Thalberg, MGM’s ‘Boy Wonder,’ dies

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Sept. 14, 1936: Irving Thalberg, the head of production at MGM, died in his Santa Monica home at the age of 37. Thalberg, who had long suffered from health problems, died of pneumonia, The Times reported.

His wife, actress Norma Shearer, “was prostrated with grief,” the newspaper said.

The uncredited producer of more than 90 films, including “A Day at the Races,” “A Night at the Opera,” “Grand Hotel,” and “The Good Earth,” Thalberg was known as the “Boy Wonder” for his meteoric rise in the industry. He died, The Times said, “at the absolute zenith of his career.”

“Films were Thalberg’s life,” read one of numerous tributes in The Times the day after his death. “He lived by them and for them. He crusaded for their welfare. He never would give an inch in his regard for the importance and world significance of the industry of which he was a part.”


Producer David O. Selznick said that “Irving Thalberg was beyond any question the greatest individual force for fine pictures that we have ever known.”

Cecil B. DeMille called his death “the greatest conceivable loss to the motion-picture industry.”