The Merger

Norma Shearer had made three films for Louis B. Mayer and three on loan-out when Mayer moved his entire company to Culver City. On April 10, 1924, he merged with two other companies to create a super studio, one that would be equally strong in management, production, and distribution. With this risky merger, Mayer and Thalberg united the Goldwyn plant, the Metro Pictures talent, and the Marcus Loew theater chain. The gamble paid off. What these entities could not do on their own, Mayer and Thalberg did grandly. Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer began to overtake the big companies: First National, William Fox, and Famous Players-Lasky-Paramount. Shearer was at the right place at the right time.


In her first two years at M-G-M, Norma Shearer made ten films. Once again, Irving Thalberg’s intuition and Mayer’s business savvy paid off. In late 1925, grosses from Shearer films surpassed those of all others at her studio, and a trade paper announced that she was the first star created by M-G-M. This might have been disputed by John Gilbert or Ramon Novarro, but they had worked elsewhere. How had Shearer become a star? By constantly working to improve her craft, by giving intelligent interviews to the all-important fan magazines, and by playing a variety of roles. She also had the prerequisites of stardom: she looked like no one else and was consistently watchable.