LeRoy, Mevyn: Background, Career, Awards; Filmography

Updated June 9, 2020

Mervyn LeRoy Career Summary:

Occup. Inheritance: No

Social Class: middle class; but fire destroyed business; father died at age 10

Ethnicity: Jewish

Education:

Training:

Role Model” Cecil B. DeMille

First Film:

Oscar Nom: Random Harvest, 1942; age 42

Other Oscars: 8 of his films nom for Best Picture

Genres: Versatile

Collaborators:

Last Film: Green Berets, 1968 (uncredited); age 68 (before that, age 65)

Career Output

Career Span: four decades

Marriages: several; actresses

Politics

Death: Sep 3, 1987; age 86

 

LeRoy was born on October 15, 1900 in San Francisco to Jewish parents, Edna (née Armer) and Harry LeRoy. The 1906 earthquake, which destroyed his father’s import-export business, left his family in financial ruin.

After his dad’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.  He won a Charlie Chaplin impersonation contest, after which he moved into vaudeville, and minor parts in silent movies.

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.

DeMille Role Model

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.” LeRoy also credits DeMille for teaching him the directing techniques required to make his own films.

His first directing job was with First National Pictures on 1927’s No Place to Go. LeRoy ended up working at Warner after they took control of First National.

His movies made lots of money without costing too much. He directed two key films which launched Edward G. Robinson into major stardom, the Oscar-nominated critique of tabloid journalism Five Star Final (1931), and the classic gangster film Little Caesar (1931), which made his mark.

LeRoy became known for a diverse variety of films as a director and producer. I Am a Fugitive from a Chain Gang was also nominated for the Best picture Oscar, as was his Anthony Adverse (1936).

In 1938 he was chosen as production head at MGM, where he made The Wizard of Oz.

He was responsible for discovering Clark Gable, Loretta Young, Robert Mitchum, and Lana Turner.[2]

His 1941 film Blossoms in the Dust was nominated for the Best Picture Oscar. His first big hit as a director with MGM was 1942’s Random Harvest, earning worldwide rentals of $8 million, 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.

In 1951, he scored his biggest hit with Quo Vadis, earning worldwide rentals of $21 million as well as Best Picture Oscar nomination.

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 in 1955, taking over from John Ford as director on Mister Roberts, another big hit, which was also nominated for the Academy Award for Best Motion Picture.

He also directed for Warners 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]

Best Picture Nominations

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

Marriages

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. His son, Warner LeRoy, became a restaurateur. The marriage ended in divorce in 1942.

In 1946, he married Kathryn “Kitty” Priest Rand, a gentile who was previously married to Sidney M. Spiegel (the co-founder of Essaness Theatres and grandson of Joseph Spiegel); and to restaurateur Ernie Byfield) They remained married until his death.

LeRoy retired in 1965 and wrote his autobiography, Take One, in 1974.

After being bed ridden for six months, LeRoy died of natural causes and heart issues in Beverly Hills, California on at age 86.

Films Directed by Mervyn LeRoy

No Place to Go (1927)

Flying Romeos (1928)

Harold Teen (1928)

Oh, Kay! (1928)

Naughty Baby (1928)

Hot Stuff (1929)

Broadway Babies (1929)

Little Johnny Jones (1929)

Playing Around (1930)

Show Girl in Hollywood (1930)

Numbered Men (1930)

Top Speed (1930)

Little Caesar (1931)

Gentleman’s Fate (1931)

Too Young to Marry (1931)

Broadminded (1931)

Five Star Final (1931)

Local Boy Makes Good (1931)

Tonight or Never (1931)

Big City Blues (1932)

Two Seconds (1932)

Three on a Match (1932)

The Heart of New York (1932)

I Am a Fugitive from a Chain Gang (1932)

High Pressure (1932)

Elmer, the Great (1933)

Hard to Handle (1933)

Gold Diggers of 1933 (1933)

Tugboat Annie (1933)

The World Changes (1933)

Heat Lightning (1934)

Hi Nellie! (1934)

Sweet Adeline (1934)

Happiness Ahead (1934)

Page Miss Glory (1935)

I Found Stella Parish (1935)

Oil for the Lamps of China (1935)

Anthony Adverse (1936)

Three Men on a Horse (1936)

The King and the Chorus Girl (1937)

They Won’t Forget (uncredited) (1937)

Fools for Scandal (1938)

The Wizard of Oz (1939)

1940s

Waterloo Bridge (1940)

Escape (1940)

Blossoms in the Dust (1941)

Unholy Partners (1941)

Johnny Eager (1941)

Random Harvest (1942)

Madame Curie (1943)

Thirty Seconds Over Tokyo (1944)

The House I Live In (1945)

Without Reservations (1946)

Desire Me (1947)

Homecoming (1948)

Any Number Can Play (1949)

East Side, West Side (1949)

Little Women (1949)

1950s

Quo Vadis (1951)

Lovely to Look At (1952)

Million Dollar Mermaid (1952)

Latin Lovers (1953)

Rose Marie (1954)

Mister Roberts (1955)

Strange Lady in Town (1955)

The Bad Seed (1956)

Toward the Unknown (1956)

No Time for Sergeants (1958)

Home Before Dark (1958)

The FBI Story (1959)

1960s: 7 films

Wake Me When It’s Over (1960)

A Majority of One (1961)

The Devil at 4 O’Clock (1961)

Gypsy (1962)

Mary, Mary (1963)

Moment to Moment (1966)

The Green Berets (1968) (uncredited)

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