Irving Rapper


Director
Irving Rapper

About

Birth Place
London, England, GB
Born
January 16, 1898
Died
December 20, 1999

Biography

Like his contemporary George Cukor, Irving Rapper gained a reputation as a director of "women's pictures," undoubtedly resulting from what has been acknowledged as his masterpiece, the Bette Davis weepie "Now, Voyager" (1942). Yet over the course of his career, he was also responsible for eliciting fine performances from male performers like Fredric March, Claude Rains, Paul Henreid and ...

Biography

Like his contemporary George Cukor, Irving Rapper gained a reputation as a director of "women's pictures," undoubtedly resulting from what has been acknowledged as his masterpiece, the Bette Davis weepie "Now, Voyager" (1942). Yet over the course of his career, he was also responsible for eliciting fine performances from male performers like Fredric March, Claude Rains, Paul Henreid and Arthur Kennedy. Rapper flourished in the studio system as his later films attest. With the exception of "The Brave One" (1956), the majority of his later efforts pale next to his Warner Bros. output.

Exactly when the London-born Rapper emigrated to the USA has been the subject of debate, although most sources now agree that he crossed the pond as a child. (Some sources claim he arrived in America to attend law school at NYU). In either event, while enrolled in college, he began to work with the Washington Square Players moving from acting to stage managing to directing. In an June 1982 interview with CLASSIC IMAGES, Rapper claimed he became "Gilbert Miller's protege" which led to directing assignments on Broadway. In his 1978 book "Warner Brothers Directors," William R Meyer claims that Rapper was first brought to Hollywood in 1929 to assist Robert Florey on "Hole in the Wall" and then returned four years later to work as a dialogue director on the Joan Crawford starrer "Dancing Lady." But it was his successful staging of the Broadway melodrama "Crime" that led to a 1936 contract with Warner Bros. For the next five years, Rapper served as dialogue director and vocal coach, often working on films helmed by Anatole Litvak ("All This and Heaven Too" 1940), William Dieterle ("The Story of Louis Pasteur" 1936) and Michael Curtiz ("Kid Gallahad" 1937 and "The Private Lives of Elizabeth and Essex" 1939).

As early as 1938, Rapper was receiving scripts to consider as his feature directorial debut but confounding the studio and surprising many, he turned them down, preferring to hold out for an A-list project. Finally, he settled on the melodrama "Shining Victory" (1941) which cast James Stephenson as an ambitious research psychologist and Geraldine Fitzgerald as his lovestruck assistant. The film proved moderately popular despite the somewhat pedestrian direction, With his sophomore effort, "One Foot in Heaven" (1941) about a minister and his wife as they adjust to the fast-paced changes of the 20th Century, Rapper found popular and critical success. The movie was one of 10 nominated for the Best Picture Oscar and it contained strong performances from a cast headlined by Fredric March and Martha Scott.

His 1942 efforts solidified his standing as a woman's director. "The Gay Sisters" was pure soap opera that offered Barbara Stanwyck a meaty lead as a woman who marries for money. In the same vein, but of vastly superior quality was "Now, Voyager" which cast Bette Davis as a spinster, Claude Rains as her psychiatrist and Paul Henreid as her married lover. While Davis took credit for bolstering the script (and making herself look dowdy), Rapper was the guiding hand and indeed was responsible for the film's classic scene wherein Henreid lights two cigarettes at once then hands one to Davis. Audiences flocked to the film, making it one of the most profitable of the year, and though the story is maudlin and very nearly unbelievable, the director and his cast made the fantasy seem real. Davis offered one of her finest performances and the director's reputation for handling actors was secured.

Over the next few years, Rapper continued at Warner Bros., directing Fredric March in the rambling, somewhat sentimental biopic "The Adventures of Mark Twain" (1944) and reteaming with Bette Davis for "The Corn Is Green" (1945), adapted from Emlyn Williams' play, and "Deception" (1946), which also included Rains and Henreid in this melodramatic love story. He also excelled guiding Eleanor Parker in "The Voice of the Turtle" (1947), although he later regretted the casting of Ronald Reagan in the male lead, stating that the actor lacked the necessary light touch for comedy. In between, however, was the picture that purportedly led to his break from the studio, "Rhapsody in Blue" (1945), a whitewashed biopic of composer George Gershwin. The director claimed he was unhappy that Warner Bros. forced him to use Robert Alda in the leading role. (The film, while highly fictionalized, does contain many marvelous musical sequences.) Whatever the real reasons, Rapper left the studio when his contract expired.

