Sam Katzman

Sam Katzman (July 7, 1901 August 4, 1973) was an American film producer and director. Katzman produced low-budget genre films, including serials, which had proportionally high returns for the studios and his financial backers.[1]

Sam Katzman
Born(1901-07-07)July 7, 1901
New York City
DiedAugust 4, 1973(1973-08-04) (aged 72)
OccupationFilm producer and director
Years active1933–1973


Born to a Jewish family,[2] Katzman went to work as a stage laborer at the age of 13 in the fledgling East Coast film industry and moved from prop boy to assistant director at Fox Films.[3] He would learn all aspects of filmmaking and was a Hollywood producer for more than 40 years.[1]

After working as a producer of Bob Steele westerns at A. W. Hackel's Supreme Pictures, Katzman started his own studios, Victory Pictures and Puritan Pictures, in 1935. From 1935–40 Victory produced two serials and 30 features, including Western film series starring Tom Tyler and Tim McCoy[4], and action pictures with Herman Brix and Bela Lugosi. Puritan ceased production in 1939.

The 1940s and 1950s

In 1940 Katzman moved to Monogram Pictures and produced, under the names Banner Productions, Clover Productions and Four Leaf Productions, the East Side Kids features of the 1940s, eight thrillers starring Bela Lugosi, and two musicals. In 1944 Katzman was offered a job producing serials for Columbia Pictures. With typical thrift, he produced them on the side, using Monogram's actors and technicians. He continued to produce features for Monogram through 1948.

Katzman then signed a seven-year, $4 million contract with Columbia to make four feature films a year through his Kay Pictures corporation, four serials a year via his Esskay Productions, and a new series with Johnny Weissmuller.[5]. Katzman and his Monogram director Arthur Dreifuss continued to make low-budget musicals, first with Jean Porter and then Gloria Jean.[6] Katzman's work on the exceptionally successful Superman serial led him away from musicals; for the next six years, he would produce only action fare for Columbia, notably the Jungle Jim series with Weissmuller (which resulted in Katzman acquiring the nickname "Jungle Sam"). His feature films were usually completed in nine days with a budget around $140,000 per film. For Prince of Thieves, however, he secured a budget of $400,000.[7] In 1953 he was to make at least 15 films a year.[8]

Katzman specialized in films that were topical. He worked so quickly and cheaply that he could make a feature film on a popular subject and get it into theaters while the topic was still hot. In 1956, when Columbia wanted to release the first rock-and-roll musical, Katzman reworked elements from his Gloria Jean musical I Surrender Dear into one of Columbia's biggest hits, Rock Around the Clock with Bill Haley and His Comets.[9] Katzman also produced horror and science-fiction films for the teenage audience, including Earth vs. the Flying Saucers and The Werewolf (1956).

In 1955 it was announced that Clover Productions would make 15 films for Columbia.[10][11] Katzman continued to supply Columbia with profitable second features until 1962, when he received a better offer from Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer.

The 1960s

At MGM in the 1960s, Katzman produced two Elvis Presley films, as well as the Herman's Hermits film Hold On! and singer Roy Orbison's only film, The Fastest Guitar Alive.[12]

In 1967 he signed a new contract with MGM to make at least two films a year.[13]

Personal life

He was the uncle of television producer Leonard Katzman, and, in turn, the great-great-uncle of Ethan Klein of the Israeli-American YouTube comedy channel h3h3Productions.

He was married to Hortense Katzman. They married on the set of the film The Diplomats in 1928.[14]

She sued for divorce in 1955 but the two reconciled.[15]

Sam Katzman died on August 4, 1973, in Hollywood. He is interred in the Hillside Memorial Park Cemetery in Culver City, California.


NME – February 1962[16]

Selected filmography

As producer unless otherwise mentioned.

Unmade films


  • Wheeler Winston Dixon. Lost in the Fifties: Recovering Phantom Hollywood. Southern Illinois University Press, 2005.


  1. "Sam Katzman: He Makes The Serials". The Sunday Herald. Sydney. 20 September 1953. p. 15. Retrieved 30 March 2014 via National Library of Australia.
  2. Jewish Virtual Library: "Katzman, Sam" 2008
  3. p.48 Dixon, Wheeler W Lost in the Fifties: Recovering Phantom Hollywood Southern Illinois University Press; 1st edition (September 1, 2005)
  4. p. 438 Pitts, Michael R. Poverty Row Studios, 1929–1940: An Illustrated History of 53 Independent Film Companies, with a Filmography for Each McFarland & Company, 1 Jan 1997
  5. Schallert, Edwin (26 Oct 1948). "Italian-Made Feature Stars Patricia Medina; Prison Musical Readied". Los Angeles Times. p. A6.
  6. MacGillivray, Scott and Jan, Gloria Jean: A Little Bit of Heaven, iUniverse, 2005
  7. Thomas F Brady (11 May 1947). "Hollywood Survey: Sharp Drop in Production Noted -- Still Another Dumas Exploit -- Other Items". New York Times. p. X5.
  8. Schallert, Edwin (11 July 1952). "Drama: Garson in 'Interrupted Melody;' Bacon-Bergman and Bjork Deals on Fire". Los Angeles Times. p. B9.
  9. MacGillivray, Scott and Jan, Gloria Jean: A Little Bit of Heaven, iUniverse, 2005
  10. Schallert, Edwin (28 July 1954). "'Can Can' Buy Inspires Cast Conjectures; 'Atom Brain Creature' On Way". Los Angeles Times. p. 15.
  11. Thomas M Pryor Special to The New York Times.. (17 Dec 1954). "Sinatra to Star in Musical Film: He Will Appear in Lasky's Salute to Young America, 'The Big Brass Band'". New York Times. p. 36.
  12. "Filmland Events: Sam Katzman Begins Busy Year at MGM". Los Angeles Times. 26 Dec 1964. p. 19.
  13. "CBS Film Unit Signs Producer". Los Angeles Times. 18 Sep 1967. p. d27.
  14. Kingsley, Grace (30 Nov 1928). "Lasky Signs Well Known Actor: Comedienne and Assistant Director Wed at Studio; Sally O'Neill Will Star in New Circus Story; Youthful Player Signs With M.-G.-M". Los Angeles Times. p. 14.
  15. "Film Producer Sam Katzman Sued by Wife". Los Angeles Times. 7 Dec 1955. p. 38.
  16. Tobler, John (1992). NME Rock 'N' Roll Years (1st ed.). London: Reed International Books Ltd. p. 103. CN 5585.
  17. Thomas F Brady Special to The New York Times.. (2 May 1951). "Fox Movie Studio Suspends Grable: Actress' Refusal to Appear in 'Girl Next Door' Leads to Action--Film Starts July 1". New York Times. p. 49.
  18. "Philip Barry Jr. Lists Film". New York Times. 7 Jan 1958. p. 30.
  19. "Thalberg Award to Jack Warner: Studio President Cited for High Quality of Movies -Ladd's Co-Stars Named Special to The New York Times.". New York Times. 26 Mar 1959. p. 27.
  20. Martin, Betty (15 Apr 1967). "Role for Catherine Spaak". Los Angeles Times. p. 19.
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