Among his most notable films are Swing Time (1936), The More the Merrier (1943; for which he was nominated for the Best Director Oscar), A Place in the Sun (1951; for which he won the Best Director Oscar), Shane (1953; nominated for the Best Director Oscar), Giant (1956; won the Best Director Oscar), and The Diary of Anne Frank (1959; nominated for the Best Director Oscar).
George Stevens was born in Oakland, California, 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 from his parents and worked and toured with them on his path to filmmaking. He broke into the movie business as a cameraman, working on many Laurel and Hardy short films, such as Bacon Grabbers (1929) and Night Owls (1930). His first feature film was The Cohens and Kellys in Trouble in 1933.
In 1934 he got his first directing job, the slapstick Kentucky Kernels. His big break came when he directed Katharine Hepburn in Alice Adams in 1935. He went on in the late 1930s to direct several Ginger Rogers and Fred Astaire movies, not only with the two actors together, but on their own. In 1940, he directed Carole Lombard in Vigil in the Night, and the film has an alternative ending for European audiences in recognition of World War II, which at the time the U.S. had not yet entered.
During World War II, Stevens joined the U.S. Army Signal Corps and headed a film unit from 1943 to 1946, under General Eisenhower. His unit shot footage documenting D-Day—including the only Allied European Front color film of the war—the liberation of Paris and the meeting of American and Soviet forces at the Elbe River, as well as horrific scenes from the Duben labor camp and the Dachau concentration camp. Stevens also helped prepare the Duben and Dachau footage and other material for presentation during the Nuremberg Trials. In 2008, his footage was entered into the United States National Film Registry by the Library of Congress as an "essential visual record" of World War II.
One result of his World War II experiences was that his subsequent films became more dramatic. The motion picture I Remember Mama from 1948 was the last movie that he made with comic scenes. He was responsible for such classic films as A Place in the Sun, Shane, The Diary of Anne Frank, Giant and The Greatest Story Ever Told. He ended his directing career with the 1970 film The Only Game in Town with Warren Beatty and Elizabeth Taylor. In that same year, he was head of the jury at the 20th Berlin International Film Festival, which ended in scandal. In 1973 he was a member of the jury at the 8th Moscow International Film Festival.
Stevens was the father of television and film writer-producer-director George Stevens, Jr., the first CEO and director of the American Film Institute. George Jr. produced and directed the documentary about his father George Stevens: A Filmmaker's Journey in 1984 and is the father of Stevens's grandson Michael Stevens (1966–2015), who was also a television and film producer-director.
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.
As a lieutenant colonel in the United States Army, Stevens headed the U.S. Army Signal Corps unit that filmed the Normandy landings 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.
The moving image collection of George Stevens is held at the Academy Film Archive. The film material at the Academy Film Archive is complemented by material in the George Stevens papers at the Academy's Margaret Herrick Library.
- Obituary Variety, March 12, 1975, page 79.
- "George Stevens | American director". Encyclopedia Britannica. Retrieved 2019-05-18.
- Sinyard, Neil (2019). George Stevens: The Films Of a Hollywood Giant. McFarland & Company, Inc. p. 91. ISBN 9781476636603.
- Robert E. Conot, Justice at Nuremberg, page 197
- Library of Congress "Cinematic Classics, Legendary Stars, Comedic Legends and Novice Filmmakers Showcase the 2008 Film Registry" News from the Library of Congress (30 December 2008)
- "Complete National Film Registry Listing | Film Registry | National Film Preservation Board | Programs at the Library of Congress | Library of Congress". Library of Congress, Washington, D.C. 20540 USA. Retrieved 2020-10-05.
- "Berlinale 1970: Juries". berlinale.de. Retrieved 2020-07-27.
- "Berlinale 1970: Yearbook". berlinale.de. Retrieved 2020-07-27.
- "8th Moscow International Film Festival (1973)". MIFF. Archived from the original on 2013-01-16. Retrieved 2012-12-25.
- She Could Be Chaplin!: The Comedic Brilliance of Alice Howell
- "George Stevens Collection". Academy Film Archive.
- Cronin, Paul: George Stevens: Interviews. Jackson, MI, 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
|Wikimedia Commons has media related to George Stevens.|
- George Stevens at IMDb
- George Stevens: Movie Movie
- George Stevens papers, Margaret Herrick Library, Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences