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Rowland Vance Lee (September 6, 1891 – December 21, 1975) was an American film director, actor writer, and producer.

Rowland V. Lee
Rowland-Lee-1928.jpg
Rowland V. Lee in 1928
Born(1891-09-06)September 6, 1891
DiedDecember 21, 1975(1975-12-21) (aged 84)
OccupationActor, director, producer
RelativesRobert N. Lee (brother)[1]

BiographyEdit

Early lifeEdit

Lee was born in 1891 in Findlay, Ohio. His mother was a suffragette who founded a newspaper.[2]

Lee studied at Columbia University and served in the infantry during World War I.[3]

Acting careerEdit

Lee began as an actor. He had early appearances in Wild Winship's Widow (1917), Time Locks and Diamonds (1917), The Mother Instinct (1917), Polly Ann (1917), The Stainless Barrier (1917), The Maternal Spark (1917) and They're Off (1918).

He had a lead part in Fred Niblo's The Woman in the Suitcase (1920) and was in Water, Water, Everywhere (1920) and Dangerous Days (1920). Lee supported Hobart Bosworth in His Own Law (1920) and did another with Niblo, Her Husband's Friend (1920).

DirectingEdit

Change of professionEdit

Thomas H. Ince suggested Lee make a choice between acting and directing. Lee moved into directing starting with A Thousand to One (1920), Cupid's Brand (1921), and The Cup of Life (1921).[3]

He directed two films for former co-star Hobart Bosworth, Blind Hearts (1921) and The Sea Lion (1921).

Lee made What Ho, the Cook (1921), Money to Burn (1922), The Men of Zanzibar (1922), His Back Against the Wall (1922), A Self-Made Man (1922), Dust Flower (1922), and Mixed Faces (1922).

FoxEdit

Lee went to Fox where he directed Shirley of the Circus (1923). He directed and scripted a 1923 adaptation of the Booth Tarkington novel Alice Adams, which propelled him into the big time. He followed it with Desire (1923) at Metro.[4] He fell ill during the making of Desire.[5]

Back at Fox, Lee directed Gentle Julia (1923), another Tarkington adaptation. After Gentle Julia, Lee spent several months studying filmmaking in Europe, a practice he would continue for the next decade.[6]

Lee did You Can't Get Away with It (1923), In Love with Love (1924) with Marguerite De La Motte, and an expensive adaptation of The Man Without a Country (1925).[6][7]

Other credits included Havoc (1925), The Outsider (1926) (with Walter Pigdeon), and The Silver Treasure (1927), based on Nostromo by Joseph Conrad.[8] He also directed The Whirlwind of Youth (1927).[9]

ParamountEdit

Lee went to Paramount in 1926 where he directed Pola Negri in Barbed Wire (1927) and The Secret Hour (1928).[10] Doomsday (1928) starred Florence Vidor and Gary Cooper.[11]

Lee was reunited with Negri for Three Sinners (1928) and Loves of an Actress (1928) then did The First Kiss (1928) with Cooper and Fay Wray.[12]

In 1929, he directed The Wolf of Wall Street featuring George Bancroft.[13] He followed it with A Dangerous Woman (1929) starring Olga Baclanova, then Lee made the first sound Fu Manchu film, The Mysterious Dr. Fu Manchu (1929).[14] He spent three months touring Europe in 1929.[15]

Lee was one of many directors who contributed to the all-star revue Paramount on Parade (1930). The Return of Dr. Fu Manchu (1930) was a sequel to The Mysterious Dr Fu Manchu then Lee made Ladies Love Brutes (1930) and Derelict (1930) with Bancroft, and A Man from Wyoming (1930) with Cooper.

EnglandEdit

Lee went to Warners to make The Ruling Voice (1931) with Walter Huston. He based himself in England for the next two years where he wrote an English version script of Captain Craddock (1931), did The Guilty Generation (1931) at Columbia and That Night in London (1931) for Paramount in England; the latter starred Robert Donat.[16]

Back at Fox, Lee directed Zoo in Budapest (1933), I Am Suzanne (1933) and Gambling (1934); the latter starred George M. Cohan.[17][18]

Edward SmallEdit

Edward Small hired Lee to write and direct an adaptation of The Count of Monte Cristo (1934) for United Artists starring Donat; it was a huge success and ushered in a cycle of swashbuckling films.

Fox had merged to become 20th Century-Fox whose production head Daryl F. Zanuck hired Lee to direct one of the studios's first films, the biopic Cardinal Richelieu (1935) starring George Arliss.[19]

Lee received an offer from RKO to write and direct another swashbuckler, The Three Musketeers (1935). For United Artists he did One Rainy Afternoon (1936) and the English-shot Agatha Christie adaptation, Love from a Stranger (1937).

Back in Hollywood, Lee was reunited with Small for The Toast of New York (1937), a biopic that was a notorious flop. It was made at RKO who also financed Lee's next film, Mother Carey's Chickens (1938).

UniversalEdit

Lee signed a contract at Universal, where he directed Service de Luxe (1938). He had a big success with Son of Frankenstein (1939) starring Basil Rathbone and Boris Karloff.

Lee followed it with The Sun Never Sets (1939) with Rathbone and Douglas Fairbanks Jr, and Tower of London (1939) with Rathbone and Karloff.

Later filmsEdit

Lee made another swashbuckler for Small, The Son of Monte Cristo (1940). He returned to RKO to do Powder Town (1942), then made a film for another independent producer, Benedict Bogeaus, The Bridge of San Luis Rey (1944). Bogeaus liked Lee's work and used him on the swashbuckler Captain Kidd (1945). Lee announced he would then made a film about Robespierre[20] but he ended up retiring in 1945.

