Born in a tent in Spokane, Washington, producer Sol Lesser was six weeks old when his family moved to San Francisco. Not long after the 1906 earthquake, Lesser's father got out of the candy-store business in favor of the burgeoning nickelodeon industry. Lesser followed his father's footsteps, eventually running his own theatre chain and distribution center. With the 1919 Mack Sennett feature Yankee Doodle in Berlin, Lesser went into the production end of the business; his biggest silent-era success was the Lon Chaney Sr. version of Oliver Twist (1922). In the mid '20s, Lesser forsook production for distribution again, returning to the creative end of moviemaking in 1931 when, through his friendship with writer Upton Sinclair, he became involved with the Sergei Eisenstein project Thunder over Mexico. While this film fomented a great deal of anti-Russian hostility, Lesser was able to parlay the publicity into establishing his own production company, distributing his product first through 20th Century-Fox, then United Artists. His most successful ventures of the '30s included several western series with stars like George O'Brien and Smith Ballew, as well as a group of musicals featuring boy soprano Bobby Breen. These moneymakers enabled Lesser to tackle more ambitious and less surefire movie properties like 1940's Our Town. In 1943, Lesser secured the film rights for Edgar Rice Burrough's Tarzan; he continued making Tarzan programmers to excellent financial returns until 1958. Sol Lesser retired that year, explaining "I had reached the age that one either finishes on top or far below. I decided I would end on top, and I was satisfied."