Goldwyn is not a common family name anywhere else. In Hollywood, though, it is worth its weight in gold. The Goldwyn multi-generational family has three generations (and perhaps counting) of taking names and amassing awards in the entertainment industry. They all owe it to the matriarch and patriarch of the family who started it all as well as the succeeding generations’ drive to continue their family business and legacy.
When Frances Howard McLaughlin was born on June 4, 1903, in Kansas, unbeknownst to her, she would become the matriarch of the Goldwyn family. Daughter of Charles Douglas McLaughlin and Helen Victoria (née Howard) McLaughlin, Frances was raised as a Catholic with two sisters and a brother.
Her mother, nicknamed “Bonnie”, had been raised a Quaker but converted to Catholicism. She predeceased her daughter by only five years. Frances’ father was reportedly a grandson of Irish nationalist politician Daniel O’Connell.
As an American actress, Frances began her career at age 16 with a stock theater company. She portrayed flapper roles on Broadway in shows like The Intimate Stranger and The Best People, and later on, signed a five-year contract with Paramount and co-starred in the film The Swan. She had the contract canceled when she decided to marry.
When Frances met her soon-to-be-husband, Academy Award-winning Samuel Goldwyn, he thought she was not at all a good actress. Shortly after, the two got married, despite their two-decade age gap. Such is the love story of many Hollywood stars in the early days, and even until today. Although she was not Samuel’s first wife, she would be his last until his dying breath, wherein she would follow two years after.
During their marriage, the two were busy creating what would someday become the Goldwyn legacy in Tinseltown. Frances became the mother of Samuel Goldwyn Jr., a now-renowned film producer. She also became the paternal grandmother of actors Tony and John Goldwyn, both notable names in Hollywood.
Frances became a “close collaborator of her husband in the production of many of Hollywood’s most notable movies.” (New York Times 1976 newspaper) As the life and business partner of her husband, she had to become somewhat a jack-of-all-trades around the studio. “Mr. Goldwyn, it was said, made the lordly decisions while his wife, as she once phrased it, saw ‘that the bits and pieces are in good order.’” (New York Times 1976 newspaper)
The Howard matriarch also became the conservator of the family’s estates and Samuel’s assets after he suffered some serious ailments. “In 1969, after Mr. Goldwyn had suffered a series of circulation ailments, he named his wife to take over his studio and personal fortune.
A court order in Los Angeles approved a petition naming Mrs. Goldwyn as conservator of her husband’s estate, whose value was estimated then at $19.7 million. The petition placed in Mrs. Goldwyn’s hands the direction of Samuel Goldwyn Productions and Mr. Goldwyn’s then the annual income of $650,000.” (New York Times 1976 newspaper)
Samual Goldwyn Pictures
Some of Samuel Goldwyn Sr. best work won him eight Oscar Best Picture nominees as the Produces. These include Arrowsmith (1931), Dodsworth (1936), Dead End (1937), Wuthering Heights (1939), The Little Foxes (1941), The Pride of the Yankees (1942), The Best Years of Our Lives (1946) and The Bishop’s Wife (1947). The Best Years of Our Lives is the only winner in the category.
Frances Howard would often travel to New York City scouting Broadway productions. She would look for talent in both the production’s acting areas and the creative teams. While on one trip, she went out to see “Lady in The Dark” and discovered Danny Kaye. Upon returning to Hollywood, Frances insisted to her husband that Kaye be placed under contract with their production company. Kaye had to take several screen tests to figure out the best possible path for his future in show business.
Samuel Goldwyn Jr. was the one and only son of Samuel and Frances Goldwyn. Born on September 7, 1926, Samuel Jr. grew up in the industry with both of his parents so widely known. He attended Fountain Valley School in Colorado Springs and the University of Virginia. Soon after, he worked as a theatrical producer in London and for Edward R. Murrow at CBS in New York after serving in WW II for the US Army.
Unsurprisingly, Samuel Jr. followed in his parents’ footsteps and continued their legacy. He went on to become an American film producer for many blockbuster movies and shows. Beyond that, he founded the motion picture production companies Formosa Productions, The Samuel Goldwyn Company, and Samuel Goldwyn Films. In the film industry, some of Samuel Jr.’s best works included Master and Commander: The Far Side of the World (producer), Mystic Pizza (executive producer), and The Preacher’s Wife (producer).
In 1950, Samuel Jr. married Jennifer Howard (1925–1993), the daughter of well-known author and screenwriter Sidney Howard. Interestingly enough, his mother was a Howard but is not related to his first wife, fortunately. Samuel Jr. and Jennifer had four children. Two of them followed suit in the family business one way or another. The couple divorced in 1968.
Samuel Jr. remarried Peggy Elliot soon after and they had two children. The third generation of Goldwyn followed suit in the industry. Unfortunately, their parents’ marriage ended in divorce as well. At the time of his death, he was married to his third wife, Patricia Strawn. He passed on January 9, 2015, at 88 years old.
The third generation in the Goldwyn family still carries their family name with pride in Hollywood. Samuel Jr. and Jennifer’s children John and Tony Goldwyn (Howard), and Samuel Jr. and Peggy’s children Liz and Peter Goldwyn (Elliot) are renowned names in the business. They have starred, directed, and produced some of the biggest productions and names not just in America but the world. Their awards are nothing to scoff at either.
Tony Goldwyn is an American actor, singer, producer, director, and political activist. John Goldwyn is an American film producer. Liz Goldwyn is an American filmmaker, artist, and writer. And behind the scenes, Peter Goldwyn is the current President of Samuel Goldwyn Films. The Goldwyns are truly a product of their family’s business and golden legacy. Some of Tony’s filmography includes Kiss the Girls (1997), The Pelican Brief (1993), and Scandal (2012 TV Series).
Emily’s more recent works include being a writer on the Showtime comedy series SMILF (2017) but the show was canceled just after two seasons. One of her most famous works is perhaps the Netflix Original Series Emily in Paris (2020) which gained popularity shortly after it premiered during the COVID-19 pandemic where everyone breathed and lived on Netflix and other streaming platforms. Other works include Awkwafina Is Nora from Queens (2020) and Life & Beth (2022).