 70s,” said Tom Rothman, head of Sony’s TriStar pictures.
“People forget how many filmmakers broke through because of him,” he told Deadline Hollywood.
“There was Kenneth Branagh, Anthony Minghella, Ang Lee, David Lynch and John Sayles. Sam was a dose of class in a rough and tumble business.”
Coming-of-age drama Mystic Pizza gave Julia Roberts (right) her first major role
Goldwyn Jr was born on 7 September, 1926 and grew up as a self-confessed “Hollywood brat” in Los Angeles.
His father, a Polish immigrant, was one of the founders of Paramount Studios and the “G” in MGM. His mother was actress Frances Howard.
After attending the University of Virginia and serving in the Army, Goldwyn Jr worked as a theatrical producer in London.
While in the UK, he took a job working for J Arthur Rank, earning his first film credit as associate producer on the crime thriller Good-Time Girl – which was Diana Dors’ first film.
Goldwyn Jr attended his first Oscar ceremony aged 11 and worked in editing rooms during school holidays
After returning to Hollywood, he launched his production company Formosa Productions. His first film, the Robert Mitchum Western Man With the Gun, earned him $1m.
The company’s other credits included The Sharkfighters (1956), The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn (1960) and Cotton Comes to Harlem (1970).
He directed one film, The Young Lovers, starring Peter Fonda and Sharon Hugueny, in 1964.
After his company was acquired by MGM, he founded Samuel Goldwyn Films, which produced films such as Tortilla Soup, The Squid And The Whale and Master And Commander: The Far Side of the World – which received 10 Oscar nominations including best picture.
His final credit was on Ben Stiller’s The Secret Life of Walter Mitty, a remake of one of his father’s films.
The Secret Life of Walter Mitty was one of Goldwyn’s pet projects, and was originally slated to star Jim Carrey
His goal, he told the Los Angeles Times in 1986, was to appeal to sophisticated movie lovers.
“I was brought up in a tradition of patience,” Goldwyn Jr said.
“My father never made films that were instantaneous hits. Wuthering Heights was not a success the first time around. Neither was Best Years of Our Lives.
“They had to be nursed… Basically, he was always waiting.”
But, speaking to The Independent in 2004, he also recalled that his father had cost him millions of dollars by talking him out of buying the film rights to James Bond.
At the time, in the early 1950s, none of the major studios would touch Ian Fleming’s novels, considering them to be anti-Russian.
“My father said, look, if nobody wants to make the picture, don’t waste your money,” he told the newspaper.
The producer’s son Tony (right) plays President Grant in the hit US drama Scandal
In addition to his film work, Goldwyn Jr produced the Oscars ceremony twice in the late 1980s, winning an Emmy in 1988 for his effort.
He also owned the cinema chain Landmark Theatres during the 1990s and built a children’s day care centre and a behavioural health centre in Los Angeles through one of his family’s many charitable foundations.
Married three times, his survivors include sons John, a film and television producer whose credits include Dexter and Gracepoint; and Tony, an actor who plays the American president on the TV drama Scandal.
He also leaves two other sons, Francis and Peter; daughters Catherine Goldwyn and Elizabeth Goldwyn; and 10 grandchildren.