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Edward Small

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Edward Small

Film producer

Edna Small

Edward Small wwwcobblescomsimpparchiveimagesedwardsmalljpg

January 25, 1977, Los Angeles, California, United States

Bernard Small, Robert Small

Philip Schmalheiser, Rose Lewin

Jack the Giant Killer, Raw Deal, The Corsican Brothers, Kansas City Confidential, New York Confidential

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Edward Small (born Edward Schmalheiser, February 1, 1891, Brooklyn, New York – January 25, 1977, Los Angeles, California) was a film producer from the late 1920s through 1970, who was enormously prolific over a fifty-year career. He is best known for the movies The Count of Monte Cristo (1934), The Man in the Iron Mask (1939), The Corsican Brothers (1941), Brewster's Millions (1945), Raw Deal (1948), Black Magic (1949), Witness for the Prosecution (1958) and Solomon and Sheba (1959).



Small was the son of Jewish Austrian-born Philip Schmalheiser and Prussian-born Rose Lewin, and had three sisters and two brothers. He began his career as a talent agent in New York City. In 1917, he moved his agency to Los Angeles. Among his acting clients was a young Hedda Hopper. His first production appears to have been the wartime propaganda film, Who's Your Neighbor? (1917).

In the 1920s the Edward Small Company produced stage sketches. He helped William Goetz get his start in the industry by recommending him for a job at Corinne Griffith.

Asher Small Rogers

Small began producing films in the 1920s, when it became his full-time occupation. He formed the firm Asher, Small and Rogers, where he was a partner with Charles Rogers and E.M Asher. Their early films included The Sporting Lover (1926), The Cohens and Kellys (1926) (so popular it led to several sequels), The Gorilla (1927), McFadden's Flats (1927), Ladies' Night in a Turkish Bath (1928), The Cohens and the Kellys in Paris (1928), My Man (1928) (with Fanny Brice), and Companionate Marriage (1929).

Many of these early films were comedies, based on a stage play. In 1926 he said, "Making a comedy requires far more care than is necessary for any other form of screen production because audiences are more exacting than in any other form of entertainment."

"Picture making is a youngster's game," he added the same year. "When a man gets older he doesn't want to take a chance to try something new. And this business moves so fast that if you don't change your methods with every picture you're out of luck. In a few years I won't have a thing to do with the creative. Afraid, I'll hire young men with plenty of nerve to handle that for me."

In early 1928 Asher Small Rogers dissolved. However they then re-teamed and started producing films; towards the end of the year they invested in a studio complex in Sherman Oaks.

Small then worked for a time at Columbia Pictures, making Song of Love (1929). For his own company he made Clancy in Wall Street (1930). He sent an expedition to the Arctic and they made the documentary ..Igloo (1932).

Reliance Pictures

In 1932, Small formed Reliance Pictures together with partner Harry M. Goetz. The new company was to be made with finance from Art Cinema, a subsidiary company of United Artists, in a deal brokered by Joseph Schenck. On the basis of this verbal commitment, Small and Goetz started pre production on three films. However, when Schenck presented the deal to Art Cinema's board, it was turned down. An embarrassed Schenck decided personally put up half the cost of the three films, with the other half met by Small and Goetz. The films were I Cover the Waterfront (1933), Palooka (1934) (with Jimmy Durante), and The Count of Monte Cristo (1934); the latter, starring Robert Donat and the first screen credit for Philip Dunne, was a big hit especially.

William Phipps then stepped in to provide financing in Schenck's place and Reliance made five more movies for United Artists over two years: Transatlantic Merry-Go-Round (1934), Let 'Em Have It (1935), Red Salute (1935), The Melody Lingers On (1935) and Last of the Mohicans (1936); the latter, with Randolph Scott was a sizeable success.

In 1935 Small announced plans to make a series of 4,000 feet films (i.e. short features) based on short stories and novelettes as an alternative to the double bill but this did not seem to come to fruition.


