Robert Z. Leonard (Who’s Who at MGM, 1937) 🇺🇸
A graduate of the musical comedy stage, Robert Z. Leonard has an enviable record of directorial hits, both silent and talking. He has been nominated by the trade papers as being one of the most consistent directors of box-office successes in the business. In point of service, he is now the oldest director in the business.
Leonard was born in Chicago on October 7, the son of a railroad executive. Lillian Russell was a second cousin. He studied to be a mining engineer at the University of Colorado. However, he determined on a theatrical career after he received fine notices when he sang as one of a high school quartette in Denver. He made his stage debut as a super in a Denver production of Anna Held’s “Little Duchess.” His tenor voice and comedy ability put him in featured musical comedy leads all over America, beginning with Trixie Friganza and including road shows with the Shuberts and Oliver Morosco.
Started With Selig
His first contact with pictures was in 1910 when he went to Los Angeles as a featured comedian in the Ferris Hartman musical comedy company. He joined the Selig pictures company under Director Francis Boggs to make “The Courtship of Miles Standish,” in which he played John Alden, and was starred by Selig in a long series of comedies until he was made a director in 1917.
Some of his silent directorial successes include “Mlle. Midnight,” “The French Doll,” “Miracles of Love,” “The Restless Sex,” “Circe, the Enchantress,” ‘Mademoiselle Modiste,” “Adam and Evil,” “Peacock Alley” and “Jazzmania.”
Music His Hobby
Among the talking picture hits which Leonard has directed for Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer are “Marianne,” “The Bachelor Father,” “It’s a Wise Child,” “The Divorcee,” “Let Us Be Gay,” “Susan Lennox, Her Fall and Rise,” “Lovers Courageous,” “Peg O’ My Heart,” “Strange Interlude,” “Dancing Lady,” “Outcast Lady,” ‘After Office Hours,” “Escapade,” The Great Ziegfeld, “Piccadilly Jim,” “Maytime,” The Firefly” and “Girl of the Golden West.”
Beginning his own career in musical comedies, he has enjoyed his greatest screen success in directing the same medium, and frankly confesses that in such pictures as the Academy Award winner, “The Great Ziegfeld,” “Maytime” and “The Firefly,” with Jeanette MacDonald, Allan Jones and Warren William, he is “reliving his youth.” He will continue directing musicals, he says, as long as the public will go to see them.
He is more than six feet tall, weighs 200 pounds and has red hair. His favorite sport is golf and he composes music as a hobby. Due to his extremely engaging disposition, he has an amazingly smooth and even manner of drawing emotions from a player.
Leonard is married to Gertrude Olmsted, noted actress of silent pictures and despite the penchant of Hollywood stars and directors for spacious mansions, they continue to live in a relatively small apartment.
Leonard is noted in Hollywood for his constant good nature while working behind the camera, no one being able to recall a time when anything happening on the set caused him the slightest perturbation. To this peculiar quality is given much of the credit for his deft handling of the screen’s most temperamental women stars and the unexcelled results he achieves with them.
One of his highest ambitions is to take at least two years off from his screen work and spend it traveling to out-of-the-way places throughout the world.