Jesse Lasky Jr., son of the famed co-founder of the film industry in Hollywood and a well-known screenwriter in his own right, died Monday in London where he had been living for some time. He was 77 and had been battling cancer.
Lasky’s father, Jesse Sr., Cecil B. DeMille and Samuel Goldfish (later Goldwyn) made the fabled “The Squaw Man” in 1913--Hollywood’s first feature. Jesse Jr. was born into the opulence of the film industry and educated at exclusive schools. He also lived to see filmdom’s decline, as he wrote in his autobiographical “Whatever Happened to Hollywood” in 1975.
In the book he tells of being raised surrounded by Rolls-Royces and a private railroad car only to find himself looking for work after the Depression took its toll on the studios. All he was equipped to do, he wrote, was “to order dinner in several languages, drive cars too fast, play polo and tennis and open champagne bottles.”
He had written poetry as a teen-ager and began penning prose while reading other people’s scripts at the old Fox Western Studio for Sol Wurtzel, known as the “King of the Bs.”
Eventually his father’s former partner and sometimes nemesis, DeMille, assigned him to write scripts on his own, among them “The Ten Commandments” and “Samson and Delilah” for which he received two Box Office Awards. Among his 50 other films were “Secret Agent,” “Reap the Wild Wind,” “Salome” and several with his wife, Pat Silver, among them “Pirates of Tortuga” and “Seven Women From Hell.”
His first novel, “Curtain of Life,” was published in 1934. His others, some co-written with Silver, who survives him, were “Naked in a Cactus Garden,” “Dark Dimensions” and “The Offer,” a tale of Arabs and Jews building bridges through business.
Alone and with his wife he also did episodic television scripts in both the United States and England. Among those were “Naked City,” “Waterfront,” “Shannon,” “Marlowe, Private Eye,” and “The Saint.” They also collaborated on a play, “Vivien,” the story of Vivien Leigh, which was staged here to uncomplimentary notices last year.
Lasky and Silver earlier had written “Love Scene,” a biography of Miss Leigh and Sir Laurence Olivier, once her husband.
During World War II Lasky was a captain and combat photographer who was decorated for his battle pictures of several South Pacific campaigns.
Due for publication this year is “The Barn That Shook the World,” an account of the battles that went on between Lasky’s father and Goldfish, who were in New York while DeMille was spending their money in a barn rented for $40 a week filming the feature that established Hollywood as the permanent home of the motion picture industry.