01 April 2012

Never hold an unassailable opinion

Irving Thalberg (1899-1936) was a successful film executive at an early age, rising to take charge of Universal Studios' Los Angeles facility at the age of 20 and being made head of production at MGM in 1924 at the age of 24. In his next management role at MGM he produced nearly 400 films, and helped to lay the groundwork for much of the modern cinematic industry. When he died at a young age, President Roosevelt wrote, "The world of art is poorer with the passing of Irving Thalberg. His high ideals, insight and imagination went into the production of his masterpieces."

Interviewed by Malcolm Stuart Boylan of the Los Angeles Times in 1922 in an article rather wordily entitled 'Great Executive Job Held By a Boy of 22 - How Irving Thalberg Became the "Big Boss" of One of the Biggest Institutions in the World', Thalberg listed his five rules for success:


  • Never hold an unassailable opinion
  • The clearness with which I see my goal determines my speed in reaching it
  • Expect help from no one
  • Pride goeth before a fall. The height of the pride determines the severity of the bump
  • Never take any man's opinion as final.
- Los Angeles Times, 15 October 1922, quoted in Debra Ann Pawlak, Bringing Up Oscar, New York, 2011, p120.
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