The great San Francisco earthquake and fire of 1906 was a tragedy for Mervyn Leroy. While he and his father managed to survive, they lost everything they had. To make money, Leroy sold newspapers and entered talent contests as a singer. When he enter vaudeville, his act was LeRoy and Cooper – Two Kids and a Piano. After the act broke up, he contacted his cousin, Jesse L. Lasky, and went to work in Hollywood. He worked in costumes, the film lab and as a camera assistant before becoming a comedy gag writer and part-time actor in silent films. His next step was as a director, and he turned out his first effort, No Place to Go (1927), before scoring his first unqualified hit with Harold Teen (1928). Earning $1,000 per week by the end of that year, he was nicknamed “The Boy Wonder” of Warners, where his pictures were profitable lightweights. His motto, to paraphrase Shakespeare, was “Good stories make good movies.” LeRoy rounded out the decade assigned to more lightweights, such as Naughty… read more
Maine-born John Ford (born Sean Aloysius O’Fearna) originally went to Hollywood in the shadow of his older brother, Francis, an actor/writer/director who had worked on Broadway. Originally a laborer, propman’s assistant, and occasional stuntman for his brother, he rose to became an assistant director and supporting actor before turning to directing in 1917. Ford became best known for his Westerns, of which he made dozens through the 1920s, but he didn’t achieve status as a major director until the mid-‘30s, when his films for RKO (The Lost Patrol 1934, The Informer 1935), 20th Century Fox (Young Mr. Lincoln 1939, The Grapes of Wrath 1940), and Walter Wanger (Stagecoach 1939), won over the public, the critics, and earned various Oscars and Academy nominations. His 1940s films included one military-produced documentary co-directed by Ford and cinematographer Gregg Toland, December 7th (1943), which creaks badly today (especially compared with… read more
Primarily a man of the theater, Joshua Logan fashioned a brilliant career as a writer, producer and director and was that uncommon phenomenon, the theatrical director whose success extended into films. He was also notable for his candor in discussing manic depression, a condition for which he required hospitalization on two occasions before discovering he could control it with the drug lithium carbonate. When discussing his illness, he made it quite clear that its manic phase contributed to his creativity: “Without my illness . . . I would have missed the sharpest, rarest and, yes, the sweetest moments of my existence.”
Logan entered Princeton University in 1927 because of its Triangle Club that toured the country and became its president during his senior year. He co-wrote and acted in the annual university reviews from 1928-30 but did not graduate, leaving instead to study on scholarship with Stanislavsky and the Moscow Arts Theatre. During his collegiate days, he co-founded… read more
I always find myself waiting for Cagney to come back onscreen. He gives one of the great comic performances here, easily outclassing that self-righteous ass played by Fonda.
John Ford’s famous misfire in his direction of the stage hit ‘Mister Roberts’ has a fascinating and revealing back-story that explains the uneven finished product, and puts into perspective Ford’s… read review