Nikolas Shenk

Nikolas Shenk

American film mogul.
Date of Birth: 14.11.1881
Country: USA

Biography of Nicholas Schenck

Nicholas Michael Schenck (November 14, 1881 – March 4, 1969) was an American film mogul. He was born in Rybinsk, Yaroslavl Governorate, Russia (birth name Nikolai Mikhailovich Sheinker), one of seven children in a Jewish family. In 1893, Nicholas and his family, including his younger brother Joseph, emigrated to New York, settling in the Lower East Side. They later moved to Harlem, where Jewish and Italian immigrants predominantly lived at the time. Initially, the Schenck brothers sold newspapers and worked at a pharmacy. After two years, they saved enough money to become owners of the pharmacy and start other business ventures.

One summer day, the Schenck brothers traveled to Fort George, located in Upper Manhattan, and noticed thousands of people waiting in a park for the return of an amusement train. The brothers acquired a beer concession and began presenting vaudeville entertainment. It was during this time that they met Marcus Loew, who managed movie theaters. Impressed by the Schenck brothers' success, Loew added to their capital, allowing them to open a large amusement park in Bergen County, New Jersey, in 1908. The park, named "Palisades," operated until 1971, but the Schencks sold their shares in 1934.

Subsequently, the Schenck brothers worked with Loew in the cinema industry. Between 1907 and 1919, they invested in real estate for the production of nickelodeons, vaudeville theaters, and eventually films. In 1919, Loew acquired a film studio. Nicholas spent more time at "Loew's, Inc.," while Joseph moved to Hollywood, where he eventually became the president of the film studio "United Artists." In April 1924, Marcus Loew organized the merger of three film companies – "Metro Pictures," "Goldwyn Pictures," and "Louis B. Mayer Productions" – and the new corporation was named "Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer" (MGM). In 1927, Marcus Loew suddenly passed away, leaving control of MGM to Nicholas Schenck. In 1929, William Fox, the head of the rival studio "Fox Film Corporation," arranged to purchase a controlling stake from Schenck. Louis B. Mayer and Irving Thalberg were outraged as they were co-founders of MGM, but were not informed about the deal. Mayer contacted the Department of Justice and, through his political connections, managed to charge Fox with violating antitrust laws. However, Fox's severe injuries from a car accident in the summer of 1929, as well as the stock market crash that fall, doomed the merger, even if the ministry had approved it.

By 1932, Schenck was leading an entertainment empire consisting of a thriving network of movie theaters and the MGM film company. The corporation, which Schenck continued to manage attentively from New York, employed 12,000 people at the time. Schenck's demand for a tight production schedule created tension with Mayer and Thalberg, with Thalberg serving as the head of production until his early death in 1936. Thanks to Schenck's strict regulation, MGM operated successfully and became the only company that continued to pay dividends during the Great Depression. Under Schenck's leadership, the company produced a large number of films and, through the studio system, brought together numerous talents, including Lon Chaney, Joan Crawford, Jean Harlow, Clark Gable, Spencer Tracy, Katharine Hepburn, Judy Garland, the team of Janet McDonald and Eddie Nelson, and countless others. Schenck's business acumen made him a wealthy man. In 1927, he and his brother Joseph had about $20 million (approximately $500 million today) with a joint annual income of at least one million. According to some estimates, Nicholas Schenck was the eighth wealthiest person in the United States in the 1930s.

Schenck held power and respect and was at his peak after World War II, but times were changing as the era of television loomed on the horizon. However, like many in the film industry, Schenck categorically refused to participate in the new medium. In 1951, Louis B. Mayer quarreled with Schenck over Dore Schary and was forced to leave MGM. By the middle of the decade, MGM's stock price had declined, and shareholders grew increasingly concerned. On December 14, 1955, Arthur Loew, son of Marcus Loew, became president of the company, but Nicholas Schenck remained chairman of the Board of Directors. The following year, when Arthur Loew retired due to health reasons, Joseph Vogel became president, and Schenck was appointed honorary chairman. However, he retired in the same year. Nicholas Schenck spent his last years at his estates in Sands Point, Long Island, and Miami Beach. The first estate, which was acquired in 1942, covered 81,000 square meters and featured 30 luxurious rooms in the main building, a private movie theater, and a 200-foot dock.

Schenck's first marriage ended in divorce, and he outlived his second wife. He had three daughters.