Men Behind the Stars — Mervyn LeRoy (1937) 🇺🇸

Mervyn LeRoy |

January 17, 2022

At no time in history has an harassed and weary World called so loudly for Leaders. And Hollywood, being, after all, a part of the World, now more than ever, does “Stop, Look and Listen” for inspired Youth to seize the torch from the faltering hands of aging Pioneers. With this scene set, enter... Mervyn LeRoy!

Director of “Three Men on a Horse”

They say “youth must be served.” But first, youth must serve. Both truths apply to the bold, brilliant young man, who, at thirty-six, is writing “Finis” to one career of achievement to attain greater accomplishment in broader, greener fields. The last chapter of Volume I closes with Three Men on a Horse. The initial paragraphs of Volume II will be devoted to “The King and the Chorus Girl.”

The former film is directed by Mervyn LeRoy. The latter is a Mervyn LeRoy Production. Therein lies the difference. LeRoy’s great departure is in his transition from director to producer. Ranking with Lubitsch, Capra, and the other two-time winners of Best Ten Picture critic polls, LeRoy leaves distinguished ranks to assume leadership.

The variety of past contributions to the screen marks him with unequalled versatility of genius. He has coupled such hard-hitting drama as Little Caesar with the frivolities of a “Gold Diggers” extravaganza. A prize for public service should have signalized Caesar, for it awoke society and broke gangsterism. And the Gold Diggers series remains among the greatest of money-making productions.

Some men have “head,” others “heart.” LeRoy possesses both. The simple humanity of a “Tugboat Annie” is as much within his realm as the headlong complications of an Anthony Adverse. The grimness of an I Am a Fugitive From a Chain Gang was limned by the same skilled hand that portrayed the gaiety of “Happiness Ahead.” Such diverse canvases as Five Star Final and “Page Miss Glory” demonstrate the scope of the LeRoy talents.

With his announcement that he would turn producer, mental reference to his record brought offers from every Grade A studio in Hollywood — and London. Because their proposition suited him best, he arranged a Warner Brothers release for Mervyn LeRoy Productions. And not because he happens to be happily wed to the clever and charming Doris Warner. In business Harry Warner was the head of a corporation, not the grandfather of his child. He separates “heart” from “head” in more ways than one.

Since leaving the newsboy haunts of San Francisco for the vaudeville stage, the producer has served the motion picture industry in all its varied phases from lowliest to top. Many remember him in early days, and although he has eclipsed them all, none resent his success. In a community jaundiced by jealousies, he is universally respected, admired and beloved. Wealthy, he retains the simplicity, the democracy, the geniality that have distinguished his rise. His door, his purse and his heart are always open.

Though a director and a producer, LeRoy credits neither of these functionaries with primary importance in the making of a motion picture. Nor is he inclined to load a star with laurels. What counts most, he says, is story. A poor tale cannot be made into a good picture by the best of stars, directors or producers. LeRoy agrees with the Warner Brothers’ author, Will Shakespeare, that the play is the thing.

Not a star worshipper, he has discovered and developed his share of cinema celebrities. Latest of these is Fernand Gravet, Continental idol, who, sought by many, succumbed to the LeRoy lure simply in admiration of his screen achievements and for the pleasure of sharing his accomplishment in Mervyn LeRoy Productions. He is the producer’s first “very own” star, and will make an American debut in “The King and the Chorus Girl.”

Thoroughly prepared for his new career, LeRoy already has acquired several carefully chosen stories, and in Margaret Irving, portrayer of the blonde honky-tonker in San Francisco, at least one definite picture personality. As necessary and advisable other troupers will be placed under LeRoy contract as well as writers and directors. LeRoy Marches On!

Mervyn LeRoy has proven himself a directorial genius with his job on “Three Men on a Horse.” The cinema is even more hilarious than the play

Source: Motion Picture MagazineFebruary 1937