Few of the 13 films he directed after separating from Warner Bros. proved to be worthwhile. His first "Anna Lucasta" (1949) featured Paulette Goddard as a prostitute forced into an arranged marriage. Rapper was unable to work his magic on his leading lady who was clearly miscast. His 1950 rendering of Tennessee Williams' "The Glass Menagerie" could overcome the piece's theatrical origins despite a strong turn by Arthur Kennedy as the authorial stand-in. Rapper did elicit fine work from Ginger Rogers in "Forever Female" (1953) and child actor Michael Ray in "The Brave One" (1956) but his later projects were marred by miscasting (i.e., Natalie Wood as "Marjorie Morningstar" 1958; Carroll Baker as a nun in "The Miracle" 1959). In the early 60s, he headed to Italy to direct back-to-back biblically-themed projects, neither of which caught the audience's attention. Clearly out of step with the current Zeitgeist, Rapper more or less retired. His one-shot "returns" to filmmaking undoubtedly mark two of the more bizarre projects any director has undertaken. For someone who cut his teeth on superior melodrama and biopics, perhaps the idea of "The Christine Jorgensen Story" (1970) seemed to marry the genres. The helmer also offered little in the way of assistance to lead John Hansen in this old-fashioned, low-budget flick. His final film was the even more bizarre biopic of Charles 'Chuck' Colson, "Born Again" (1978) with Dean Jones in the lead. A one-dimensional portrait of President Nixon's Special Counsel whose involvement in Watergate led to jail time and a prison conversion to Christianity, the film found an audience with evangelicals but was roundly panned by most critics and proved a sad coda for a man who had once made potent melodramas.

Filmography

 

Director (Feature Film)

Born Again (1978)
Director
The Christine Jorgensen Story (1970)
Director
The Story of Joseph and His Brethren (1962)
Director
The Miracle (1959)
Director
Marjorie Morningstar (1958)
Director
The Brave One (1956)
Director
Strange Intruder (1956)
Director
Bad for Each Other (1954)
Director
Forever Female (1954)
Director
Another Man's Poison (1952)
Director
The Glass Menagerie (1950)
Director
Anna Lucasta (1949)
Director
One for the Book (1948)
Director
One More Tomorrow (1946)
Director
Deception (1946)
Director
Rhapsody in Blue (1945)
Director
The Corn Is Green (1945)
Director
The Adventures of Mark Twain (1944)
Director
The Gay Sisters (1942)
Director
Now, Voyager (1942)
Director
High Sierra (1941)
Dialogue Director
One Foot in Heaven (1941)
Director
Shining Victory (1941)
Director
Dr. Ehrlich's Magic Bullet (1940)
Dialogue Director
Castle on the Hudson (1940)
Dialogue Director
All This, and Heaven Too (1940)
Dialogue Director
Saturday's Children (1940)
Dialogue Director
City for Conquest (1940)
Dialogue Director
Off the Record (1939)
Dialogue Director
Invisible Stripes (1939)
Dialogue Director
Juarez (1939)
Dialogue Director
Dust Be My Destiny (1939)
Dialogue Director
Daughters Courageous (1939)
Dialogue Director
The Adventures of Robin Hood (1938)
Dialogue Director
Four's a Crowd (1938)
Dialogue Director
Gold Is Where You Find It (1938)
Dialogue Director
Four Daughters (1938)
Dialogue Director
The Sisters (1938)
Dialogue Director
The Great O'Malley (1937)
Dialogue Director
The Go Getter (1937)
Dialogue Director
Mountain Justice (1937)
Dialogue Director
The Life of Emile Zola (1937)
Dialogue Director
Kid Galahad (1937)
Dialogue Director
Draegerman Courage (1937)
Dialogue Director
The Charge of the Light Brigade (1936)
Dialogue Director
The Walking Dead (1936)
Dialogue Director
Stage Struck (1936)
Dialogue Director
Murder by an Aristocrat (1936)
Dialogue Director

