Mervyn LeRoy // (October 15, 1900 – September 13, 1987) was an American film director, film producer, author, and occasional actor.
LeRoy in 1958
|Died||September 13, 1987 (aged 86)|
Beverly Hills, California, U.S.
|Resting place||Forest Lawn Memorial Park (Glendale)|
|Employer||First National Pictures (1927-1929)|
Warner Bros. (1929-1938)
Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer (1938-1945) (1948-1954)
Warner Bros. (1955-1959)
Warner LeRoy (1935–2001)
LeRoy was born on October 15, 1900 in San Francisco, to Jewish parents, Edna (née Armer) and Harry LeRoy. His family was financially ruined by the 1906 earthquake that destroyed his father's import-export business. To make money, young Mervyn sold newspapers in front of the Alcazar Theater after his dad's death in 1910. From this newspaper 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.
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." 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 Bros. after they took control of First National. When his movies made lots of money without costing too much, 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), and the classic gangster film Little Caesar (1931), which made his mark. From that point forward, LeRoy would be responsible for a diverse variety of films as a director and producer. 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, where he was responsible for the decision to make The Wizard of Oz. He was responsible for discovering Clark Gable, Loretta Young, Robert Mitchum and Lana Turner. 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 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 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. He took 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 films for Warners such as The Bad Seed, No Time for Sergeants, The FBI Story and Gypsy.
A total of 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. 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 also sold his Bel Air, Los Angeles home to Johnny Carson.
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 at age 86. He was interred in the Forest Lawn Memorial Park Cemetery in Glendale, California.
A fan of thoroughbred horse racing, Mervyn LeRoy was a founding member of the Hollywood Turf Club, operator of the Hollywood Park Racetrack and a member of the track's board of directors from 1941 until his death in 1987. In partnership with father-in-law, Harry Warner, he operated a racing stable, W-L Ranch Co., during the 1940s/50s.
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)
- Naughty Baby (1928)
- Harold Teen (1928)
- Hot Stuff (1929)
- Little Johnny Jones (1929)
- Little Caesar (1931)
- Five Star Final (1931)
- Tonight or Never (1931)
- High Pressure (1932)
- The Heart of New York (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
- Mr. Dodd Takes the Air (1937) (producer only)
- The Wizard of Oz (1939) MGM, (producer only)
- 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
- Madame Curie (1943)
- Thirty Seconds Over Tokyo (1944)
- The House I Live In (1945) co-producer and uncredited director, won Academy Award: Special
- Without Reservations (1946)
- Homecoming (1948)
- Little Women (1949) (director and producer)
- East Side, West Side (1949)
- Any Number Can Play (1949)
- Quo Vadis (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 (1958) (director and producer)
- Home Before Dark (1958) (director and producer)
- The FBI Story (1959) (director and producer)
- The Devil at 4 O'Clock (1961)
- A Majority of One (1961)
- Gypsy (1962) (director and producer)
- Mary, Mary (1963) (director and producer)
- Moment to Moment (1966) (director and producer)
- The Green Berets (1968) (uncredited co-director)
- Finler, Joel W. (April 2, 1992), The Hollywood Story (Second ed.), Mandarin, p. 458, ISBN 0-7493-0637-8
- "Producer Mervyn LeRoy dies". Lodi News-Sentinel. United Press International. September 14, 1987. p. 3. Retrieved May 12, 2017 – via Google News.
- Mervyn LeRoy – Biography, Bruce Eder, Allmovie
- Peter B. Flint (September 14, 1987). "Mervyn LeRoy, 86, Dies - Director and Producer". NYTimes.com. Retrieved September 20, 2015.
- Scodel, Ruth; Bettenworth, Anja (March 9, 2009). Whither Quo Vadis: Sienkiewicz's Novel in Film and Television - Ruth Scodel, Anja Bettenworth - Google Books. p. 215. ISBN 9781444306132. Retrieved September 20, 2015.
- Tibbetts, John C. ed. American Classic Screen Profiles, Scarecrow Press (2010) p. 175
- Hay, Peter (1991). MGM: When the Lion Roars. Georgia: Turner Publishing, Inc. pp. 169–170. via Rudolph, Kalie (June 28, 2011). "The Golden Era of Hollywood: The Making of The Wizard of Oz and Gone with the Wind". Voces Novae: Chapman University Historical Review. 3 (1). Retrieved May 12, 2017.
- Harmetz, Aljean (1977). The Making of the Wizard of Oz. New York: Alfred K. Knopf. p. 3. via Rudolph, Kalie (June 28, 2011). "The Golden Era of Hollywood: The Making of The Wizard of Oz and Gone with the Wind". Voces Novae: Chapman University Historical Review. 3 (1). Retrieved May 12, 2017.
- The Eddie Mannix Ledger, Los Angeles: Margaret Herrick Library, Center for Motion Picture Study.
- Beaupre, Lee (January 5, 1966). "Star, Producer, Director Identification With All-Time Top Grossing Features". Variety. p. 7.
- Los Angeles Times: "Kathryn LeRoy; Philanthropist, Civic Leader" February 08, 1996
- Chicago Jewish History: "Ernest Byfield: The Pump Room and The Pageant" by William Roth September 2006
- Zannella, Michael (November 25, 1974). "The Johnny Carsons". People Magazine. Archived from the original on December 19, 2017. Retrieved December 19, 2017.
- "Mervyn LeRoy | Hollywood Walk of Fame". www.walkoffame.com. Retrieved June 21, 2016.
- "Mervyn LeRoy". latimes.com. Retrieved June 21, 2016.
-  Archived February 18, 2009, at the Wayback Machine