LOS ANGELES – Spyros P. Skouras (1893-1971) was the most influential Greek immigrant in American history and one of America’s preeminent citizens during the Cold War period. In an astonishing sixty-year career, he shaped two industries (film and shipping), turned Twentieth Century-Fox into a global film leader, saved Hollywood by introducing CinemaScope, masterminded Century City in Los Angeles, and, not least, helped save millions of Greeks from starvation and disease during World War II.
“I have not only a real affection for Spyros Skouras, I have found him to be a most public-spirited citizen devoted to our country and fully as ready to work for America’s welfare as any native-born citizen of my acquaintance.”
Spyros Panagiotis Skouras (Greek: Σπύρος Σκούρας; March 28, 1893 – August 16, 1971) was a Greek American motion picture pioneer and movie executive who was the president of the 20th Century Fox from 1942 to 1962. He resigned June 27, 1962, but served as chairman of the company for several years. He also had numerous ships, owning Prudential Lines.
Skouras and two brothers came to the United States as immigrants in 1910; Spyros kept such a pronounced Greek accent in English that comedian Bob Hope would joke “Spyros has been here twenty years but he still sounds as if he’s coming next week.”
“Tradition has it that we stress a man’s achievements in his life’s work. It is that on which he has concentrated most of his time and aspirations. All the rest is supposed to be his personal life which can give him no public satisfaction, and is therefore on a minor plane so far as the world is concerned. Uniquely, I believe, Spyros reversed this order of importance or, at least, he equalized them, and since he was preeminent in both, this may provide the clue to his real greatness, Louis Nizer writes in his tribute to Skouras, September 30, 1971.
“It is not necessary to dwell on his remarkable business career. It is inscribed in the history of the motion picture industry. How many names, if any, will glow above his? Like a giant, he bestrode three generations of its evolution. He was a pioneer beginning in the humblest role, a builder, and finally, leader and statesman of a world wide enterprise, whose artistic, industrial and American influence was greater than many nations cast” he says.