Harry Cohn and the founding of Columbia Pictures

Harry Cohn was an American movie producer who co-founded Columbia Pictures Corporation and became its president. He was born in New York, United States on July 23, 1891.

Harry Cohn
Harry Cohn (Credit imdb.com)

Harry Cohn was the son of a Jewish tailor from Germany. His mother was a Russian. Having seen the face poverty since birth, he grew up to value every centavo he earned. He first worked in odd jobs – street conductor, pool hustling and acting in vaudeville. Later, he promoted songs which became his ticket to Hollywood. He joined Universal Studios where his brother was working.

In 1918, Harry partnered with his brother and Joe Brandt to form CBC Film Sales Corporation. He took charge of production while his brother concerned himself with finance. Soon he bought the shares of Joe Brandt and appointed himself president. Although he run the company like a real tyrant, Harry had a particular gift for discovering talent and at the same time he knew how to charm his visitors. His penny-pinching style was legendary. Thus, his company was able to earn profit even in small budget films.

Due to its focus on low budget films, the company earned the moniker “Corned Beef and Cabbage”. In 1924, it adopted the name Columbia Pictures and two years later, it was listed on the New York Stock Exchange. In the succeeding years, Columbia was able to produce some blockbuster movies under the directorship of Frank Capra. Also, it attracted many bankable stars such as Jean Arthur, Cary Grant, and Rita Hayworth. In 1934, the company released “It Happened One Night”. This movie swept the Oscars, cementing Columbia’s position as a major Hollywood studio.

Harry died of heart attack in 1958. He married twice but had 4 children.



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