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Jacob Cohn

Also Known As: "Al Raboch"
Birthplace: New York, New York, United States
Death: December 08, 1956 (67)
New York, New York, United States
Immediate Family:

Son of Joseph Cohn and Bella Cohn
Husband of Jeanette Cohn
Father of Ralph Cohn; Jack Curtis and Bob Cohn
Brother of Maxwell Cohn; Harry Cohn; Annie Cohn and Nat Cohn

Occupation: Film Producer
Managed by: Lazer Kaufman
Last Updated:
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Immediate Family

About Jack Cohn

Jack Cohn (27 October 1889 - 8 December 1956) was Vice President of Columbia Pictures and one of the pioneers of the American film industry

Cohn was born in New York on October 27, 1889, to Harry Cohn's brother . From 1902 to 1908 he worked in advertising, then joined Carl Laemmle of the Independent Moving Pictures Company , doing laboratory work. He wrote and produced the first Universal Weekly film news. He also introduced the production of animated and instrumental cartoons, and for six years he headed a production studio. In 1919 he created the magazine "Fan Magazine". He formed with Harry Cohn and Joe Brandt CBC Pictures which later (1924) became Columbia Pictures . In 1924 he was appointed President of the Foundation of Cinematic Pioneers. [ 1 ]

Motion Picture Executive. Co-founder of Columbia Pictures. Born Jacob Cohn in New York City, the oldest son of an immigrant tailor, he abandoned a budding career in advertising to join Carl Laemmle's Film Service exchange in 1908. He then bluffed his way through various jobs at Laemmle's new IMP studio and later at Universal, where he served as editor of the important early feature "Traffic in Souls" (1913) and became head of the short subjects department. In 1918 he brought his younger brother, Harry Cohn, into the movie business by persuading Laemmle to hire him as his personal secretary. The Cohns and a fellow Universal employee, attorney Joe Brandt, struck out on their own in 1920 and formed the CBC Film Sales Company with Brandt as president, Jack as vice-president and treasurer, and Harry the head of production. While Jack and Brandt stayed in New York to handle the corporate end, Harry was sent west to start making films. After some very lean years on the fringes of Hollywood's Poverty Row, CBC was renamed Columbia Pictures in 1924 and began its gradual rise into a major Hollywood producer. Since Columbia owned no theatres, Jack's ability to secure good bookings was vital to its success, though power-hungry Harry tended to publicly downplay his efforts. Relations between the brothers, never smooth, escalated into open warfare in 1932 when Jack led a shareholders' revolt in an attempt to remove Harry as production chief, asserting, among other things, that Harry's gambling addiction threatened the company's stability. The situation was resolved when Brandt, weary of the sibling rivalry, unexpectedly sold his interests to Harry, making him the new president of Columbia. Neither Cohn accepted this outcome with grace and they remained bitter enemies, often communicating only through intermediaries, though Jack retained his position as the studio's Number Two man until his death. He was the father of producer Ralph Cohn, who founded Columbia's Screen Gems television division.

