Leo Mccarey


Director
Leo Mccarey

About

Also Known As
Thomas Leo Mccarey
Birth Place
Los Angeles, California, USA
Born
October 03, 1898
Died
July 05, 1969
Cause of Death
Emphysema

Biography

"I was a problem child, and problem children do the seemingly insane because they are trying to find out how to fit into the scheme of things," Leo McCarey once said. Born and raised in Los Angeles, this oldest son of a sports promoter tried his hand at various jobs before finally finding his calling working in the then-fledgling motion picture industry. McCarey attended high school with...

Photos & Videos

An Affair to Remember - Movie Posters
Belle of the Nineties - Behind-the-Scenes Photos
Love Affair (1939) - Scene Stills

Family & Companions

Stella Martin
Wife
Married in July 1920; high school sweetheart.

Biography

"I was a problem child, and problem children do the seemingly insane because they are trying to find out how to fit into the scheme of things," Leo McCarey once said. Born and raised in Los Angeles, this oldest son of a sports promoter tried his hand at various jobs before finally finding his calling working in the then-fledgling motion picture industry. McCarey attended high school with future filmmakers Tay Garnett and David Butler and briefly had a career as an amateur middleweight boxer. While attending law school at USC, he was involved in a freak elevator accident. Taking the $5,000 he collected in damages, he invested in a copper mine that went bust. After graduating, McCarey worked in a law firm in San Francisco and then opened his own short-lived practice in his hometown. With the failure of his law practice, Leo McCarey turned to vaudeville, writing sketches and songs but that too proved futile. Old friend David Butler interceded and introduced him to Tod Browning. Browning hired him as an assistant and McCarey gradually worked his way up from "script boy" to assistant director. The veteran helmer even allowed him to direct Lon Chaney in one sequence of "Outside the Law" (1921) and was instrumental in his hiring to direct Universal's "Society Secrets" (1921). The results were less than stellar, however, and once again McCarey found himself considered a failure.

In 1923, McCarey caught a break when he was hired as a gag writer and director at Hal Roach Studios. Put to work almost immediately, he wrote scripts for the "Our Gang" films and was paired with comedian Charley Chase for numerous two-reel shorts. McCarey was so successful that within two years, he had been promoted to vice president and supervised the studio's entire two-reel output. Purportedly, he was the idea man behind one of the most successful screen pairings in American cinema history: Stan Laurel and Oliver Hardy. Three of their many films together, "We Faw Down" (1928), "Liberty" and "Wrong Again" (both 1929), were directed by McCarey. By 1929, he felt secure in his abilities and yearned to undertake features, so he resigned from Roach Studios to work freelance.

After stumbling with his first two full-length movies ("The Sophomore" 1929 and "Red Hot Rhythm" 1930), McCarey found success with the Paramount musical "Let's Go Native" (1930). That same year, he also helmed the genial domestic comedy "Part-Time Wife" about a woman so consumed with golf that her husband takes up the sport to save their marriage. Based on that hit, Gloria Swanson approved McCarey as director of "Indiscreet" (1931), Reportedly the script was not in good shape and McCarey re-wrote it in ten days. If that apocryphal story is true it may account for the flatness of this vehicle. He nevertheless remained in demand and was tapped to guide the Eddie Cantor starrer "The Kid From Spain" (1932), which has not aged as well as some of his other work, before agreeing to sign with Paramount, in part because the studio promised him opportunities to helm more dramatic fare.

Ironically, his first assignment at the studio was a comedy, "Duck Soup" (1933), starring the Marx Brothers. Considered one of the best films to feature the zany antics of the comedians, it was typical of the director's work in that he brought a spontaneity and individuality to the anarchic stories. In general, the protagonist (or protagonists) is pushed to expose the contradictions of his or her (or their) beliefs. Although the films are comedic, there is also an undercurrent that treads the fine line between sentiment and melodrama. McCarey tends to manage to toe that line and thus the films retain their freshness some fifty years later. Despite the revisionist take on "Duck Soup," the film was unsuccessful in its initial release. Persevering, McCarey went on to deal with two other comic geniuses, W C Fields in "Six of a Kind" and Mae West in "Belle of the Nineties" (both 1934). One of the director's best efforts was the third remake of "Ruggles of Red Gap" (1935) with Charles Laughton, Charles Ruggles and ZaSu Pitts. Eliciting Laughton's most successful comic performance in this tale of a British manservant who is lost to a millionaire in a poker game, it is the quintessential "fish-out-of-water" tale. He followed with "The Milky Way" (1936), featuring Harold Lloyd as a milkman who is mistaken as prizefighter. Undoubtedly, the fight promoter embodied by Adolphe Menjou possessed more than a passing resemblance to McCarey's father.

