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Harry Cohn passes away

Today in Masonic History Harry Cohn passes away in 1958.

Harry Cohn was an American film mogul.

Cohn was born in New York City, New York on July 23rd, 1891. As a young man Cohn worked as a street car conductor and as a promoter for a sheet music printer. He would eventually join his brother Jack working at Universal Studios.

In 1919, Cohn and his brother Jack left Universal and joined with Joe Brandt. The three men founded CBC Film Sales Corporation. The CBC stood for Cohn Brandt and Cohn. Because of the low budget nature of the films being turned out by the fledgling studio, movie industry insiders began referring to the studio as "Corn Beef and Cabbage." Cohn headed for Hollywood to manage the film production while his brother Jack stayed in New York City to handle the finances. Brandt would eventually sell his third in the studio to Harry Cohn, in part because of the stress of dealing with the Cohn brothers who often would fight leaving Brandt in the middle. Shortly before the sale of the company to Cohn, it was renamed to Columbia Pictures Corporation.

After Cohn took over the studio most of the movies they produced were action fare starring Jack Holt. Unfortunately the studio was unable to shake the "poverty row" image that it had until 1934, when the comedy It Happened One Night swept the Oscars. Movie theater owners were then willing to take a chance on Columbia Pictures' films. Although many of the films being churned out were of a low budget, appeal to the masses types of movies, there were one or two a year that were considered "class" productions. Cohn was very fond of what he called "those lousy little 'B' pictures." Probably because they often were relied upon to keep the studio afloat.

As a leader, Cohn was very autocratic in his style. He even remained the production chief when he took over the presidency of the studio. He also used intimidation as a common methodology when dealing with stars and directors alike. Up until the beginning of World War II Cohn had an autographed picture of Mussolini on his desk. Moe Howard of the Three Stooges described his a real "Jekyll and Hyde." He could spend the day yelling at a star in his office then greet that same star cordially at a dinner party.

Cohn also had ties to organized crime. In the 1972 film The Godfather the character of Jack Woltz is said to be based on Cohn.

At the time, stories circulated about Cohn and other Hollywood producers asking for sex in exchange for employment from female stars. As the story goes, Joan Crawford was the subject of some of Cohn's advances to which she replied, "Keep it in your pants, Harry. I'm having lunch with Joan and the boys tomorrow." The 'Joan and the boys' Crawford referred to was Cohn's then wife and there sons.

Cohn passed away on February 27th, 1958 from a heart attack. His funeral was well attended. Red Skelton was famously quoted about the funeral saying "It proves what Harry always said: give the public what they want and they'll come out for it." It is claimed that many of the people at the funeral were actually there to get verification that Harry Cohn had in fact passed away.

Cohn was a member of Pacific Lodge No. 233 in New York City, New York.