Sam Jaffe (May 21, 1901 – January 10, 2000) was, at different points in his career in the motion picture industry, an agent, a producer and a studio executive.
Jaffe was born in the Harlem neighborhood of New York City to Russian Jewish immigrants, the son of Hannah and Max Jaffe. He has three older siblings: brothers, Joseph and David, and sister Adeline. He was raised on the Lower East Side of Manhattan.
After dropping out of DeWitt Clinton High School, he took a job as an office boy for the Famous Players-Lasky Corporation where his brother-in-law, B.P. Schulberg, was an executive. He eventually worked his way up through the ranks to become the executive in charge of production including films directed by Ernst Lubitsch, Josef von Sternberg and Rouben Mamoulian. In 1932, he was released from Paramount over internal politics and then worked briefly for Harry Cohn at Columbia Pictures before joining the Ad Schulberg Agency, a talent agency founded by his older sister, Adeline Jaffe Schulberg in 1933 after her divorce from B.P. Schulberg that represented the likes of Marlene Dietrich, Fredric March, and Herbert Marshall. When his sister opened a branch in London, he assumed control of the agency, re-named the Jaffe Agency. While running the agency, he was able to convince 20th Century Fox head Darryl F. Zanuck to let him produce The Fighting Sullivans in 1944.
He successfully represented several stars and directors of the era, including Humphrey Bogart, Fritz Lang, Raoul Walsh, Stanley Kubrick, Lauren Bacall, David Niven, Zero Mostel, Richard Burton, Mary Astor, Barbara Stanwyck, Lee J. Cobb, and Jennifer Jones. In the 1950s, his business was negatively affected by the investigations of many of his clients by the House Un-American Activities Committee investigations into Hollywood.
In 1959, he retired and moved to London where he produced several films including Born Free in 1966 and Theater of Blood in 1973. In 1985, he returned to Los Angeles where he became a collector of modern art.
Jaffe was married to Mildred Gersh, sister of Hollywood agent, Phil Gersh, who would later purchase the Jaffe Agency in 1949 which he renamed The Gersh Agency in the 1960s. He has three daughters: Naomi Jaffe Carroll, Barbara Jaffe Kohn, and Judith Jaffe Silber. His grandson is Matt Tolmach, co-president of production at Sony Pictures Entertainment.
Sam Jaffe died on January 10, 2000. His ashes are interred at Westwood Village Cemetery.
Theater of Blood (1973)
Born Free (1966)
Damian and Pythias (1962)
The Fighting Sullivans (1944)
The Vanishing Frontier (1932)
1. "Sam Jaffe, 98, Hollywood Agent; Represented the Icons of His Day". The New York Times. January 19, 2000.
2. Sun Sentinel: "Sam Jaffe, Movie Talent Agent, 98" January 15, 2000
3. Jewish Women's Archives: "Adeline Schulberg 1895 – 1977"
4. Baxter, John Von Sternberg P 150 | ISBN 978-0813126012 |University Press of Kentucky | September 2010
5. New York Times: "Phil Gersh, a Leading Agent In Hollywood, Is Dead at 92" By BERNARD WEINRAUB May 12, 2004
6. Deadline Hollywood: "Matt Tolmach Discusses Exit As Sony Pics Prez And Segue To Producing 'Spider-Man'" by Mike Fleming Jr October 29, 2010