George Fitzmaurice (Who’s Who at MGM, 1937) 🇺🇸

January 07, 2022

Biography — George Fitzmaurice received his education in private schools and academies in Paris, where he was born on February 13. With a B. A. degree and a yearning to paint, George fixed up a studio, only to abandon it for a trip to London,

Since he had plenty of money, he decided on a trip to New York. Tiring of too much leisure time, he became a scenario writer, editor, chief cutter and production manager for Pathe—all for $35 a week.

George admits that he borrowed “Romeo and Juliet” for most of his stories and dressed them sometimes in Bond Street clothes or chaps and sombreros.

“Moonstone” His First

Fitzmaurice declares with a laugh that he actually became a director “on account of a dead pigeon.” The picture was “Ticket of Leave Man.”

“One scene,” he said, “concerned a message tied to the foot of an albatross. It was vital to the plot. The albatross scene was shot before the bird was. Accordingly, when the moment came for the hero to shoot the albatross, he banged into the air—and from the roof a property man tossed a dead pigeon.

“That settled me as a writer and production boss. I made up my mind to become a director.”

He added that “other details” bore on his decision, but that he has always considered the albatross incident as his “luckiest break.”

His first effort was Wilkie Collins’ “Moonstone” at the old Pathé plant in Jersey City.

“Good old ‘Moonstone’,” he says of the venerable opus. “That story was the first effort of about all the directors of the earlier days. I wanted to be original, so I had an unknown cast. My star was Billie Rozelle, the Robert Montgomery of his day.

When sound pictures came in, he directed “The Sign on the Door” for Joseph Schenck. His later successes include “On With the Dance”, “The Dark Angel”, “Peter Ibbetson”, The Barker, Lilac Time, “Love Mart”, “Tiger Rose”, “Sailor Beware”, “The Unholy Garden,” “Strangers May Kiss,” Mata Hari, “As You Desire Me”, Suzy, and The Emperor’s Candlesticks. His most recent was Live, Love and Learn,” co-starring Robert Montgomery and Rosalind Russell.

Eyes Tell the Story

Fitzmaurice is well known for his study of the expressional powers in the eyes of actresses. He believes that an accomplished actress can portray any emotion without the aid of other facial expressions if she has properly developed the expressional powers of her eyes.

Fitzmaurice still spends much of his leisure time before an easel or painting landscapes. He believes that keeping his artist’s eye in practice aids him in directing his pictures. He also devotes part of his spare time to writing and his ambition is to write a really great biographical novel. His favorite sport is football and he likes tennis for exercise.

Directed Garbo Twice

He has twice directed Greta Garboin Mata Hari and “As You Desire Me,” and his greatest ambition is to again direct Garbo in “A Woman From Spain,” a story that is now owned by Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer.

His method of direction is very methodical and sometimes he will take a scene over twenty times to get the effect he wants. He welcomes discussions with the stars between scenes and never hesitates to accept someone’s suggestions if they improve the scene. An indefatigable worker, Fitzmaurice drinks about ten pots of tea during a day’s work. He spends his lunch hours in conference with the producer and devotes his evenings to studying the “rushes” of the day’s work.

Source: Who’s Who at Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer, 1937