Arguably there wouldn't have been a Columbia Pictures without him. Jacob (Jack) Cohn was born into an impoverished immigrant family that eventually numbered four children. Hollywood history may credit his younger brother Harry Cohn for a begrudging amount of greatness but he not only followed in Jack's footsteps into the film business, he was a vital part of everything Harry ever built. Jack quit a job at a New York advertising agency in 1908 and jumped on board with the fledgling "Film Service Company", owned by Carl Laemmle. This company morphed into the "Independent Motion Picture" (or IMP) Corporation and began producing its own films (it would, in turn, morph into Universal after moving to Hollywood during the industry's film patent war). The 19-year old quickly rose from a lowly position in the film lab and literally b.s.'d his way up the company's hierarchy. By 1913, he had talked Laemmle into producing newsreels, forming "Universal Weekly". Jack was soon placed in charge of Laemmle's short subject department, which then comprised all of its output. He was placed in charge of cutting Universal's first feature, a $57,000 gamble called Traffic in Souls (1913); its then whopping return of $450,000 was not lost on Jack (or Laemmle for that matter, he committed himself to feature films after this early success and moved west). It was about this time that Jack convinced Uncle Carl to hire an old friend from his days in the advertising business, Joe Brandt, a lawyer who would prove instrumental in the brothers' affairs over the next dozen or so years. With Universal's formation in Hollywood, Jack remained in New York and recommended his brother Harry for a job within the studio. Since Laemmle was an ardent believer in paternalism (practically all his relatives were employed there), it was no great push to get him to hire Harry, who became Laemmle's personal secretary. By 1920, Jack had grown anxious to branch out on his own in the movie business and enlisted Harry and Brandt to form their own production company as CBC (Cohn-Brandt-Cohn) Film Sales. Their initial endeavor, a series of three shorts shot in New York based on H.A. McGill's "Hall Room Boys" cartoons proved a dismal failure and nearly doomed the embryonic firm. Harry needed a 3,000 mile buffer zone between his brother and Brandt and headed West to base CBC's product where most of the talent was. For the next few months, he managed to bring CBC's shorts in cheaply, using excess film stock purchased from other studios. He rented or borrowed everything possible and, incredibly, managed to send marketable product East. Harry rented an old studio at the corner of Sunset and Gower that stood as the portal to Poverty Row, a notorious area that had a reputation of being a place where careers went to die. Like Laemmle, Harry rather belatedly realized that the big money was in feature film production and convinced Jack and Joe to pony up $20,000 for a 6-reel production of More to Be Pitied Than Scorned (1922). The modest production realized a profit of $130,000 which was remarkable considering CBC lacked a theatrical network and had to split profits with innumerable (and often greedy) film exchanges for distribution. The success of this first feature resulted in a deal for 5 additional features - CBC enthusiastically jumped in with both feet, producing 10 features by the end of 1923... each one proving profitable. Despite this success, CBC was met with derision in Hollywood, and dubbed "Corned Beef and Cabbage" Productions, which enraged Harry. Seeking to reposition the firm as a major player in town, Harry successfully lobbied for a name change to "Columbia Pictures Corporation" and, with the change, went public and, by 1925, physical ownership of the Gower studio. Throughout, the brothers fought like wet cats in a burlap bag. Harry, although possessing remarkable instincts for talent, was universally disliked by everyone who ever worked for him. He was cheap, crude, profane, uneducated and enthusiastically belittled anyone at the slightest provocation. Jack remained in the East and acted as the company's banker, remaining mostly disconnected with the creative process. Joe Brandt acted as an intermediary between the two bothers, who continued to fight incessantly (he would be bought out by the end of the decade and leave the company). Columbia Pictures rose out of the ash pile of Poverty Row by making a handful of wise business decisions hashed out by the partners in the 1920s: the company rejected theater ownership (which proved even more intelligent after the Supreme Court ruled against other studio's chain ownership in the 1940s), eschewed longterm talent contracts (with the notable exception of wunderkind director Frank Capra and The Three Stooges, which proved too good a deal to pass up) and virtually fed off its early Poverty Row reputation. Columbia's ability to attract talent was a direct result of being able to contract with loaned-out actors whose studios wanted to punish for perceived unreasonable pay and script disputes. These stars would invariably be placed into Capra's first-class productions; notably, It Happened One Night (1934) which single-handedly propelled the company into the ranks of the majors - and earned its first Oscars. Aside from Capra's films and a precious few other top notch directors like Leo McCarey, the vast majority of Columbia's pre-war output was decidedly B-level, featuring mostly supporting level quality stars; it didn't enjoy its first blockbuster hit until The Jolson Story (1946), an $8 million earner. But Columbia Pictures incredibly never had a year in the red during his brother's reign... a record unequaled by any other Hollywood studio, even MGM, which suffered greatly after WW2. Unlike the other majors, Columbia embraced television. Jack's son, Ralph Cohn, with the blessing of the corporation, formed the Screen Gems subsidiary in the early 1950s - another fortuitous move that paid big dividends in the 1960s. The brothers love-hate relationship continued until Jack's death in 1956 at age 67. Harry died of a heart attack in 1958 at age 66.

Treasurer of Columbia Pictures from 1925-27.

In 1932 Jack Cohn led a shareholder's revolt to remove his brother Harry Cohn as production chief of Columbia Pictures, alleging that Harry's gambling addiction and other unpleasant habits threatened the stability of the company. Joe Brandt, president and co-founder of the studio, provided an unexpected resolution. Tired of playing mediator between the squabbling siblings, he abruptly sold all his interests to Harry, making him the undisputed top dog at Columbia. Neither Jack nor Harry accepted this outcome gracefully. From then on they only communicated with each other through intermediaries, and their feuding over business matters continued until Jack's death in 1956.

Jack died in 1956, at the age of 67.

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Jack Cohn's Timeline

October 27, 1889
New York, New York, United States
May 1, 1914
NY, United States
September 6, 1920
Avon By The Sea, Monmouth County, NJ, United States
December 8, 1956
Age 67
New York, New York, United States