Hollywood mogul Samuel Goldwyn’s time in Gloversville: Focus on History

Downtown Gloversville on a chilly morning on February 14, 2022.
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By Bob Cudmore

Samuel Goldwyn, one of the hard driving moguls who led the Hollywood movie industry in the 20th century, lived in Gloversville as a young man.

Born Schmuel Gelbfish (aka Gelbfisz) in Warsaw, Poland’s Jewish ghetto around 1879, Gelbfish came to the United States possibly by way of Canada in 1898.

Samuel Goldfish, as he was known by then, had learned the glove trade in Europe and heard Gloversville was a center of that business and home to many Jewish glove-cutters.

Goldfish’s first Gloversville job was as a $3 a week sweeper at Louis Meyers and Son glove factory at West Pine and South Main streets, according to historian Peter Betz. Goldfish earned more money when he became a glove cutter at Joseph Moses Bacmo Gloves.

When Goldfish’s courting of a leather worker’s daughter was rebuffed because of his crude manners and speech, he enrolled in the Gloversville Business College to improve himself.

He became a foreman for Elite Glove Company and then a salesman for Elite. Before he was 30 he was earning $15,000 a year. He sent money to his family in Europe and his two younger brothers came to America and also sold gloves.

Goldfish became sales manager for Elite and transferred his office to New York City where he was exposed to the first productions of the movie industry. He changed his name to Samuel Goldwyn and started Goldwyn Productions in 1917.

Goldwyn did not produce films for Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer, which bears his name, but did produce movies for Samuel Goldwyn Productions. Among them were “Hans Christian Andersen,” “Guys and Dolls,” “Porgy and Bess” and “The Best Years of Our Lives.”

On Oct. 30, 1945 Goldwyn came back to Gloversville and spoke at a dinner at the Kingsborough Hotel.

He told the Leader-Herald, “I have a great affection for this town. This is the place that gave me my first start in life.” He had not been there, he said, since 1906

Vern Steele, program chairman for the men’s club of Kingsborough Presbyterian Church, invited Goldwyn. Steele sent the invitation to the movie mogul when Goldwyn was visiting Saratoga Springs.

Goldwyn originally came to Gloversville as a teenager, “I not only got my first job here, but stayed long enough to get my citizenship papers which is perhaps the greatest gift to any man to become a citizen of this great country.”

At the hotel, he met with Albert Aaron who provided Goldwyn his first job in Gloversville.

Also on hand was hotel resident Jacob Liebglid, who taught Goldwyn the glove trade in Hamburg, Germany, after he had run away from his Warsaw home. Liebglid raised enough money from the Jewish community in Hamburg to get Goldwyn a ticket to England, first stop on his passage to America.

Goldwyn said, “When I was a boy my one outstanding ambition was to get enough money to have dinner in the Hotel Kingsborough. And after that I wanted to stroll through the lobby, back and forth in front of the window and watch the pretty girls as they walked up and down the street. I realized my ambition but couldn’t resist the impulse to do it again tonight when I was in the lobby.”

Goldwyn died in 1974. The Kingsborough Hotel closed years ago.

Biographer A. Scott Berg says his book ‘’Goldwyn’’ is ‘’the story of survival.’’

He describes Goldwyn’s life as a 94-year struggle to be somebody. ‘’I love the fact that Sam Goldwyn lived 40 years before he came to the movie business, and after all the others were dead and buried, there he still was.’’

By Leader-Herald

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