For his dream project, "Make Way for Tomorrow" (1937), an adaptation of Josephine Lawrence's novel "The Years Are So Long" about a elderly couple forced by circumstances to turn to their children for assistance. McCarey ran afoul of the studio, Paramount believed the material was not box-office and was reluctant to bankroll the picture. The director went off salary to make what he considered his most personal film. Featuring tour-de-force work from old pros Victor Moore and Beulah Bondi, "Make Way for Tomorrow" was a flop, yet McCarey undercut the inherent sentimentality with a bracing humor and, except for some awkward visuals, the film retains its power. It is also one of the rare instances where a Hollywood movie focused on issues of aging. Although it won respectful notices, its failure to earn money caused the studio to fire McCarey.

Once again a free agent, he was offered an opportunity at Columbia which had just seen the defection of Frank Capra. Harry Cohn hired McCarey to helm the third remake of "The Awful Truth" (1937). The result is one of the most entertaining of the screwball comedies, meticulously acted with comic precision by Cary Grant, Irene Dunne and Ralph Bellamy. Ironically, the director accepted the job solely for the money and was reportedly not interested in the material as written. Encouraging the actors to improvise, the film has a sped up pace and quality that came to be the hallmark of screwball. One of the year's top-grossing motion pictures, the film received five Academy Award nominations and earned an Oscar for McCarey. Now firmly established, he signed a contract with RKO and made one of his most famous romances, "Love Affair" (1939). A shipboard romance between a gigolo (Charles Boyer) and a singer (Irene Dunne), the film begins as a comedy before veering into melodrama. Somehow, McCarey's alchemy worked as he blended what could have been either a sentimental love story or a light comedy into a stellar concoction.

The 40s brought misfortune though. Injured in a 1939 car accident and confined to a wheelchair, McCarey could only serve as producer on a reteaming of Grant and Dunne in "My Favorite Wife" (1940). Between 1940 and 1942, he was involved in protracted litigation with Howard Hughes over a project that never got made and returned behind the camera on "Once Upon a Honeymoon" (1942), an odd hybrid of comedy and drama featuring Ginger Rogers as burlesque star who marries a secret Nazi agent (Walter Slezak) and is rescued by a radio reporter (Cary Grant). By mid-decade, however, McCarey was to create one of his most enduring films, the Oscar-winning "Going My Way" (1944). Although it is often dismissed as sentimental claptrap because it features a singing priest, the film is not simpleminded nor uncritical. A popular success the film spawned a sequel "The Bells of St. Mary's" (1945) for which McCarey formed Rainbow Productions (which he later sold to Paramount).

From 1940 on, McCarey's output slowed, often with several years passing between projects. Reportedly he was battling alcoholism and an addiction to painkillers. The handful of features he made after winning his second Academy Award are of varying quality and tended more toward the sentimental than his earlier work. In the 50s, McCarey was a virulent anti-Communist (even testifying voluntarily before the House Committee on Un-American Activities). He produced and directed the melodramatic "My Son John" (1951) about parents who gradually come to realize that their son is a Communist spy. Of his later films, only "An Affair to Remember" (1957), a remake of his own "Love Affair," stands out. While the story hued to the original, with Cary Grant and Deborah Kerr in the leading roles, it proved less poignant. His final film was "Satan Never Sleeps" (1962), another anti-Communist tale about a young priest clashing with his superior that played as a riff on "Going My Way." The legacy of Leo McCarey has divided critics, many of whom seem to concur that he was better at creating isolated moments than crafting great movies. Still, he made important contributions to comedy and a handful of his films have retained their capacity to touch the viewer's emotions.

