Oscar Directors: LeRoy, Mervyn–Background, Career, Awards, Filmography

September 12, 2020

Career Summation

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Gap between First Film and First Nom:

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Mervyn LeRoy (October 15, 1900 – September 13, 1987) was an American film director, film producer, author, and occasional actor.

LeRoy was born on October 15, 1900 in San Francisco to Jewish parents,[3] Edna (née Armer) and Harry LeRoy.[4][5] The 1906 earthquake, which destroyed his father’s import-export business, left his family in financial ruin. After his father’s death in 1910, young Mervyn worked selling newspapers in front of the Alcazar Theater. From this sales location, he was given a bit part for a play. Through his winning a Charlie Chaplin impersonation contest, he moved into vaudeville, then minor parts in silent movies.[2]

LeRoy worked in costumes, processing labs and as a camera assistant until he became a gag writer and actor in silent films, including The Ten Commandments in 1923. LeRoy credits Ten Commandments director, Cecil B. DeMille, for inspiring him to become a director: “As the top director of the era, DeMille had been the magnet that had drawn me to his set as often as I could go.”[6] LeRoy also credits DeMille for teaching him the directing techniques required to make his own films.[6]

His first directing job was with First National Pictures on 1927’s No Place to Go.[2] LeRoy ended up working at Warner Bros. after they took control of First National.[7] When his low-cost movies were profitable, he became well received in the movie business. He directed two key films which launched Edward G. Robinson into major stardom, the Oscar-nominated critique of tabloid journalism Five Star Final (1931),[citation needed] and the classic gangster film Little Caesar (1931), which made his mark.[2] From that point forward, LeRoy would be responsible for a diverse variety of films as a director and producer.[citation needed] The following year’s I Am a Fugitive from a Chain Gang was also nominated for the Academy Award for Outstanding Production as was his Anthony Adverse (1936).

In 1938, he was chosen as head of production at MGM,[7] where he was responsible for the decision to make The Wizard of Oz.[8] He was responsible for discovering Clark Gable, Loretta Young, Robert Mitchum[citation needed] and Lana Turner.[2] His 1941 film Blossoms in the Dust was nominated for the Academy Award for Outstanding Motion Picture. His first big hit as a director with MGM was 1942’s Random Harvest which was their biggest of the season earning worldwide rentals of $8 million[9] and for which he was nominated for the Academy Award for Directing. The film was also nominated for the Academy Award for Outstanding Motion Picture. He hit big again two years later with Thirty Seconds Over Tokyo with rentals of $6 million.[9] During World War II, he also worked for the government, making short public information films on such subjects as contending with bombs and putting out fires, to help prepare the country for a possible attack.[10] In 1951, he scored his biggest hit with Quo Vadis[11] earning worldwide rentals of $21 million as well as a nomination for the Academy Award for Best Motion Picture. In the early 1950s, LeRoy directed such musicals as Lovely to Look At, Million Dollar Mermaid, Latin Lovers and Rose Marie.

He returned to Warner Brothers in 1955.[1] He took over from John Ford as director on Mister Roberts, another big hit[11] which was also nominated for the Academy Award for Best Motion Picture. He also directed films for Warners such as The Bad Seed, No Time for Sergeants, The FBI Story, and Gypsy.

He received an honorary Oscar in 1946 for The House I Live In, “for tolerance short subject”, and the Irving G. Thalberg Memorial Award in 1976.[2]

Eight LeRoy Movies Nominated for Best Picture

Eight movies Mervyn LeRoy directed or co-directed were nominated for Best Picture at the Oscars, one of the highest numbers among all directors.