After making The Last of the Mohicans, Small left United Artists and established himself as an associate producer at RKO in January 1936; the studio bought out Reliance. Small said he was motivated by the move to make larger budgeted movies, including Robber Barons (which became The Toast of New York), Son of Monte Cristo, Gunga Din and a series of Jack Oakie comedies. Small:

I intend to produce a different type of historical productions. There will be less of the awesomeness and less of the blind respect that has often marked the modern's approach to a historical character. Diamond Jim and The Story of Louis Pasteur are only the beginning. Napoleon, Marie Antoinette, and Mary of Scotland, contemplated, will be great steps in the direction of honesty. We have on our schedules the filming of the stories of Beau Brummell and Jim Fisk and we are contemplating a minimum of punch-pulling. Newsreels are telling the truth about people, showing them as they are. Feature pictures are going to do the same thing; they will make men and women out of celebrities.

Small's time at RKO resulted in six pictures: The Bride Walks Out (1936), We Who Are About to Die (1937), Sea Devils (1937), New Faces of 1937 (1937), Super-Sleuth (1937) (with Jack Oakie) and The Toast of New York (1937). Some of these performed well but others were less successful, particularly the expensive The Toast of New York, which was RKO's biggest money losing picture of 1937. However he did sell the studio his rights to Gunga Din which he had purchased from the Rudyard Kipling estate in 1936 and became a big hit later on. (He made Son of Cristo later at United Artists and never produced a Beau Brummel film.) Small departed from RKO in 1938.

Edward Small Productions

In January 1938 Small returned to United Artists with his own unit, Edward Small Productions, under a three-year deal to make six films a year. The following year he announced plans to make seven films worth $5 million over the next 12 months. Plans for some of these were delayed due to war but he made most of them, starting with The Duke of West Point (1938), which starred Louis Hayward who Small put under a long term contract. This was followed by King of the Turf (1939); The Man in the Iron Mask (1939) starring Hayward, one of Small's most popular films; My Son, My Son!, with Hayward; The Son of Monte Cristo (1940) with Hayward; South of Pago Pago (1940), with Jon Hall; and Kit Carson (1940), with Hall.

In 1940 Small stopped making movies for six months as he renegotiated his deal with United Artists. He spoke out against rising costs and the impact of the double bill on filmmakers.

He recommenced production in early 1941 with another popular swashbuckler, an adaptation of The Corsican Brothers. He made five more movies for United Artists - International Lady (1941), A Gentleman After Dark (1942), Twin Beds (1942), Friendly Enemies (1942), ending with Miss Annie Rooney (1942) starring Shirley Temple.

In March 1942 he threatened to strike again due to unhappiness with his deal.

Small and United Artists managed to come to terms and he produced a fresh series, including a series of farces such as Up in Mabel's Room (1944), Abroad with Two Yanks (1944), Brewster's Millions (1945), and Getting Gertie's Garter (1945).

In June 1945 he announced a plan to make ten films worth $10 million but he could not come to terms with United Artists and ended up leaving the studio that year.

In 1942 Small invested in the play Sweet Charity. In 1944 Binnie Barnes sued Edward Small Productions claiming they had breached a promise to build her up into a star.

Columbia and Eagle Lion

Edward Small made his next film for Universal International, Temptation (1946). He also produced The Return of Monte Cristo for Columbia, with Hayward; then in mid-1946 signed another deal with United Artists. For them he made Black Magic (1949) with Orson Welles, shot in Rome.

In the late 1940s Small moved over to Eagle Lion where he made the popular film noirs T-Men (1947) and Raw Deal (1948) For a time there was talk Small would take over the young studio. However Small fell out with Eagle Lion over billing on T Men and withdrew from his planned participation in the film Twelve Against the Underworld. He later argued that the company could not guarantee funding for a three-year schedule.

In 1948 Small said he had personally made $2 million in profit from ten films over the past 18 months. He was making 16 films worth $8.5 million. However he was not optimistic about the future of independent film production, saying that filmmakers needed to look internationally.

He made a series of films for Columbia: The Black Arrow (1948), with Hayward; The Fuller Brush Man (1948) with Red Skelton; Walk a Crooked Mile (1948).

Columbia Pictures

In 1949 Small signed a two-year contract with Columbia Pictures, which specifically excluded Small's long-gestating film about Rudolph Valentino, Valentino. He ended up making eleven films for the studio over seven years where Columbia allowed him profit sharing after Columbia made up their investment in the film.

Valentino (1951), which Small had developed since 1938, was released through Columbia.

His other Columbia films included Lorna Doone (1951), a swashbuckler; some Westerns with George Montgomery, The Texas Rangers (1951), Indian Uprising (1951) and Cripple Creek (1952); Scandal Sheet (1952) from a novel by Sam Fuller; and The Brigand (1952), starring Valentinos Anthony Dexter.

