George Cooper Stevens (December 18, 1904 – March 8, 1975) was an American film director, producer, screenwriter and cinematographer.[1] He received two Academy Awards and the Irving G. Thalberg Memorial Award in 1953.

George Stevens
Stevens with his Oscar for directing Giant, 1957
George Cooper Stevens

(1904-12-18)December 18, 1904
DiedMarch 8, 1975(1975-03-08) (aged 70)
Resting placeForest Lawn Memorial Park, Hollywood Hills
  • Director
  • cinematographer
  • actor
  • writer
  • producer
Years active1915–1970
Spouse(s)Yvonne Howell (1930–1947)
Joan McTavish (1968–1975)
ChildrenGeorge Stevens, Jr.
AwardsFull list
Military career
Allegiance United States
Service/branch United States Army
Years of service1943–1946
RankLieutenant Colonel
Unit Army Signal Corps
Battles/warsWorld War II
Awards Legion of Merit
American Campaign Medal
European–African–Middle Eastern Campaign Medal
World War II Victory Medal

He won the Academy Award for Best Director for A Place in the Sun (1951), and Giant (1956). He was also Oscar-nominated for The Talk of the Town, The More the Merrier (1943), Shane (1953), and The Diary of Anne Frank (1959). Among his most notable films are Swing Time (1936), Gunga Din (1939), Woman of the Year (1942), and The Greatest Story Ever Told (1965).

Early life edit

Stevens was born on December 18, 1904, in Oakland, California,[2] the son of Landers Stevens and Georgie Cooper, both stage actors. Drama critic Ashton Stevens and film director James W. Horne were his uncles. He also had two brothers, Jack, a cinematographer, and writer Aston Stevens. He learned about the stage by watching his parents, and himself acted in plays in San Francisco.[3]: 9:00  At the age of 10, his mother gave him a Brownie camera, and he began photographing the city and portraits of his mother.[3]: 9:00 

Career edit

1930–1939 edit

At the age of 17, Hal Roach Studios employed him as an assistant cameraman filming Rex the Wonder Horse in Utah.[3]: 10:00  Stevens helped grant Stan Laurel a film career, as the studio had trouble getting the comedian's blue eyes to register on film, but Stevens made a successful test of him using panchromatic film.[3]: 11:00–12:00  He worked as director of photography and a gag writer on 35 Laurel and Hardy short films, such as Bacon Grabbers (1929) and Night Owls (1930); according to Stevens he learned from this experience that comedy could be "graceful and human".[3]: 12:00  In 1928, he met Yvonne Howell in Oliver Hardy's home; they were married on January 1, 1930.[4] In the early 1930s, Stevens began to disagree with Roach's studio, wanting to flesh out characters rather than just make slapstick comedy. This led to a suspension and his departure from the studio.[3]: 14:00  In 1933, he directed his first feature film, The Cohens and Kellys in Trouble, for Universal Pictures.

Stevens with Barbara Bel Geddes on set of I Remember Mama (1948)

In 1934, Stevens was hired by RKO Pictures, and he directed the slapstick film Kentucky Kernels, starring Wheeler and Woolsey. His big break came when he directed Katharine Hepburn the next year in Alice Adams; according to Hepburn, Stevens felt that she got him the job.[3]: 15:00, 30:00  He would subsequently make seven films for the studio in five years.[3]: 15:00  In the late 1930s, he directed Fred Astaire and Ginger Rogers together in the musical Swing Time and separately in A Damsel in Distress and Vivacious Lady, respectively. In 1939, Stevens directed Cary Grant in the large-scale Gunga Din, costing over $1 million as RKO's most expensive film to date; though the studio feared its ballooning budget, it ended up a profitable success.[3]: 23:00, 27:00 

1940–1949 edit

Left to right: George Stevens Jr., his father, George Stevens, and composer Dimitri Tiomkin at premiere of Giant, October 11, 1956

