Back to prior page

(From Old Corral collection)

Above is the title lobby card for the Bill Cody silent western, THE FIGHTING SHERIFF (Jesse J. Goldburg / Independent Pictures, 1925).

(Courtesy of Diane Gray)

(Courtesy of Les Adams)

(Courtesy of Les Adams)

Jesse J. Goldburg

Full name: Jesse James Goldburg

1881 - 1959

Special thanks to Diane S. Gray for the photos and information on her grandfather, Jesse J. Goldburg.

While the Old Corral is about the sound B western, we recognize that the cowboy heroes and films began in the silent movies ... and the popularity of the sagebrush adventure continued as Hollywood migrated to talkin' pictures.  The silent era produced many 'big guns', including Tom Mix and Buck Jones at Fox as well as Hoot Gibson and Ken Maynard at Universal.  And of course, Film Booking Office (FBO) released silents with Bob Steele, Tom Tyler, and several others, including a brief series with Mix.  Though the big studios and production companies were lensing sagebrush adventures, there were many small outfits that churned out low-budget fare for the independent, states rights market.

Jesse James Goldburg earned a law degree in New York, but didn't practice.  For some reason, he wound up in Hollywood around 1915, and one of his first credits is the screenplay for THE CURIOUS CONDUCT OF JUDGE LE GARDE (Life Photo Film, 1915) with Lionel Barrymore.  In the 1920s, he formed a low budget film company named Independent Pictures Corporation and produced several dozen inexpensive westerns and outdoor yarns. His primary stars were Bill Cody, Bob Custer and Franklyn Farnum. Appears that one of the Goldburg/FBO silent westerns survive - Bob Custer in NO MAN'S LAW (FBO, 1925). Goldburg was also involved in the production of NO MAN'S LAW (Hal Roach/Pathe, 1927) which starred Rex, King of the Wild Horses. In that, the brutish heavy with an eye patch is Oliver Hardy (of Laurel and Hardy fame) and he gets stomped to death by Rex at the end.

Some familiar names learned their trade and gained experience working behind the camera on the Goldburg silent. Directors included Bob Steele's father, Robert North Bradbury, as well as J. P. McGowan, J. P. McCarthy and B. Reeves 'Breezy' Eason. Screenwriters included Adele Buffington and George Plympton.  All would continue to be employed - at prolific levels - in B westerns and serials of the sound era.

When talkies arrived, Jesse Goldburg's Hollywood career faded.

An interesting tidbit about Goldburg is a relationship with Tarzan creator Edgar Rice Burroughs.  Apparently, they were close friends and there is a mention of Jesse loaning ERB several thousands of $$$ around 1938.  That "loan" is noted in a couple of ERB personal inscriptions in several Burroughs books which are part of the Goldburg family library.

There's some details on this in David Fury's Kings of the Jungle: An Illustrated Reference to Tarzan on Screen and Television (1994 McFarland hardcover; 2001 McFarland softcover).  from page 139 of the softcover edition:

"Edgar Rice Burroughs had originally signed a $50,000.00 loan to finance The New Adventures of Tarzan in 1934, and by 1937 Burroughs-Tarzan Enterprises was in serious debt. BTE was saved from further embarassment (financial and otherwise) by Jesse Goldberg, who, in an agreement with the producers of Tarzan and the Green Goddess, was installed as the sole agent for distributing and exploiting the picture, on a 50/50 split. Goldberg did well enough with the picture (especially in England, where it was released in December, 1937) to pay off the loan, and BTE was able to clear the books."

For those unfamiliar with the movie references in the above paragraph, THE NEW ADVENTURES OF TARZAN was a 12-chapter serial produced by Burroughs-Tarzan Enterprises.  It was filmed in the jungles of Guatamala and starred 1928 Olympic shotput Champion Herman Brix, who, a few years later, changed his screen name to Bruce Bennett.  TARZAN AND THE GREEN GODDESS was a feature culled from that serial.  While all this was going on, Olympic swimming champion Larry 'Buster' Crabbe did the TARZAN THE FEARLESS (1933) chapterplay for Sol Lesser's Principal company.  But more importantly, an Olympic swim champ by the name of Johnny Weissmuller was doing Tarzan films at MGM.

