Oscar History via Oscar Directors: Lewis Milestone, Second Winner–Background, Career, Awards, Filmography

Research in Progress (March 27, 2021)

New Conceptual Framework to Analyze Directors Careers (see below)

Lewis Milestone Career Summation

Lewis Milestone (born Leib Milstein, September 30, 1895–September 25, 1980) was a Russian-American film director, known for directing Two Arabian Knights (1927) and All Quiet on the Western Front (1930), both of which received Oscar Awards for Best Director.



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He also directed The Front Page (1931, nomination), The General Died at Dawn (1936), Of Mice and Men (1939), Ocean’s 11 (1960), and received the directing credit for Mutiny on the Bounty (1962), though Marlon Brando took over duties during its production.

Milestone was born in Chișinău (Kishinev), in the Bessarabia Governorate of the Russian Empire (now Chişinău, Moldova), to a family of Jewish heritage. He sailed from Hamburg and, via Southampton, arrived in the U.S. on November 14, 1913, just prior to World War I.

He held a number of odd jobs before enlisting in the U.S. Signal Corps, where he worked as assistant director on Army training films during the war. In 1919, he became a naturalized citizen of the U.S.

After the war he went to Hollywood, where he first worked as a film editor and later as an assistant director.

Howard Hughes promoted Milestone to director. One of his early efforts, the 1928 film Two Arabian Knights, won him an Oscar in the first Award ceremony.

He also directed The Racket, an early gangster film, and later helped Hughes direct scenes for his aviation saga Hell’s Angels (for which he never received credit).

Milestone won his second Oscar Award for All Quiet on the Western Front, a harrowing screen adaptation of the antiwar novel by Erich Maria Remarque.

His next, The Front Page, brought the Ben Hecht-Charles MacArthur play to the screen. In the Front Page, Milestone was one of the first directors to use the rotoambulator.

The rotoambulator, a combination of a crane and a dolly with three wheels, was effectively used in the scene of The Front Page in which Walter Burns descends to the shipping area of his plant. The rotoambulator was used to capture the entire scene in a way that had never been done before. It earned him another Oscar nomination.

His work during the 1930s and 1940s was identifiable by its lighting and use of fluid camera.

During this time, he made the original Of Mice and Men.

In the 1940s, Milestone made The North Star, The Purple Heart, and A Walk in the Sun, movies made during and set in World War II. In these films, he defended the world’s fighting both Nazi Germany and Imperial Japan.

After the war, he was blacklisted under the suspicion of being communist sympathizer. Deciding to wait for anti-communist hostility to cool, he and his wife left for Europe, where he made a few films. In the U.S., he made other films before leaving for Europe, but his postwar films did not have the same power as the earlier works.

He worked extensively in TV from the mid-1950s on.

He returned to the U.S. to make two more films: Ocean’s 11 starring the Rat Pack including Frank Sinatra and Dean Martin, and Mutiny on the Bounty starring Marlon Brando. The original Ocean’s 11 worked, but Mutiny on the Bounty became a box office bomb.

With no other work to do, he turned to TV work which he disliked, then left directing as his health began failing.

Milestone died from natural causes on September 25, 1980, five days short of his 85th birthday.

Lewis Milestone’s final request before he died in 1980 was for Universal to restore All Quiet on the Western Front to its original length. That request would be granted nearly two decades later by Universal and other film preservation companies.

Several of Milestone’s films—Seven Sinners, The Front Page, The Racket, and Two Arabian Knights—were preserved by the Academy Film Archive in 2016 and 2017.

Academy (Oscar) Awards

1927–28 Best Director (Comedy) Two Arabian Knights Won
1929–30 Best Director All Quiet on the Western Front Won
1930–31 Best Director The Front Page Nominated
1939 Outstanding Production Of Mice and Men Nominated

Occupational Inheritance: No

Nationality: Born in Russia; in US in 1913; aged 18

Social Class:

Race/Ethnicity/Religion: Jewish


Formal Education:

Training: Film editor and assistant director; promoted by Hughes

First Film:


First Oscar Nomination: 1928; aged 33

Gap between First Film and First Nom:

Other Oscars: 1930, All Quiet on Western Front; aged 35

Other Oscar Nominations: Front Page, 1931; aged 36

Oscar Awards: 2 Best Director Oscars, Two Arabian Knights (1927) and All Quiet on the Western Front (1930),

Nominations Span: 3 years

Genre (specialties): several War movies


Masterpieces/Good Films: All Quiet on Western Front

Scandals: Mutiny on the Bounty, 1962

Last Film:


Career Length: 1918-1962; 44 years

Career Output: half of output silent films


Politics: Blacklisted

Death: 84



1918 – The Toothbrush (director)
1918 – Posture (director)
1918 – Positive (director)
1919 – Fit to Win (director)
1922 – Up and at ‘Em (screenwriter)
1923 – Where the North Begins (editor)
1924 – The Yankee Consul (screenwriter)
1924 – Listen Lester (screenwriter)
1925 – The Mad Whirl (screenwriter)
1925 – Dangerous Innocence (screenwriter)
1925 – The Teaser (screenwriter)
1925 – Bobbed Hair (screenwriter)
1925 – Seven Sinners (director and screenwriter)
1926 – The Caveman (director)
1926 – The New Klondike (director)
1926 – Fine Manners (director, uncredited)
1927 – The Kid Brother (director, uncredited)
1927 – Two Arabian Knights (director)
1928 – The Garden of Eden (director)
1928 – Tempest (director and screenwriter, uncredited)
1928 – The Racket (director)
1929 – New York Nights (director)
1929 – Betrayal (director)
1930 – All Quiet on the Western Front (director)
1931 – The Front Page (director)
1932 – Rain (director)
1933 – Hallelujah, I’m a Bum (director)
1934 – The Captain Hates the Sea (director)
1935 – Paris in Spring (director)
1936 – Anything Goes (director)
1936 – The General Died at Dawn (director)
1939 – Of Mice and Men (director)
1939 – The Night of Nights (director)
1940 – Lucky Partners (director and screenwriter)
1941 – My Life with Caroline (director)
1943 – Edge of Darkness (director)
1943 – The North Star (director)
1944 – Guest in the House (director, uncredited)
1944 – The Purple Heart (director)
1945 – A Walk in the Sun (director)
1946 – The Strange Love of Martha Ivers (director)
1948 – Arch of Triumph (director and screenwriter)
1948 – No Minor Vices (director)
1949 – The Red Pony (director)
1951 – Halls of Montezuma (director)
1952 – Les Misérables (director)
1952 – Kangaroo (director)
1953 – Melba (director)
1954 – They Who Dare (director)
1955 – La Vedova X (director and screenwriter)

1957 – Alfred Hitchcock Presents (TV series) (director)
1957 – Schlitz Playhouse (TV series) (director)
1957 – Suspicion (TV series) (director)
1958 – Have Gun – Will Travel (TV series) (director)
1959 – Pork Chop Hill (director)
1960 – Ocean’s 11 (director)
1962 – Mutiny on the Bounty (director)

1963 – The Richard Boone Show (TV series) (director)
1963 – Arrest and Trial (TV series) (director)