In 1940, he directed Carole Lombard in Vigil in the Night. In 1942, he reunited with Hepburn at her behest to film Woman of the Year.[3]: 30:00  Stevens served as president of the Screen Directors Guild (SDG) from 1941 to 1943.[5] He directed the romantic comedy The More the Merrier starring Jean Arthur, Joel McCrea and Charles Coburn for which he received an Academy Award for Best Director nomination losing to Michael Curtiz for Casablanca. After seeing the Nazi propaganda film Triumph of the Will (1935), he was provoked to join the Allied forces in World War II.[5]

He joined the U.S. Army Signal Corps and headed a film unit from 1943 to 1946, under General Dwight D. Eisenhower.[6][7] His unit shot footage—including the only color film of the war in Europe (which remained archived for decades)—documenting the Normandy landings (D-Day),[3]: 47:00  the liberation of Paris,[3]: 51:00  the meeting of American and Soviet forces at the Elbe River, and the Allied discovery of both the Duben labor camp and Dachau concentration camp.[6][3]: 57:00  Stevens helped prepare the Duben and Dachau footage and other material for presentation during the Nuremberg Trials;[8] this was released as the hour-long Nazi Concentration Camps (1945).[9] In 2008, Stevens's footage was entered into the U.S. National Film Registry by the Library of Congress as an "essential visual record" of the war.[6][10] In 1946, Stevens resumed his duties as president of the SDG, remaining so until 1948.[5][2] As a result of his experiences during the war, his films became more dramatic.[3]: 59:00  The drama I Remember Mama (1948) was only partly comedic.

1950–1975 edit

In 1950, during the McCarthyist scare and related Hollywood blacklist, Stevens defended Joseph L. Mankiewicz from Cecil B. DeMille's attempt to recall him as president of the SDG.[11][5] Stevens went on to direct and earn two Academy Awards for Best Director for A Place in the Sun (1951) starring Montgomery Clift and Elizabeth Taylor, the epic Western drama Giant (1956) Elizabeth Taylor, Rock Hudson and James Dean. For those films he also earned nominations for the Golden Globe Award for Best Director.

Stevens also directed the Western Shane (1953) starring Alan Ladd and Jean Arthur, the biographical Holocaust drama The Diary of Anne Frank (1959), and his biblical epic of Jesus, The Greatest Story Ever Told (1965). In 1960 he earned the Directors Guild of America Lifetime Achievement Award. That same year he earned a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame. He ended his directing career with the 1970 romantic comedy-drama The Only Game in Town with Warren Beatty and Elizabeth Taylor. That year, he was head of the jury at the 20th Berlin International Film Festival, which ended in scandal.[12][13] In 1973, he was a member of the jury at the 8th Moscow International Film Festival.[14]

Personal life edit

During his time filming wild horses with Hal Roach Studios in Utah, Stevens bonded with the Comanche. Stevens was the father of television and film writer-producer-director George Stevens, Jr., the founder of the American Film Institute (AFI).[5] George Jr. produced and directed the documentary about his father George Stevens: A Filmmaker's Journey in 1984[5] and is the father of Stevens's grandson Michael Stevens (1966–2015), who was also a television and film producer-director.

Death edit

Stevens died following a heart attack on March 8, 1975, on his ranch in Lancaster, California, north of Los Angeles. He is interred at Forest Lawn Memorial Park in the Hollywood Hills of Los Angeles.[15]

Filmography edit

Short films edit

Year Title Production Co. Notes
1932 Who, Me? Universal Short film
1932 The Finishing Touch Universal Short film
1932 Boys Will Be Boys Universal Short film
1933 Family Troubles Universal Short film
1933 Rock-a-Bye Cowboy Universal Short film
1933 Should Crooners Marry Universal Short film
1933 Room Mates Universal Short film
1933 Quiet Please! RKO Short film
1933 What Fur RKO Short film
1933 Walking Back Home RKO Short film
1933 Grin and Bear It RKO Short film
1933 A Divorce Courtship Universal Short film
1934 Strictly Fresh Yeggs RKO Short film
1934 Cracked Shots RKO Short film