Misc. Crew (Feature Film)

Fear and Love (1988)
Other
Dead Men Don't Wear Plaid (1982)
Other

Life Events

1936

Signed by Warner Bros.; worked initially as a dialogue coach and assistant director; worked under Michael Curtiz and William Dieterle

1937

Served as dialogue director on "Kid Galahd"

1938

Turned down several directing assignments while waiting for the right script

1941

Feature directorial debut, "Shining Victory"; sources claim that Bette Davis made a cameo appearance as a nurse

1941

First major success as a director, "One Foot in Heaven", which was one of the 10 nominees that year for the Best Picture Oscar; replaced Anatole Litvak

1942

Helmed what is considered his best feature, the Davis vehicle "Now, Voyager", also starring Claude Rains and Paul Henried

1944

Made first biopic, "The Adventures of Mark Twain", starring Frederic March

1945

Reteamed with Davis as director of "The Corn Is Green"

1945

Directed "Rhapsody in Blue", the whitewashed musical biopic of George Gershwin

1946

Reteamed Davis, Henreid and Rains in "Deception"

1947

Left Warner Bros.

1949

First film as a free-lancer, "Anna Lucasta"

1950

Returned to Warner Bros. to helm "The Glass Menagerie"

1952

Final film with Bette Davis, "Another Man's Poison"; shot in England

1956

Directed "The Brave One", loosely inspired by "Androcles and the Lion"

1958

Returned to Warner Bros. as director of "Marjorie Morningstar", starring Natalie Wood and Gene Kelly

1960

Went to Italy to direct several films, beginning with "Joseph and His Brethren"

1962

Last film for eight years, the Italian-French co-production, "Pontius Pilate"

1970

Made return to feature directing with "The Christine Jorgensen Story"

1978

Again returned to filmmaking; directed last film, "Born Again", the biopic of Watergate conspirator turned Christian Charles Colson

Photo Collections

Now, Voyager - Behind-the-Scenes Photo
Here is a photo taken during production of Now, Voyager (1942), starring Bette Davis and Paul Henreid.