Filmography

 

Director (Feature Film)

Satan Never Sleeps (1962)
Director
Rally 'Round the Flag, Boys! (1959)
Director
An Affair to Remember (1957)
Director
My Son John (1952)
Director
Good Sam (1948)
Director
The Bells of St. Mary's (1945)
Director
Going My Way (1944)
Director
Once Upon a Honeymoon (1942)
Director
Love Affair (1939)
Director
Make Way for Tomorrow (1937)
Director
The Awful Truth (1937)
Director
The Milky Way (1936)
Director
Ruggles of Red Gap (1935)
Director
Belle of the Nineties (1934)
Director
Six of a Kind (1934)
Director
Duck Soup (1933)
Director
The Kid from Spain (1932)
Director
Indiscreet (1931)
Director
Wild Company (1930)
Director
Part Time Wife (1930)
Director
Let's Go Native (1930)
Director
The Sophomore (1929)
Director
Red Hot Rhythm (1929)
Director
Why Is a Plumber? (1929)
Director
The Unkissed Man (1929)
Director
Tell' em Nothing (1926)
Director
Mums the Word (1926)
Director
Dog Shy (1926)
Director
Innocent Husbands (1925)
Director
Caretaker's Daughter, The (1925)
Director
Bad Boy (1925)
Director
What Price Goofy? (1925)
Director
Isn't Life Terrible (1925)
Director
No Woman Knows (1921)
Assistant Director
Society Secrets (1921)
Director
The Virgin of Stamboul (1920)
Assistant Director
Outside the Law (1920)
Assistant Director

Cast (Feature Film)

The Big Show (1957)

Writer (Feature Film)

Love Affair (1994)
Story By
Love Affair (1994)
From Story
Move Over, Darling (1963)
Original Story
Satan Never Sleeps (1962)
Screenwriter
Rally 'Round the Flag, Boys! (1959)
Screenwriter
An Affair to Remember (1957)
Original Story
An Affair to Remember (1957)
Screenwriter
My Son John (1952)
Screenwriter
My Son John (1952)
Story
Good Sam (1948)
Story
The Bells of St. Mary's (1945)
Story
Going My Way (1944)
Story
Once Upon a Honeymoon (1942)
Story
My Favorite Wife (1940)
Original Story
Love Affair (1939)
Story
The Cowboy and the Lady (1938)
Original Story
Indiscreet (1931)
[Wrt] by
Locuras de amor (1930)
Screenwriter
Part Time Wife (1930)
Screenwriter
Locuras de amor (1930)
Original Story
Part Time Wife (1930)
Dial
Red Hot Rhythm (1929)
Story

Producer (Feature Film)

Satan Never Sleeps (1962)
Producer
Rally 'Round the Flag, Boys! (1959)
Producer
My Son John (1952)
Producer
Good Sam (1948)
Producer
The Bells of St. Mary's (1945)
Producer
Once Upon a Honeymoon (1942)
Producer
My Favorite Wife (1940)
Producer

Music (Feature Film)

What Happens in Vegas (2008)
Song
How To Lose a Guy in 10 Days (2003)
Song
Sleepless In Seattle (1993)
Song
Satan Never Sleeps (1962)
Composer
Rally 'Round the Flag, Boys! (1959)
Composer
An Affair to Remember (1957)
Composer
My Son John (1952)
Composer
Belle of the Nineties (1934)
Composer

Production Companies (Feature Film)

Satan Never Sleeps (1962)
Company
Going My Way (1944)
Company
My Favorite Wife (1940)
Company
Love Affair (1939)
Company
Make Way for Tomorrow (1937)
Company
The Awful Truth (1937)
Company

Misc. Crew (Feature Film)

Hearts and Minds (1975)
Other

Director (Special)

Meet the Governor (1955)
Director
Tom and Jerry (1955)
Director

Writer (Special)

Meet the Governor (1955)
Writer
Tom and Jerry (1955)
Writer

Special Thanks (Special)

Meet the Governor (1955)
Writer
Tom and Jerry (1955)
Writer

Director (Short)

Big Business (1929)
Director
Liberty (1929)
Director
The Way of All Pants (1927)
Director
Be Your Age (1926)
Director
Charley My Boy! (1926)
Director

Writer (Short)

Night Owls (1930)
Writer (Uncredited)
Tiembla Y Titubea ("Below Zero", Spanish) (1930)
Writer
Hog Wild (1930)
Writer (Uncredited)
Ladrones ("Night Owls", Spanish) (1930)
Writer
La Vida Nocturna (1930)
Writer
Below Zero (1930)
Story By
Fast Work (1930)
Story By
Double Whoopee (1929)
Story By
Sky Boy (1929)
Writer
Snappy Sneezer (1929)
Story By
Berth Marks (1929)
Writer (Uncredited)
Men O' War (1929)
Writer (Uncredited)
Big Business (1929)
Writer
The Big Squawk (1929)
From Story
Perfect Day (1929)
Writer
Angora Love (1929)
Story By
Bacon Grabbers (1929)
Writer (Uncredited)
Liberty (1929)
Writer
The Boy Friend (1928)
Story By
Let George Do It (1928)
Writer
Putting Pants on Phillip (1927)
Story By
The Second 100 Years (1927)
From Story