During the late 1930s, was Goldburg attempting to get back into movie production?

Apparently so - on the left is a portion of a tradepaper blurb from July, 1938 about Goldburg (spelled Goldberg with an 'e') planning some films and splitting from Ben Judell's Progressive company.  Those plans didn't happen.  (Judell formed Progressive Pictures Corporation in 1938, and shortly thereafter, it became Producers Distributing Corporation (PDC).  Financial problems plagued the firm.  By 1940 Judell was out and Sigmund Neufeld was in.  And the resurrected company ultimately became Producers Releasing Corporation (PRC).)

What happened with Goldburg and new films?  A bit of conjecture and Hollywood history follows:

The late 1930s was NOT the time to be an independent, B grade film producer.  In the1920s, Goldburg's expenditure for each of his westerns was probably no more than a few thousand dollars, certainly no more than $5,000.00 per film.  Ten years later, production costs were significantly higher.  The States Rights distribution system, which Goldburg and many independent filmmakers used to distribute their films to theaters, was 'drying up'.  Major and minor production companies had their own distributors and film exchanges - or had distribution arrangements in place which functioned like 'franchises'.  Many of the small Poverty Row production companies that churned out low budget B oaters on shoestring budgets had disappeared by the late 1930s - examples include A. William Hackel's Supreme Pictures, Bernard B. Ray and Harry Webb's Reliable Pictures, Sam Katzman's Victory company, and Maurice Conn's Ambassador Pictures.  Grand National was in financial difficulty and would ultimately go bankrupt.  The formation of Republic Pictures in 1935 also had an impact and so did the success of their singing cowboy, Gene Autry.  On a larger scale, America was trying to overcome the Depression and there were ominous signs of a military conflict in Europe.  The environment had changed - Jesse James Goldburg may not have been able to obtain support and financing to do new films.

According to his death certificate, 77 year old Jesse James Goldburg was born October 21, 1881 in New York. He passed away on August 27, 1959 at Mt. Sinai Hospital, Los Angeles, from pneumonia due to pulmonary emphysema and bronchitis. He was widowed and occupation was "Self employed Film Distributor". Burial at Beth Olam Cemetery.

  Although some of the data is incomplete or inaccurate, the Internet Movie Database (IMDb) has information on Goldburg and his Independent Pictures company. Click below:
Jesse J. Goldburg:
Independent Pictures company:

There's a bit more on Goldburg and his relationship with Edgar Rice Burroughs at the ERBzine website:

Family Search has records on Jesse J. Goldburg and family:

Find A Grave website has a photo of the marker for Jesse J. Goldburg who is interred at Hollywood Forever Cemetery. Beth Olam Cemetery is part of Hollywood Forever:

Above is a Goldburg trade biography from 1937-38.

(Courtesy of Les Adams)

Above - Franklyn Farnum and future A list actress Jean Arthur in a lobby card from Farnum's THE GALLOPING DUDE (1925) for independent producer Jesse J. Goldburg.

(Courtesy of Ed Tabor)

Centered is Bob Custer in a lobby card from GALLOPING VENGEANCE (FBO, 1925), one of his earliest starring silent westerns. Hans Wollstein was able to ID the other players as Ralph McCullough (left), who played heroine Mary Beth Milford's brother, and Dorothy Ponedel (right), who played 'Little Wolf'.

(Courtesy of Ed Tabor)

Custer's THE RIDING STREAK (FBO, 1927) was among Goldburg's last films.

(Courtesy of Diane Gray)

Above is a 1930s photo of the Goldburg family - from L-to-R are wife Florence, Jesse, youngest daughter Helene (Diane's mother) and daughter Claudia is on the far right.

Dianne adds: "My grandfather was a crackup, funny guy, loved to clown around, loved the ponys, Shakespeare, good jokes and his beloved wife and family."

(Courtesy of Diane Gray)

Above is a smiling Jesse J. Goldburg, circa 1950s.

(Courtesy of Diane Gray)

Back to prior page