Louis Burt Mayer (; born Lazar Meir; July 12, 1884 – October 29, 1957; Russian: Лазарь Меир) was a Russian-born American film producer and co-founder of Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer studios (MGM) in 1924. Mayer was skilled at developing star actors, including child actors, then placing them in productions, such as musicals or comedies, for which MGM became famous. Under Mayer's management, MGM became the most prestigious film studio, accumulating the largest concentration of leading writers, directors and stars in Hollywood.
Growing up poor in Saint John, New Brunswick, Canada and quitting school at 12 to support his family, he later moved to Boston and purchased a small vaudeville theater in Haverhill, Massachusetts called the "Garlic Box" as it catered to poorer Italian immigrants. He renovated and expanded several other theaters in the Boston area catering to higher end audiences. After expanding and moving to Los Angeles, he teamed up with Irving Thalberg, and they developed hundreds of high quality story-based films, noted for their wholesome and lush entertainment. Mayer handled the business part of running the studio, such as setting budgets and approving new productions, while Thalberg, still in his twenties, ran all MGM productions.
During his reign at MGM, after Thalberg's early death in 1936, he had enemies as well as admirers. Some stars did not appreciate his control over their lives, while others saw him as a father figure, important in their lives. He believed in wholesome entertainment and went to great lengths to discover new actors and develop them into major stars. Actors working under Mayer would generally portray an idealized vision of men and women, family life, virtue, and patriotism, all presented in the present world they lived in. He believed that movies should not be a mere reflection of life, but be an entertaining escape from life. Because of his gift for understanding the nature of stardom and the needs of the audience, it was claimed that "Mayer's view of America became America's view of itself."
He was forced to resign MGM as its vice president in 1951, when the studio's parent company, Loew's, Inc., wanted to improve MGM's declining profits. Mayer was a staunch conservative, at one time the chairman of California's Republican party. In 1927 he was one of the founders of AMPAS, famous for its annual Academy Awards.
He is also known as Louis Burt Mayer.
Louis B. Mayer died of leukemia on October 29, 1957. He was interred in the Home of Peace Cemetery in East Los Angeles, California. His sister, Ida Mayer Cummings, and brothers Jerry and Rubin are also interred there.