Misc. Crew (Short)

Big Business (1929)
Supervisor
Angora Love (1929)
Supervisor
You're Darn Tootin' (1928)
Supervisor
The Finishing Touch (1928)
Supervisor
Assistant Wives (1927)
Supervisor
Putting Pants on Phillip (1927)
Supervisor

Life Events

1916

Opened own law offices in Los Angeles; soon after, proved unsuccessful and closed down

1918

After trying to sell songs, entered films (with help of friend David Butler), worked as assistant script supervisor to Tod Browning

1921

Directed one sequence in "Outside the Law", helmed by Tod Browning

1921

Isloated feature directing debut, "Society Secrets"

1923

Joined Hal Roach studios, turning out numerous shorts beginning with "Publicity Pays" (1924)

1926

Named vice president in charge of production at Roach

1929

Left Roach to work freelance

1930

Helmed first dramatic film "Wild Company"

1931

Directed Gloria Swanson in "Indiscreet"; reportedly rewrote the script just ten days before filming

1934

Guided an all-star cast including Burns and Allen, Charles Ruggles and W C Fields in "Six of a Kind"

1934

Helmed "Belle of the Nineties", written and starring Mae West

1935

Had success with "Ruggles of Red Gap", starring Charles Laughton

1936

Continued with comedies, directing Harold LLoyd in "The Milky Way"

1937

Offered to go off salary to be allowed to film "Make Way for Tomorrow"; when film proved a boxoffice failure, fired by Paramount

1937

Hired by Columbia for one-shot directing gig; won first Best Director Oscar for the screwball comedy "The Awful Truth", starring Irene Dunne and Cary Grant

1939

First film for RKO, "Love Affair", starring Charles Boyer and Irene Dunne

1939

Injured in a car accident

1940

Due to injuries, served as producer on "My Favorite Wife", reteaming Dunne and Grant

1944

Received second Best Director Oscar for "Going My Way", starring Bing Crosby

1945

Named "top employee in the country," having earned in one year a salary of $1,113,035

1952

Helmed the anti-Communist propaganda film "My Son John", with Helen Hayes

1957

Remade "Love Affair" as "An Affair to Remember", teaming Cary Grant and Deborah Kerr

1962

Final film, "Satan Never Sleeps"

Photo Collections

An Affair to Remember - Movie Posters
Here are a few original-release American movie posters from Leo McCarey's An Affair to Remember (1957), starring Cary Grant and Deborah Kerr.
Belle of the Nineties - Behind-the-Scenes Photos
Belle of the Nineties - Behind-the-Scenes Photos
Love Affair (1939) - Scene Stills
Here are a few scene stills from Love Affair (1939), directed by Leo McCarey and starring Irene Dunne and Charles Boyer.
The Bells of St. Mary's - Lobby Card Set
Here is a set of Lobby Cards from The Bells of St. Mary's (1945), starring Bing Crosby and Ingrid Bergman. Lobby Cards were 11" x 14" posters that came in sets of 8. As the name implies, they were most often displayed in movie theater lobbies, to advertise current or coming attractions.
Going My Way - Movie Posters
Here are a few original-release movie posters for Paramount's Going My Way (1944), starring Bing Crosby and Barry Fitzgerald.
Ruggles of Red Gap - Movie Poster
Here is the American one-sheet movie poster for Paramount's Ruggles of Red Gap (1935), starring Charles Laughton, Mary Boland, and Charlie Ruggles. One-sheets measured 27x41 inches, and were the poster style most commonly used in theaters.

