Film tycoon Carl Laemmle is best known as the founder of Universal Pictures. Born in the small town of Laupheim, Germany in 1861, Laemmle left home at the age of seventeen and settled in Chicago. For over twenty years he worked as a bookkeeper and office manager.
Slowly, he began purchasing small cinema houses ("nickelodeons") until eventually he created the Laemmle Film Service, a distribution company. By 1912, Laemmle's operation grew large enough that he decided to enter into partnership with three other studios to form the Universal Motion Picture Manufacturing Company.
Over the next twenty years, Laemmle and his family were deeply involved in the film business, producing a number of films and building Universal's sizable catalog until they were forced-out by their business partners in 1936.
However, Carl Laemmle is remembered for his philanthropy and generosity as much as his entrepreneurial successes. Throughout his life, he remained loyal to his hometown of Laupheim. And during the rise of the Nazi party, Laemmle used his wealth and political connections to sponsor the emigration of several Jews from Laupheim to the U.S.
Carl Laemmle died in 1939, in Beverly Hills of heart disease. His name lives on in Los Angeles' Laemmle Theater chain, which continues to employ some of his descendants.