LeRoy married three times and had many relationships with Hollywood actresses. He was first married to Elizabeth Edna Murphy in 1927, which ended in divorce in 1933. During their separation, LeRoy dated Ginger Rogers, but they ended the relationship and stayed lifelong friends. In 1934, he married Doris Warner, the daughter of Warner Bros. founder, Harry Warner. The couple had one son, Warner LeRoy and one daughter, Linda LeRoy Janklow, who is married to Morton L. Janklow.[2] His son, Warner LeRoy, became a restaurateur. The marriage ended in divorce in 1942. In 1946, he married Kathryn “Kitty” Priest Rand, who had been previously married to Sidney M. Spiegel (the co-founder of Essaness Theatres and grandson of Joseph Spiegel); and to restaurateur Ernie Byfield.[12][13] They remained married until his death. LeRoy also sold his Bel Air, Los Angeles, home to Johnny Carson.[14]

Later life
On February 8, 1960, he received a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame at 1560 Vine Street, for his contributions to the motion pictures industry.[15][16]

LeRoy retired in 1965 and wrote his autobiography, Take One, in 1974.[citation needed] After being bed ridden for six months, LeRoy died of natural causes and heart issues in Beverly Hills, California at age 86. He was interred in the Forest Lawn Memorial Park Cemetery in Glendale, California.[2]

A fan of thoroughbred horse racing, Mervyn LeRoy was a founding member of the Hollywood Turf Club, operator of the Hollywood Park Racetrack[2] and a member of the track’s board of directors from 1941 until his death in 1987.[17] In partnership with father-in-law, Harry Warner, he operated a racing stable, W-L Ranch Co., during the 1940s/50s.

Partial filmography
LeRoy directed or produced:

(As director, unless otherwise noted)

The Ghost Breaker (1922) (uncredited actor only)
My American Wife (1922) (uncredited actor only)
Prodigal Daughters (1923) (actor only)
Little Johnny Jones (1923) (actor only)
The Call of the Canyon (1923) (actor only)
The Chorus Lady (1924) (actor only)
Broadway After Dark (1924) (actor only)
No Place to Go (1927) (directoral debut[2])
Naughty Baby (1928)
Harold Teen (1928)
Hot Stuff (1929)
Little Johnny Jones (1929)
Little Caesar (1931)[2]
Five Star Final (1931)
Tonight or Never (1931)
High Pressure (1932)
The Heart of New York (1932)
Big City Blues (1932)
Two Seconds (1932)
Three on a Match (1932)
I Am a Fugitive from a Chain Gang (1932)
Elmer, the Great (1933)
Gold Diggers of 1933 (1933)
Tugboat Annie (1933)
The World Changes (1933)
Hi Nellie! (1934)
Heat Lightning (1934)
Happiness Ahead (1934)
Sweet Adeline (1934)
Oil for the Lamps of China (1935)
Page Miss Glory (1935)
I Found Stella Parish (1935)
Anthony Adverse (1936)
They Won’t Forget (1937) (producer and uncredited director) starring Lana Turner[2]
Mr. Dodd Takes the Air (1937) (producer only)
The Wizard of Oz (1939) MGM, (producer only)[2]
Waterloo Bridge (1940)
Escape (1940) (director and producer)
Blossoms in the Dust (1941) (director and co-producer)
Johnny Eager (1942) (director and co-producer)
Random Harvest (1942) nominated for an Academy Award[2]
Madame Curie (1943)
Thirty Seconds Over Tokyo[2] (1944)
The House I Live In (1945) co-producer and uncredited director, won Academy Award: Special[2]
Without Reservations (1946)
Homecoming (1948)
Little Women (1949) (director and producer)
East Side, West Side[2] (1949)
Any Number Can Play (1949)
Quo Vadis[2] (1951)
Lovely to Look At (1952)
Million Dollar Mermaid (1952)
Latin Lovers (1953)
Rose Marie (1954)
Mister Roberts (1955) (co-director)
The Bad Seed (1956) (director and producer)
Toward the Unknown (1956) (director and producer)
No Time for Sergeants[2] (1958) (director and producer)
Home Before Dark (1958) (director and producer)
The FBI Story[2] (1959) (director and producer)
The Devil at 4 O’Clock[2] (1961)
A Majority of One (1961)
Gypsy[2] (1962) (director and producer)
Mary, Mary (1963) (director and producer)
Moment to Moment (1966) (director and producer)
The Green Berets (1968) (uncredited co-director)