Feature films edit

Year Title Production Co. Notes
1930 Ladies Last Hal Roach Studios 3rd episode from the "Boy Friends" series
1931 Blood and Thunder Hal Roach Studios 4th episode from the "Boy Friends" series
1931 High Gear Hal Roach Studios 5th episode from the "Boy Friends" series
1931 Air-Tight Hal Roach Studios 7th episode from the "Boy Friends" series
1931 Call a Cop! Hal Roach Studios 8th episode from the "Boy Friends" series
1931 Mama Loves Papa Hal Roach Studios 9th episode from the "Boy Friends" series
1931 The Kick-Off! Hal Roach Studios 10th episode from the "Boy Friends" series
1933 The Cohens and Kellys in Trouble Universal Part of "The Cohens and Kellys" comedy series
1933 Flirting in the Park RKO Part of "The Blonde and The Redhead" comedy series
1934 Bridal Bail RKO Part of "The Blonde and The Redhead" comedy series
1934 The Undie-World RKO Part of "The Blonde and The Redhead" comedy series
1934 Rough Necking RKO Part of "The Blonde and The Redhead" comedy series
1934 Ocean Swells RKO Part of "The Blonde and The Redhead" comedy series
1935 Hunger Pains RKO Part of "The Blonde and The Redhead" comedy series
1934 Bachelor Bait RKO
1934 Kentucky Kernels RKO
1934 Hollywood Party MGM Was among 8 directors supervising sequences for the film
1935 Laddie RKO
1935 The Nitwits RKO
1935 Alice Adams RKO
1935 Annie Oakley RKO
1936 Swing Time RKO
1937 Quality Street RKO
1937 A Damsel in Distress RKO
1938 Vivacious Lady RKO
1939 Gunga Din RKO
1940 Vigil in the Night RKO
1941 Penny Serenade Columbia
1942 Woman of the Year MGM
1942 The Talk of the Town Columbia
1943 The More the Merrier Columbia
1945 That Justice Be Done War Activities Committee Documentary / Short film
1945 Nazi Concentration Camps Documentary
1948 On Our Merry Way Miracle Productions Anthology film / Co-directed a sequence
1948 I Remember Mama RKO
1951 A Place in the Sun Paramount
1952 Something to Live For Paramount
1953 Shane Paramount Technicolor film
1956 Giant Warner Bros. Warnercolor film
1959 The Diary of Anne Frank 20th Century Fox
1965 The Greatest Story Ever Told George Stevens Prod. Ultra Panavision 70 Technicolor film
1970 The Only Game in Town 20th Century Fox Color film

Archives edit

The moving image collection of George Stevens is held at the Academy Film Archive. The film material at AFI is complemented by material in the George Stevens papers at the Academy's Margaret Herrick Library.[16]

Awards and honors edit

Academy Awards

Year Award Film Result Winner Ref.
1942 Best Picture The Talk of the Town Nominated Sidney FranklinMrs. Miniver [17]
1943 The More the Merrier Nominated Hal B. WallisCasablanca [18]
Best Director Nominated Michael CurtizCasablanca
1951 Best Picture A Place in the Sun Nominated Arthur FreedAn American in Paris [19]
Best Director Won
1953 Best Picture Shane Nominated Buddy AdlerFrom Here to Eternity [20]
Best Director Nominated Fred ZinnemannFrom Here to Eternity
Irving G. Thalberg Memorial Award Received
1956 Best Motion Picture Giant Nominated Mike ToddAround the World in 80 Days [21]
Best Director Won
1959 Best Motion Picture The Diary of Anne Frank Nominated Sam ZimbalistBen-Hur (Posthumous) [22]
Best Director Nominated William WylerBen-Hur

As a lieutenant colonel in the U.S. Army, Stevens headed the Signal Corps unit that filmed D-Day and the liberation of the Dachau concentration camp. For these contributions, he was awarded the Legion of Merit.