Videos

Movie Clip

Sleepless In Seattle (1993) - Men Never Get This Movie! Writer-director Nora Ephron, Meg Ryan as Annie (engaged to “Walter”) and Rosie O’Donnell as pal Becky dig into director Leo McCarey’s An Affair To Remember, 1957, with Cary Grant and Deborah Kerr, while Meg considers a letter to the widowed father (Tom Hanks) she heard on the radio, in Sleepless In Seattle, 1993.
Sleepless In Seattle (1993) - All I Could Say Was Hello (Significant SPOILER!) Meg Ryan as (otherwise) engaged Annie is benevolently stalking Tom Hanks, as single-dad Sam, (with Ross Malinger as his son and Rita Wilson, Tom’s real-life wife, as his sister, though Meg assumes she’s a girlfriend), then explaining to Becky (Rosie O’Donnell) back in Baltimore, leading to a second reference to Cary Grant and Deborah Kerr, in An Affair To Remember, 1957, in Sleepless In Seattle, 1993.
Move Over, Darling (1963) - I've Been There Before Nick (James Garner) with new wife (Polly Bergen) at the hotel where he honeymooned with presumed-dead Ellen (Doris Day), not knowing she's in the lobby, copying the elevator shot from My Favorite Wife, Fred Clark, Max Showalter and Eddie Quillan on staff, in the re-make Move Over, Darling, 1963.
Move Over, Darling (1963) - I'm Not Squirming! Having installed his believed-dead wife Ellen (Doris Day) in the next suite, Nick (James Garner) has to deal with his new-wife Bianca (Polly Bergen) on their wedding night, who’s both amorous and furious at his repeated departures, intending to tell her the news, in the re-make of My Favorite Wife, Move Over, Darling 1963.
Move Over, Darling (1963) - Follow That Car! Following a contretemps at the Beverly Hills Hotel, Ellen (Doris Day) flees in a convertible as husband Nick (James Garner) grabs a cab, climaxing in Doris getting run through a car wash, in the 1963 re-make of My Favorite Wive, Move Over, Darling.
Move Over, Darling (1963) - She's Drownded! Doris Day is Ellen, still in her Navy dungarees, returning unannounced to her Beverly Hills home, her daughters (Pami Lee, Leslie Farrell) having no idea she's been rescued after five years on a desert island, her mother-in-law (Thelma Ritter) plain shocked, in the re-make of My Favorite Wife, Move Over, Darling, 1963 co-starring James Garner.
Make Way For Tomorrow (1937) - There's A Bank For You Introducing the cast and circumstance, George (Thomas Mitchell) joins mother (Beulah Bondi), father (Victor Moore) sisters (Minna Gombell, Elisabeth Risdon) and brother (Ray Mayer), opening Leo McCarey's Make Way For Tomorrow, 1937.
Make Way For Tomorrow (1937) - You Know I Worry Rhoda (Barbara Read) checks with usherette (Terry Ray) thinking she's ditched Granny (Beulah Bondi) at the movies, then returning home to George and Anita (Thomas Mitchell, Fay Bainter) at their bridge game, in Make Way For Tomorrow, 1937.
Make Way For Tomorrow (1937) - You Know How It Is Cutting to the big city, Rhoda (Barbara Read) with mom Anita (Fay Bainter) who nudges dad George (Thomas Mitchell) to call and ask aunt Nellie (Minna Gombell) to take Granny for the evening, in Leo McCarey's Make Way For Tomorrow, 1937.
Bells Of St. Mary's, The (1945) - Was It St. Paul? Having just wisecracked about the cat, and unexpectedly met the entire faculty, when he’d just come to introduce himself to the Mother Superior and principal, Sister Benedict (Ingrid Bergman), the new priest Fr. O’Malley (Bing Crosby) extemporizes, in The Bells Of St. Mary’s, 1945.
Bells Of St. Mary's, The (1945) - He Looked All Right When He Got Here Opening the sequel to Going My Way, 1944, Bing Crosby reprising his Academy Award-winning role as Fr. O’Malley (directed by Leo McCarey, who’d just won an Oscar for that previous film), meeting Una O’Connor as Mrs. Breen, in The Bells Of St. Mary’s, 1945, also starring 1944 Academy Award winner (for Gaslight), Ingrid Bergman.
Bells Of St. Mary's, The (1945) - Turning The Other Cheek Famous bit in which athletically-inclined Mother Superior and principal Sister Benedict (Ingrid Bergman), having just studied Gene Tunney’s book on boxing, imparts what she’s learned to schoolyard bullying victim Eddie (Dickie Tyler), directed by Leo McCarey, in The Bells Of St. Mary’s, 1945.

Trailer

Family

Thomas J McCarey
Father
Sports promoter.
Leona McCarey
Mother
Ray McCarey
Brother
Director. Born in 1904; died in 1948; directed comedy shorts starring Laurel and Hardy and the Three Stooges.

Companions

Stella Martin
Wife
Married in July 1920; high school sweetheart.

Bibliography