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Hazen, Joseph H.

American, 1898 - 1994

Lawyer, film producer, art collector and philanthropist Joseph Hazen was the son of a shoe store proprietor in Kingston, and the grandson of an immigrant who had opened a dry goods store in that Hudson River town. After enlisting in the Navy in 1917, Joseph Hazen was based in Washington DC when the war ended. He attended George Washington University and studied law. Hazen's first position in the legal world, in 1923, was in New York City with the firm of Thomas and Friedman, through which he made his first contact with the nascent film industry. Thomas and Friedman represented Warner Brothers, and in 1924 Hazen was invited to join Warner Brothers as personal assistant to Harry Warner. He remained with the company for twenty years. Perhaps the accomplishment for which Hazen is best known is his negotiation with Edison Vitaphone for the use of their sound technology in film which lead to the first musical track in file (1926, Don Juan) and the first movie with sound (1927, The Jazz Singer). In 1944 Hazen and producer Hal Wallis left Warner Brothers and formed the industry's first independent production company. For the next twenty-five years Hazen and Wallis continued their partnership, signing talent such as Elvis Presley, and the Dean Martin and Jerry Lewis pair. Hazen retired from their company in 1969, though he and Wallis paired once more in 1970 to produce their last film. For his remaining years, Hazen concentrated on his art collection and the philanthropic activities which he had begun in 1957 with the establishment of the Joseph H. Hazen Foundation. Hazen's art collection was inspired by Edward G. Robinson's collection of 19th and early 20th century art. Hazen met Robinson while working at Warner Brothers. Joseph Hazen was married in 1936 to Lita Annenberg [1909-1995], heiress to the Annenberg publishing empire and sister of Walter H. Annenberg, United States Ambassador to Great Britain as well as a benefactor of art institutions. Lita's sister Enid Haupt of New York is a patron of public gardens and horticultural institutions. Lita Annenberg Hazen also established a charitable organization which contributed to scientific and medical programs as well as cultural institutions. Joseph Hazen and Lita Annenberg Hazen had two daughters, Cynthia Hazen Polsky and Gwynn Hazen Cherry, who predeceased her parents. [Compiled from sources and references recorded on CMS]
The New York Times 16 November 1994 [obituary]
Paintings from the Collection of Joseph H. Hazen, Sotheby's New York, 8 November 1995
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