The Rowland V. Lee Ranch and later lifeEdit

Lee focused on running his ranch in the San Fernando Valley which he had bought in 1935. He raised cattle and alfalfa. In August 1940, two girls drowned in his private lake while Lee was away.[21]

He converted part of his acreage overlooking the Chatsworth Reservoir into a motion picture location. Among the films shot there were I've Always Loved You, Strangers on a Train (1951), At Sword's Point, The Night of the Hunter (1956), Friendly Persuasion (1956),The Light in the Forrest (1958) and Back Street (1961). By the early 1960s though the land had become too valuable to use as a location.[22][3][23]

Lee decided to return to filmmaking by producing The Big Fisherman from the novel by Lloyd C. Douglas. He wrote the script with Howard Estabrook and hired Frank Borzage to direct it.[24]

Lee died in 1975 in Palm Desert, California, of a heart attack at home having just finished writing a screenplay, a mystery called The Belt. He was survived by his wife, Eleanor, and brother, Donald W. Lee, a former Hollywood film writer.[3] While it has been reported incorrectly that the former Rowland V. Lee Ranch was subdivided and developed after his death, in fact development of the property began much earlier. Portions of the ranch had begun to be developed by the late 1950s, with the Corporate Pointe industrial park among the first major projects to be built in the area. Development continued throughout the 1960s, with much of the ranch becoming suburban single-family housing typical of the western San Fernando Valley. The section of the former ranch containing Lee Lake was the last major portion to be developed, becoming the gated community Hidden Lake Estates, which was completed by 1971. The lake remains intact as a part of the gated community.[23]

Lee has a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame. He was buried at Forest Lawn Memorial Park, in Glendale, California.[25]

Complete filmographyEdit

As actorEdit

  • Wild Winship's Widow (1917) - Archibald Herndon
  • Time Locks and Diamonds (1917) - Edgar Seymour
  • The Mother Instinct (1917) - Jacques
  • Polly Ann (1917) - Howard Straightlane
  • The Stainless Barrier (1917) - Richard Shelton
  • The Maternal Spark (1917) - Howard Helms
  • They're Off (1918) - Randolph Manners
  • The Woman in the Suitcase (1920) - W.H. 'Billy' Fiske
  • Water, Water, Everywhere (1920) - Arthur Gunther
  • Dangerous Days (1920) - Graham Spencer
  • His Own Law (1920) - Jean Saval
  • Her Husband's Friend (1920) - Billy Westover (final film role)

As directorEdit

Key:

P : also producer
W : also writer
P, W : also producer and writer

As producerEdit

As writerEdit

See AlsoEdit

ReferencesEdit

  1. ^ "Bessie Love Will Have Leading Role With Arthur Trimble". Exhibitors Trade Review: 1175. September 30, 1922.
  2. ^ "Woman paper founder to be buried today". Los Angeles Times. June 10, 1953.
  3. ^ a b c d "Rowland Lee, 84, Of Films Is Dead". The New York Times. December 22, 1975.
  4. ^ "Silencer Saves Day For Star". Los Angeles Times. February 11, 1923.
  5. ^ "Convalescing". Los Angeles Times. April 1, 1923.
  6. ^ a b "Director Advances With "Man Without Country"". Los Angeles Times. July 13, 1924.
  7. ^ "He's Gripped By Booster Spirit". Los Angeles Times. March 29, 1925.
  8. ^ "George O'Brien To Sheik In Fox Film". Los Angeles Times. June 17, 1925.
  9. ^ M. H. (June 6, 1927). "Soundings". The New York Times.
  10. ^ G. Kingsley (December 22, 1928). "Director Renews With Lasky". Los Angeles Times.
  11. ^ "Pola's New Vehicle Set In Blossoms". The Washington Post. February 18, 1928.
  12. ^ G. Kingsley (June 22, 1927). "Pola Negri's Next Chosen". Los Angeles Times.
  13. ^ Martin Fridson (December 26, 2013). "The Non-Original Wolf Of Wall Street". Forbes. Retrieved April 12, 2014.
  14. ^ "Baclanova To Lead Cast In Talking Film". The Washington Post. January 20, 1929.
  15. ^ "Actress lands long contract". Los Angeles Times. July 28, 1929.
  16. ^ "He Returned". Daily Standard (6453). Queensland, Australia. September 21, 1933. p. 7. Retrieved January 25, 2018 – via National Library of Australia.
  17. ^ "News Items Of The Studios". The New York Times. March 5, 1933.
  18. ^ "Puppets, Dangling From Her Finger Tips". Los Angeles Times. December 24, 1933.
  19. ^ "The Regent". The Argus (27, 923). Victoria, Australia. February 17, 1936. p. 5. Retrieved January 25, 2018 – via National Library of Australia.
  20. ^ E. Schallert (November 5, 1945). "Robespierre story soon to be narrated". Los Angeles Times.
  21. ^ "Two girls drown in private lake". Los Angeles Times. August 29, 1940.
  22. ^ H. Sutherland (June 4, 1967). "Movie ranch becomes residential community". Los Angeles Times.
  23. ^ a b "Rowland V. Lee Ranch". Movie Sites.
  24. ^ Thomas M. Pryor (October 24, 1957). "Film Team Seeks Aid Of Psychology". The New York Times.
  25. ^ Resting Places
  26. ^ Workman, Christopher; Howarth, Troy (2016). "Tome of Terror: Horror Films of the Silent Era". Midnight Marquee Press. p.253.ISBN 978-1936168-68-2.

External linksEdit