Cast & Crew
James L. Freedman
Carl Laemmle is a feature documentary about the extraordinary life story of Carl Laemmle, the German-Jewish immigrant who founded Universal Studios -- and used his wits, power, wealth, fame, influence and dedication to heroically save over 300 Jewish families from Nazi Germany. It was Laemmle as much as anybody who invented the modern movie business. Back in 1908, he led the fight against Thomas Edison’s ruthless attempts to monopolize the film industry. He also led the immigration of filmmakers to Hollywood where he founded Universal Pictures and created Universal City, an entire city built for the sole purpose of making movies. Ruling his movie kingdom with affability and humor unique among the early studio moguls, Carl Laemmle -- known to everyone as Uncle Carl -- turned out a highly profitable roster of monster movies, westerns, and comedies. With an unerring eye for talent, he hired many who would go on to become Hollywood legends: Walt Disney, John Ford, Irving Thalberg, William Wyler, and others. Rare for his time, Carl also valued talented women -- as he freely hired female directors and made Lois Weber the highest-paid director on his lot. And yet Carl Laemmle harbored even loftier ambitions. Securing the rights to the anti-war novel All Quiet on the Western Front, Laemmle’s film version of Erich Maria Remarque’s book (which told the story of WWI from the German or enemy’s point of view) resulted in Universal’s first Academy Award for Best Picture in 1930. Yet when the film was released in Germany, Laemmle’s “message of peace” became an immediate threat to Adolph Hitler’s plans to militarize Germany. Laemmle had begun by tangling with Thomas Edison. He would end by tangling with Adolf Hitler. In 1936, due to the effects of the Depression and bad management decisions, Carl Laemmle was forced to sell Universal Pictures. Yet, losing his studio gave him the opportunity to devote himself to an even greater cause: saving lives. Shortly before the pogrom that became known as Kristallnacht, Carl Laemmle began doing what few studio heads would do: rescuing Jews from Nazi Germany. Battling not just the Nazis, but the U.S. State Department (then notoriously anti-Semitic and uninterested in the fate of European Jews), Carl wrote hundreds of affidavits and spent a great deal of his fortune finding jobs and homes for German refugees. By the time of his death in 1939, Carl Laemmle had saved over 300 Jewish families, creating a legacy in their many descendants that thrives to this day.
Certainly everything Universal is today would not have existed without Carl Laemmle's vision.- Ron Meyer
When the Nazis came to power, most of the world looked the other way, but not Carl Laemmle.- Rabbi Marvin Hier
If it hadn't been for Carl Laemmle, I'd have disappeared into Poland like a helluva lot of other German Jews and never came back.- Fred Bender