Men Behind the Stars — E. H. Griffith (1936) 🇺🇸
Director of “Ladies In Love”
Reserved and unassuming, but with a determination and strength of purpose lying behind china-blue eyes, Edward H. Griffith, a mere youth when he started back in the silent days, first came into prominence in Hollywood when he discovered the modern trend of entertainment, known as “high comedy,” which he has emphasized in his subtle productions such as “Holiday,” “Rebound,” “Another Language,” “Biography of a Bachelor Girl,” “No More Ladies,” “Next Time We Love” and his current production, “Ladies in Love,” with an all-star cast which includes Janet Gaynor, Loretta Young, Simone Simon, Constance Bennett, Don Ameche, Paul Lukas and Alan Mowbray.
Griffith’s “new” idea of modern, well-informed picturizations of modern people and their problems, met opposition from all sides. Not to be licked, he put his entire energy to that aim. His argument was sound and eventually he proved his point. When, in 1930, Pathé agreed to produce his first story, Holiday, starring Ann Harding, the results spoke loudly, in large round figures. People lined up at the box-office in the hinterlands as well as in the big cities... crying for more. It was then he was acknowledged to be the foremost original and resourceful director in Hollywood.
It is a known fact that he has never dismissed that early argument of the producers: “Too ritzy — reserved for the classes.” And, just to be sure that he doesn’t lose his perspective he sends his servants to the previews of each new picture he directs and listens carefully to their reactions.
A six-footer, broad of shoulder, with the bronzed features of an athlete, Griffith impresses one with that perfection of masculinity that should be before the camera instead of behind it. But as far as anyone can discover, he has never squandered a single thought in that direction. A natural, uninhibited, regular type of person, “Ned,” as he is known to his friends, is one of the most popular as well as most skilled directors in filmland. He has never been evoked to temperamental outbursts, nor have the most glamorous of stars while at work on his sets.
When directing a picture, he imbues his casts, first of all, with confidence, a trust in him and his faith in them. Immediately his co-workers are at ease and the play is off to a happy start. Although he is one of the most demanding directors on the screen or stage, he obtains his best results through suggestion, rather than direction in the strict sense of that word. He selects his casts with care. They must be artists, experienced or otherwise possessing an instinctive genius. They must have complete understanding and sympathy for the role to which they are assigned. His demands on suitable screen stories are equally rigid. Primarily, there must be a story to tell, and he must believe in it enough to want to tell it — entertainingly.
He is one of the few directors with a consistency for handing out bouquets. He admits quite frankly that he is an ardent admirer of Jeanette MacDonald, considering her as gifted an actress as she is a singer. He also confesses that he would like to have the honor of directing Greta Garbo, Irene Dunne and Merle Oberon.
Early ambitions, struggles and discouragements on “the way up” Griffith prefers to dismiss into the yesterday and discuss with enthusiasm his plans for today. It is this same looking forward policy, this courage for new convictions, that has won him his reputation.
Despite the acclaim which has been his, he still has one unfulfilled ambition. He wants to write plays. Disregarding the encouragement of friends and associates, he clings to the opinion that no man should both direct and write at the same time — and most definitely that no director should try to produce anything he has written.
“Either profession is too big for any man to try to excel in both,” he says. But undoubtedly he will turn his creative skill to the pen one day. It is logical that he should, for he was once a crack feature writer for the Hearst papers and started his motion picture career as a scenario writer for the old Edison studios. It is our wish, however, that he continue to entertain us with the same “high comedy” in which he excels.
E. H. Griffith’s directorial eye is on Simone Simon and Paul Lukas while cameras click this scene in “Ladies in Love”.
Source: Motion Picture, December 1936