Stevens has a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame at 1701 Vine Street. He won the Academy Award for Best Director twice, in 1951 for A Place in the Sun and in 1956 for Giant. He was also nominated in 1943 for The More the Merrier, in 1954 for Shane, and in 1959 for The Diary of Anne Frank.

He also received both the Irving G. Thalberg Memorial Award and the Lifetime Achievement Award from the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences (1954). He also received the National Board of Review Award for Best Director and the New York Film Critics Circle Award for Best Director.

References edit

  1. ^ Obituary Variety, March 12, 1975, page 79.
  2. ^ a b Barson, Michael (March 4, 2021). "George Stevens | American director". Encyclopedia Britannica. Retrieved December 1, 2021.
  3. ^ a b c d e f g h i j k l m n George Stevens: A Filmmaker's Journey (1984)
  4. ^ Slide, Anthony (2016). She Could Be Chaplin!: The Comedic Brilliance of Alice Howell. Univ. Press of Mississippi. p. 71. ISBN 978-1-4968-0844-8.
  5. ^ a b c d e f Feeney, F. X. (2016). "The Family Business - Stevens Family". Directors Guild of America. Retrieved December 1, 2021.
  6. ^ a b c "Cinematic Classics, Legendary Stars, Comedic Legends and Novice Filmmakers Showcase the 2008 Film Registry". Library of Congress. December 30, 2008. Retrieved December 1, 2021.
  7. ^ Sinyard, Neil (2019). George Stevens: The Films Of a Hollywood Giant. McFarland & Company, Inc. p. 91. ISBN 9781476636603.
  8. ^ Robert E. Conot, Justice at Nuremberg, page 197
  9. ^ "Nazi Concentration and Prison Camps". November 11, 2015. Retrieved December 1, 2021.
  10. ^ "Complete National Film Registry Listing". Library of Congress. Retrieved October 5, 2020.
  11. ^ Ulmer, James (2011). "A Guild Divided - The Effect of the Blacklist". Directors Guild of America. Retrieved December 1, 2021.
  12. ^ "Berlinale 1970: Juries". Retrieved July 27, 2020.
  13. ^ "Berlinale 1970: Yearbook". Retrieved July 27, 2020.
  14. ^ "8th Moscow International Film Festival (1973)". MIFF. Archived from the original on January 16, 2013. Retrieved December 25, 2012.
  15. ^ She Could Be Chaplin!: The Comedic Brilliance of Alice Howell
  16. ^ "George Stevens Collection". Academy Film Archive. September 4, 2014.
  17. ^ "15th Academy Awards". Retrieved July 18, 2023.
  18. ^ "16th Academy Awards". Retrieved July 18, 2023.
  19. ^ "24th Academy Awards". Retrieved July 18, 2023.
  20. ^ "26th Academy Awards". Retrieved July 18, 2023.
  21. ^ "29th Academy Awards". Retrieved July 18, 2023.
  22. ^ "32nd Academy Awards". Retrieved July 18, 2023.

Further reading edit

  • Cronin, Paul: George Stevens: Interviews. Jackson, MS, University Press of Mississippi, 2004. ISBN 1-57806-639-5
  • Moss, Marilyn Ann: Giant: George Stevens, a Life on Film. Madison, WI, University of Wisconsin Press, 2004. ISBN 0-299-20430-8
  • Petri, Bruce: A Theory of American Film: The Films and Techniques of George Stevens. New York, Taylor & Francis, 1987. ISBN 0-8240-0070-6
  • Richie, Donald: George Stevens: An American Romantic. New York, Taylor & Francis, 1984 (reprint of 1970 original). ISBN 0-8240-5773-2

External links edit

Non-profit organization positions
Preceded by President of Academy of Motion Pictures, Arts and Sciences
Succeeded by