Joseph H. Rosenberg was a bank executive credited with financing most of the Hollywood movie industry in its early days. Rosenberg, who served as an executive of Bank of America and Lehman Brothers, had a 61-year career in banking.
Joseph Rosenberg was born in Hungary, immigrated to the US (Cleveland, Ohio), age six. After studying engineering at Case School of Applied Science and graduating from Yale University (class of 1903), he was a surveyor of an ill-fated Mexican railroad construction venture, attempted a mining career in Arizona, and rode a horse 275 miles from Goldfield, Nevada, to Chloride, Arizona, in search of a job. This lone open-country ride, in which Indians ferried him across the Colorado River while the horse swam at the end of a rope, took two weeks. The trip was prolonged for two days because he was asked to stay by a family he met in his travels, who had not seen anyone for three months. After seven unsuccessful years of engineering, Rosenberg was hired by the Arizona Central Bank (Kingman, Arizona with a branch in Chloride) in 1910. In 1926 he joined Los Angeles Merchants National Bank. When Merchants was absorbed by Bank of America, Rosenberg became a vice president. With most banks skeptical about the movie industry as it tried to become big business, Bank of America financed many studio loans. The job of evaluating producers and movies fell to Rosenberg, who had total responsibility for approving movie lending.
Midway through making Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs, Walt Disney, after spending $1.25 million, needed another $250,000 to complete the film. Disney ran a rough cut for Rosenberg, who sat impassively during the showing. Then Rosenberg turned to the worried Disney and said, “Walt, that thing is going to make a hatful of money” and approved the loan.