Men Behind the Stars — Tay Garnett (1937) 🇺🇸

Tay Garnett |

January 17, 2022

Director Tay Garnett, whose “Slave Ship” is the season’s sea-thriller, is a native son of California. But his ancestry is Irish. And perhaps this accounts for the adventurous blood in his veins. Before he found film fame, indeed before he ever saw a motion picture camera, Garnett, whose name is pronounced like the jewel, was an actor, an artist, an author and an aviator. Not to mention his stint as a thorough-going newspaperman and a sailor of the bounding main.

Director of “Slave Ship”

Garnett’s love for the sea is evidenced by his recent world cruise aboard his yacht Athene, and it is also reflected in his pictures. For beside “Slave Ship,” he has contributed to the screen such outstanding cinemas as “S.O.S. Iceberg,” “Destination Unknown,” China Seas and “One Way Passage.” The latter picture has the distinction of having played a return engagement on Broadway a full five years after its first showing.

But Tay is not strictly or solely a “sea-going” director. He practically started the newspaper columnist cycle with “Okay, America,” which cinemactor Walter Winchell proclaims the best of all columnist characterizations. And he brought the Frankie and Johnny saga to the screen as “Her Man.” A production which ran for three years in Paris and grossed a 700% profit for its makers. His newspaper experience stood him in good stead when he directed “Love is News,” and his acting adventure helped in the making of his next release, Stand-In.

Garnett’s entrance into motion pictures came through a book he wrote while flying as a war-time aviator. Hollywood sent for him and he wrote comedy for Mack Sennett and Hal Roach. Harry Langdon’s greatest success, “The Strong Man,” bore the Garnett hallmark. Later he was signed by Cecil B. DeMille, and worked on the script of “White Gold,” so memorable a movie that it is being re-made at the London studios of Alexander Korda.

Tay’s first directorial effort was “Celebrity,” a story based on the career of Gene Tunney.

His future productions will include three titled “World Cruise,” “Trade Winds” and “Singapore Bound.” And for these he filmed background during his exciting sail around the world. It is probable that one of these will mark Director Garnett’s transition into a full-fledged producer, a Tay Garnett Production made for the newly formed company of Renowned Artists and released by United Artists.

Garnett’s wanderlust led him to romance when, upon one of his roamings, he stopped long enough in London to witness a performance of Chariot’s Revue. One of the principal actresses in the show was Helga Moray, and by the time Tay had visited the theatre a dozen times he had convinced Miss Moray to become Mrs. Garnett. Now she accompanies him on all his wanderings and has become an expert cameraman, filming strange scenes on the travels which will one day entertain and thrill you on the screen.

This candid camera catching of foreign footage is more exciting than it sounds, and not a little perilous. For instance, in the crowded interiors of China, Indo-China, Malaysia, India and other far-off places, Tay and Helga have frequently faced native mobs that might easily have turned dangerous. But Director Garnett has seen too much life and action to be turned aside. He thrives on adventure and delights in sharing it with you in his pictures. Perhaps it’s the Irish in him.

Meeting Tay Garnett you might mistake him for a banker, an important executive or a visiting nobleman, or even for one of the actors on the set, for he is always formally dressed. He doesn’t affect the nonchalance other directors do. No riding clothes, open collar or polo shirt for Tay, he is usually seen wearing his hat and with a walking stick in his right hand. He is so meticulous in* his dress that we wouldn’t be surprised if he dons a dinner jacket at eight even if he is dining alone under the stars somewhere in the Malay jungle. Here is a native of Hollywood who hasn’t gone Hollywood.

Tay Garnett instructs Elizabeth Allan and Warner Baxter just how he wants a scene played in that salty “Slave Ship”.

Source: Motion Picture, October 1937