Samuel Goldwyn Jr gave Julia Roberts her big break

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Samuel Goldwyn Jr, an urbane, soft-spoken scion of a Hollywood dynasty who became an influential movie executive in his own right, supporting promising young directors and advancing the independent film movement, died last Friday. He was 88.

His death, at a Los Angeles hospital, was caused by congestive heart failure, his son said.

A ravenous book reader, possessing intellectual curiosity in a business not known for it, he was an early champion of stylised, cerebral films that most major studios thought would never sell a ticket.

His indie operation, the Samuel Goldwyn Co, founded in 1979, helped create a business model - low production costs, guerrilla marketing - that let art-house movies grow into a powerful cultural and economic force.

"Most people don't quite realise what an independent film pioneer he was," said Mr Thomas E. Rothman, chairman of TriStar Rothman, whose formative Hollywood years were spent at the Samuel Goldwyn Co and who founded Fox Searchlight.

"Sam was the inspiration for Fox Searchlight," he said.

Goldwyn was credited with giving Julia Roberts her big break in Mystic Pizza in 1988. But he was also known for backing budding directors on their early films, including Lee Ang (The Wedding Banquet, 1993) and Anthony Minghella (Truly Madly Deeply, 1990).

In 1989, he backed Longtime Companion, about the impact of the Aids crisis on the lives of gay men, although some theatre owners refused to book it.

As Hollywood dynasties go, the Goldwyns are among the few to have made a mark for successive generations. Samuel Goldwyn was the G in MGM. Sammy, as his son was known in his younger days, followed. Among the third generation's accomplishments, John Goldwyn was vicechairman of Paramount Pictures and another son, actor Tony Goldwyn, is a star of the ABC series Scandal.

Born in Los Angeles, Samuel Goldwyn Jr was nominated as a producer for a Best Picture Oscar in 2004 for Master And Commander: The Far Side Of The World.

His two marriages ended in divorce. He is survived by four sons, two daughters and grandchildren.

His final producing credit came in December 2013 with the release of The Secret Life Of Walter Mitty, starring and directed by Ben Stiller, a remake of one of his father's biggest hits.

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