Jack Cohn

Jacob Cohn (October 27, 1889 – December 8, 1956) was a co-founder of Columbia Pictures Corporation.[1]

Jack Cohn
Jack Cohn - Dec 1920 EH.jpg
Jacob Cohn

(1889-10-27)October 27, 1889
New York, U.S.
DiedDecember 8, 1956(1956-12-08) (aged 67)
OccupationFilm producer and executive vice president of Columbia Pictures Corporation
Years active1908–1956
Spouse(s)Jeanette Lesser
RelativesHarry Cohn (brother)
Leonore Annenberg (niece)

Early lifeEdit

Cohn was born in New York, the son of Joseph, a tailor from Germany, and Bella, from Russia. He had three brothers, Maxwell (1888–1948),[2] Harry (born 1891), and Nathan (born 1900), and a sister Anna (born 1897).[1]

He left school at 13 and joined the Hampton Advertising Agency as an errand boy, where he worked for six years.[1][3]


In 1908 he became a laboratory assistant at Carl Laemmle's Independent Moving Pictures. He also became involved in editing and printing. He focused on newsreels and became editor and producer of Universal Weekly and established bureaus in key cities to provide the news. In 1913, he was placed in charge of production at IMP's studio at Tenth Avenue and 59th Street. His younger brother Harry was now also working for IMP and together they made their first film, Traffic in Souls (1913).[1]

In 1919, the Cohn brothers joined forces with fellow IMP employee Joe Brandt and went on to found CBC Film Sales Corporation. They started making short films with the Screen Snapshots series starting in 1920 and made the company's first feature film, More to Be Pitied Than Scorned (1922). Following its success, they opened their own film exchanges. In 1924, they renamed the company Columbia Pictures. Jack became supervisor of the New York office in charge of sales, while Harry moved to California to oversee the studio operations.[1] Brandt stayed in New York with Jack.[4] He became executive vice-president, heading the distribution organization including Nathan B. Spingold and Abe Schneider (father of Bert Schneider).[5]

Over the years, there were power struggles between Jack and Harry with the two not speaking to each other for months. In 1932, Jack attempted to oust Harry but failed, with Brandt resigning and selling his third of the company to Harry, who took over as president, consolidating his power.[4]

Personal lifeEdit

Cohn married Jeanette Lesser and they had three sons - Ralph, Robert and Joseph Curtis. Ralph (1914–1959) who founded Screen Gems, a Columbia subsidiary.[6] Robert worked for Columbia's Paris office and became a production executive in Hollywood. Joseph Curtis died in 1954 at the age of 32.[1][7]

In 1939, Cohn founded the Motion Picture Pioneers, an organization for men who had served in the industry for more than 25 years. The Foundation of the Motion Picture Pioneers provided aid to the members.[1][5]


Cohn was admitted to the Midtown Hospital in early December 1956 for minor surgery and died of a pulmonary embolism on December 8, 1956.[1]


  1. ^ a b c d e f g h "Jack Cohn Dead; Film Pioneer, 67". The New York Times. December 10, 1956. p. 31. Retrieved January 10, 2021.
  2. ^ "Maxwell Cohn Rites Held In New York". Daily Variety. January 6, 1948. p. 1.
  3. ^ "Jack Cohn Dies; Once Film Editor At $7 a Week". Variety. December 12, 1956. p. 7. Retrieved January 10, 2021 – via Archive.org.
  4. ^ a b Katz, Ephraim; Fred Klein; Ronald Dean Nolan (1998). The International Film Encyclopedia (3rd ed.). New York: Harper Collins. p. 273. ISBN 0-333-74037-8.
  5. ^ a b Green, Abel (December 12, 1956). "Jack Cohn's Helping Hand". Variety. p. 7. Retrieved January 10, 2021 – via Archive.org.
  6. ^ "Obituaries". Variety. August 5, 1959. p. 79. Retrieved January 10, 2021 – via Archive.org.
  7. ^ "Robert Cohn as Key Figure In Col Pictures Aftermath Of Brother Ralph's Passing". Variety. August 5, 1959. p. 5. Retrieved January 10, 2021 – via Archive.org.

External linksEdit