Jesse L. Lasky

Jesse L. Lasky was one of the pioneers of Hollywood's motion picture industry. Born in San Francisco, California, on September 13, 1880, the son of shoe-store proprietor Isaac Lasky, his early years were characterized by failure. In 1899 he followed his hero, Jack London, to Nome, Alaska, after the gold rush, but gold eluded him. In 1901 he sailed to Hawaii and became one of the few non-Hawaiians to play in the Royal Hawaiian Band.

The Lasky Company, established in Hollywood in a barn on Selma Avenue and Vine Street, prospered and grew into Famous Players-Lasky following a propitious merger-later to become mighty Paramount. Lasky called the years he headed Paramount (1916-1932}, with his fiscal-minded partner Adolph Zukor, "the best years of my life."

Lasky molded stars such as Rudolph Valentino, Maurice Chevalier and Bing Crosby, and supervised over one thousand films. Many of these careets bore the personal stamp of Lasky's love of adventure and sense of the romantic, and revealed his intense pride in his American heritage-none more so than The Covered Wagon, the great western epic; The Rough Riders, with the glitter and pomp of Col. Teddy Roosevelt and his motley band of fighters; Old Ironsides, a flag- waving vision of Tripoli and pirates and sea battles aboard the gallant old "Constitution"; The Vanishing American, an inspiring portrayal of the passing of the American Indian; Beau Geste, a spectacular rendering of the adventure, romance and mystery of life in the French Foreign Legion; and Wings, spine-tingling epic of the light-hearted flying fighters of World War I, which won the first Academy Award.

Maintaining his courage and enthusiasm for motion pictures in the face of a series of financial setbacks, he said, "You're never broke if you have an idea." He died in Beverly Hills, California, January 13, 1958 just a year prior to the death of Cecil B. DeMille.

Lasky-DeMille Barn (Los Angeles County, California)