Videos

Movie Clip

Corn Is Green, The (1945) - So This Is My House Miss Moffat (Bette Davis), with Watty (Rosalind Ivan), arrives at her inherited Welsh home, the squire (Nigel Bruce), Miss Ronberry (Mildred Dunnock) and Jones (Rhys Williams) surprised to discover she's a female, early in The Corn Is Green, 1945.
Corn Is Green, The (1945) - Did You Write This? Miss Moffatt (Bette Davis), with aide Ronberry (Mildred Dunnock), despairing over whether she'll ever start her Welsh school, then discovering miner Evans (John Dall) and his prodigious work, in The Corn Is Green, 1945.
Corn Is Green, The (1945) - Kill Two Birds Miss Moffat (Bette Davis) with miner and star student Evans (John Dall), who is taunted by devious Bessie (Joan Loring), who then gets into her own trouble, her mother (Rosalind Ivan) helping quell, in The Corn Is Green, 1945.
Deception (1946) - I Infer a Husband Maestro Alexander (Claude Rains) drops in on the wedding of his ex-mistress Christine (Bette Davis) and troubled Karel (Paul Henreid) in director Irving Rapper's Deception, 1946.
Deception (1946) - No Rings Pianist Christine (Bette Davis) surprises cellist and beau Karel (Paul Henreid) after a concert and a long war-time separation in director Irving Rapper's Deception, 1946.
Adventures Of Mark Twain, The (1944) - Born Under The Comet Opening with what will be a theme throughout, Halley’s comet in 1835 over Missouri, Frank Wilcox as Judge Clemens who becomes the father of Samuel, a.k.a. Mark Twain, who appears in the person of Fredric March, reflecting later in life, in the complicated Warner Bros. bio-pic, The Adventures Of Mark Twain,1944.
Adventures Of Mark Twain, The (1944) - You And Your Tall Tales Facing failure as miner in Nevada, with Alan Hale as his partner, Fredric March as Samuel Clemens doesn’t realize that Donald Crisp as J.B. Pond, is looking for “Mark Twain,” the pseudonym he first used when he submitted “The Celebrated Jumping Frog Of Calaveras County,” which had become a sensation back east, in The Adventures Of Mark Twain,1944.
Adventures Of Mark Twain, The (1944) - You Are Merely The Most Numerous Samuel Clemens (Fredric March, title character) uncomfortable and working with no introduction, in New York for his first lecture appearance as “Mark Twain,” improvises, with some real witticisms from the author, and Alexis Smith, her photo seen frequently before, appearing at last in the audience, with her brother, his old pal, Walter Hampden, in The Adventures Of Mark Twain,1944.
Adventures Of Mark Twain, The (1944) - Safe Water Dickie Jones has assumed the title role as Samuel Clemens, age 15, learning to be a Mississippi River steamboat pilot, ca. 1850, Robert Barrat his crusty mentor captain Bixby, though the corresponding episodes in Clemens’ real life came later, in the Warner Bros. bio-pic The Adventures Of Mark Twain,1944, starring Fredric March.
Mr. Skeffington (1944) - He Created Everything But Rhode Island Responsible cousin George (Richard Waring) is present for the first meeting between Bette Davis (as "Fanny") and stock broker Claude Rains (title character), dropping by to discuss her brother's embezzlements, early in Mr. Skeffington, 1944.
Bad For Each Other (1954) - Five Miles From Pittsburgh Opening with Charlton Heston as army doctor Tom narrating, exposition as he's greeted by Doc Scobee and druggist Upham (Rhys Williams, Earl Lee), then confronted by an old pal (Chris Alcaide) before visiting mom (Mildred Dunnock), in Bad For Each Other, 1954, also starring Lizabeth Scott.
Bad For Each Other (1954) - I Saw Him First Just home army doctor Tom (Charlton Heston) is in a hurry to clear the name of his brother who died in a mining incident, Lizabeth Scott "Helen," the hostess and daughter of mine owner Reasonover (Ray Collins), with Lydia Clarke, Heston's wife, the woozy guest, in Bad For Each Other, 1954.

Trailer

Adventures of Robin Hood, The -- (Re-issue Trailer) The Sherwood Forest legend (Errol Flynn) leads his Merry Men in a battle against the wicked Prince John in The Adventures of Robin Hood (1938).
Kid Galahad (1937) - (Original Trailer) A mob-connected trainer (Edward G. Robinson) grooms a bellhop for the boxing ring. Co-starring Bette Davis and Humphrey Bogart.
Saturday's Children - (Original Trailer) A young inventor's new marriage is jeopardized by financial problems. Starring John Garfield.
Miracle, The (1959) - (Original Trailer) When a 19th century nun elopes, the Virgin Mary takes her place at the convent in The Miracle (1959) starring Carroll Baker and Roger Moore.
Draegerman Courage - (Original Trailer) After a mine cave in, the rescue crew risks their lives to search for two trapped miners in Draegerman Courage (1937).
Daughters Courageous - (Original Trailer) A father (Claude Rains) returns to the family he left years earlier and tries to solve their problems. Co-starring John Garfield.
Doctor Ehrlich's Magic Bullet - (Original Trailer) Doctor Ehrlich's Magic Bullet (1940) starring Edward G. Robinson, the true story of the German scientist who devoted his life to curing syphilis.
Sisters, The - (Original Trailer) Errol Flynn and Bette Davis in love and it's all capped off with the San Francisco earthquake, as promoted by Warner Bros. in the original theatrical trailer for The Sisters, 1938, directed by Anatole Litvak.
Off the Record - (Original Trailer) Joan Blondell stars as a reporter who adopts a delinquent her stories sent to jail in Off the Record (1939).
Shining Victory - (Original Trailer) A psychiatrist (James Stephenson) sacrifices everything for his research. Co-starring Geraldine Fitzgerald.
Juarez - (Original Trailer) Paul Muni and Bette Davis star in Juarez (1939), the true story of Mexico's great leader and his fight against Napoleon's empire
One Fatal Hour (1936) - (Original Trailer) A radio station airs a mystery serial based on a real-life scandal in One Fatal Hour (1936) under its original title "Two Against the World".

Bibliography