Bernard Small and Reliance

In 1947, Reliance Pictures, headed by Small's son Bernard and Ben Pivar, signed an agreement with 20th Century Fox to release six films starting with Strange Penalty, based on the story Lady from Shanghai, starring Alan Curtis and directed by Jean Yarbrough. They later made The Creeper (1948), two Bulldog Drummonds and The Indian Scout. They also developed a series of action films based on Leatherstocking Tales plus the films The Challenge, 13 Lead Soldiers, Santa Fe Uprising, Killers of the Sea, and The Cat Man.

Return to United Artists

In 1950 Small returned to United Artists to make two Westerns with actor George Montgomery, Davy Crockett, Indian Scout (1950) and The Iroquois Trail (1950). The films were well received and in 1951 Small helped fund Arthur Krim and Bob Benjamin acquire 50% of UA. He then signed a contract to make thirteen more movies for that company, ten within the first year, starting with Kansas City Confidential. This deal ultimately resulted in over seventy films over the next ten years. During this time he would occasionally make movies for other studios as well but United Artists were his main distributor. David Picker, head of the production for UA, later wrote that "I counted 76 films that Eddie made for the company simply because he was there to start it all. Now that's loyalty."

Most of Small's UA movies were budgeted between $100,000 and $300,000, and were not expected to make large profits on theatrical release but stood to earn considerable money being sold to television. They were usually shot within seven to nine days and went for around seventy minutes, starring lesser ranked names who were paid around $25,000. The majority were Westerns and crime melodramas (in contrast with his Columbia Films, which were mostly swashbucklers); towards the end of the 1950s he also increasingly made films aimed at the teenage market. The rise in television saw the market for these films die out in the early 1960s.

His UA films included Kansas City Confidential (1952), The Bandits of Corsica (1952), Captain John Smith and Pocahontas (1953), Dragon's Gold (1953), and Gun Belt (1953).

In order to supply his product Small operated a number of companies during this period: Fame Productions, Theme Pictures, Motion Picture Investors, Associated Players & Producers, Superior Pictures Inc., Eclipse Productions, Imperial Pictures, Global Productions, and World Films.

He would assign his films to other producers such as Aubrey Wisberg; in 1953 he had a six-picture deal with the team of Clarence Greene and Russell Rouse which later became a 12-picture deal. His most prolific producer was Robert E. Kent for such companies as Peerless and Vogue.

Small occasionally made large budgeted films, usually in partnership with other producers, such as Arthur Hornblow Jnr. (Witness for the Prosecution), Tyrone Power (Solomon and Sheba) and Victor Saville (The Greengage Summer).


In 1950 Small sold a package of 26 films he produced to show on American television through his Peerless Television Productions.

In 1953 he bought 50% of Arrow Productions.

Small later served as chairman of the board of the TV distribution company Television Programs of America whose shows include Private Secretary, Fury, 'Captain Gallant of the Foreign Legion, Hawkeye and the Last of the Mohicans, Halls of Ivy and 'Ramar of the Jungle. In 1957 he sold his interest in the company for $1.5 million.

British Productions

In the late 1950s and early 1960s Small made a number of films in the UK. He made several low-budget comedies and horror films (including some with Vincent Price and director Sidney J. Furie) as well as more prestigious productions such as The Greengage Summer (1961).

Later career

In the mid to late 1960s Small cut back on his output and concentrated on making comedies with Bob Hope and Elke Sommer.

In 1970 Small announced he had two television series and four films ready for production but only one was made, The Christine Jorgensen Story (1970), which was Small's final movie.

He has a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame for his television work located at 1501 Vine Street. His mausoleum is at Hollywood Forever Cemetery in Los Angeles.

Select Filmography

  • ASR = Asher Small Rogers
  • C = Columbia
  • CP = Caralan Productions
  • ES = Edward Small Productions
  • FN = First National
  • HF = Harvard Film Corporation
  • R = Reliance
  • UA = United Artists
  • Z = Zenith Pictures
  • Films developed by Small made by others

  • Gunga Din (1939)
  • The Shanghai Gesture (1941)
  • Two Years Before the Mast (1946)
  • References

    Edward Small Wikipedia

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