Roy Del Ruth


Director
Roy Del Ruth

About

Birth Place
Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, USA
Born
October 18, 1895
Died
April 27, 1961
Cause of Death
Heart Attack

Biography

A capable director who made a number of competent musicals and crime dramas, Roy Del Ruth worked consistently throughout the 1930s and 1940s without ever distinguishing himself from his more famed contemporaries. Del Ruth began his career as a gag writer for Mack Sennett during the silent era and moved over to the director's chair in the early-1920s. After churning out numerous pictures,...

Photos & Videos

Family & Companions

Winnie Lightner
Wife
Actor. Survived him.

Biography

A capable director who made a number of competent musicals and crime dramas, Roy Del Ruth worked consistently throughout the 1930s and 1940s without ever distinguishing himself from his more famed contemporaries. Del Ruth began his career as a gag writer for Mack Sennett during the silent era and moved over to the director's chair in the early-1920s. After churning out numerous pictures, he began to find his footing with the James Cagney vehicle "Blonde Crazy" (1931), before directing what was considered his most popular and accomplished film, "The Maltese Falcon" (1931), the first adaptation of Dashiell Hammett's famed novel. From there, he directed Cagney in "Taxi!" (1932), Edward G. Robinson in "The Little Giant" (1933), and Ronald Colman in "Bulldog Drummond Strikes Back" (1934). Following several years of above average motion pictures, including the popular musical review "Ziegfeld Follies" (1946), Del Ruth directed one of his most charming and entertaining films, "It Happed on Fifth Avenue" (1947), a Christmas-themed film that some ranked alongside the more popular "It's a Wonderful Life" (1946). But just as it seemed he was ready to advance, Del Ruth fell flat with the rather ridiculous biopic "The Babe Ruth Story" (1948), which ended any hope of a career rejuvenation. Though he ended his career on the low notes of "The Phantom of the Rue Morgue" (1954) and "The Alligator People" (1959), Del Ruth undoubtedly made significant contributions during the studio era that certainly bore re-examination.

Born on Oct. 18, 1895 in Philadelphia, PA, Del Ruth began his Hollywood career during the silent era as a gag writer for Mack Sennett in 1915 and began directing a couple of years later with his first short film. In the early 1920s, he moved over to features with such early efforts as "Asleep at the Switch" (1923), "The Hollywood Kid" (1924), "Eve's Lover" (1925) and "The Little Irish Girl" (1926). Following several more titles, many of which were later lost, he directed "The First Auto" (1927), a charming look at the introduction of the first automobile to a small rural town. The film featured several elaborate sound effects for the time and was considered lost until it was restored years later. Del Ruth went on to direct a number of long forgotten pictures like "If I Were Single" (1927), "Ham and Eggs at the Front" (1927), "The Terror" (1928) and "The Hottentot" (1929), before having the distinction of directing the musical "The Desert Song" (1929), the first color film ever released by Warner Bros. That same year, Del Ruth directed "Gold Diggers of Broadway" (1929), Warner's second two-strip Technicolor, all-talking feature that also became a big box office hit for the director.

Having successfully segued into the talkie era, Del Ruth directed two more two-strip color musicals, "Hold Everything" (1930) and "The Life of the Party" (1930), before directing James Cagney and Joan Blondell in the cheerfully amoral gangster film, "Blonde Crazy" (1931). That same year, he directed the first of three adaptation of Dashiell Hammett's famed novel, "The Maltese Falcon" (1931), which was more famously remade in 1941 by John Huston with Humphrey Bogart playing Sam Spade. Here, Ricardo Cortez portrayed the roguish private eye whose investigation of a murder case entwines him in a plot involving a number of unsavory types searching for a fabled, jewel-encrusted falcon. While the plot basically mirrors the 1941 remake, this pre-Code version featured several instances of sexual innuendo, including Bebe Daniels bathing in the nude, overt references to homosexuality and even one instance of cursing. An adequate picture, Del Ruth's original adaptation paled in comparison to Huston's film, which would be regarded as one of the finest pictures ever made. Meanwhile, Del Ruth reunited with James Cagney for the crime drama "Taxi!" (1932) and competently directed the showbiz comedy "Blessed Event" (1932).

Del Ruth went on to helm a number of above average pictures like "The Little Giant" (1933) starring Edward G. Robinson, "Lady Killer" (1933) with James Cagney, "Bureau of Missing Persons" (1933) featuring Bette Davis, "Upper World" (1934) with Ginger Rogers, and the musical comedy "Kid Millions" (1934) starring Eddie Cantor. He next directed Ronald Colman in his second and final appearance as Bulldog Drummond in the detective mystery "Bulldog Drummond Strikes Back" (1934), and helmed the backstage showbiz musical "Broadway Melody 1936" (1935), starring Jack Benny and Eleanor Powell. After returning to the realm of crime for "It Had to Happen" (1936) with George Raft and Rosalind Russell, Del Ruth directed James Stewart in one of the actor's few musicals, "Born to Dance" (1936). He followed up with the inferior "Broadway Melody of 1938" (1937), before guiding ice skating star Sonja Henie through "My Lucky Star" (1938) and "Happy Landing" (1938). Del Ruth continued churning out product for the studios, helming competent films like "The Star Maker" (1939), "Here I Am Stranger" (1939), "He Married His Wife" (1940) and "Topper Returns" (1941), but nothing that really stood out at the time or was later rediscovered as a forgotten classic.

After working solo on "The Chocolate Soldier" (1941), "Masie Gets Her Man" (1942), "Du Barry Was a Lady" (1944) and "Broadway Rhythm" (1944), Del Ruth was one of seven directors on the successful, if uneven musical review "Ziegfeld Follies" (1946), which featured an all-star cast of Fred Astaire, Lucille Ball, Fanny Brice, Judy Garland, Gene Kelly, Lena Horne, Red Skelton and William Powell. From there, he helmed the cheerfully ambitious Christmas-themed comedy "It Happened on Fifth Avenue" (1947), an appealing entertainment that was compared to "It's a Wonderful Life" (1946), but it did not have that film's generational resonance. Inexplicably released during Easter, the musical comedy starring Don DeFore and Ann Harding was still a touching film that managed to delight. Del Ruth next directed "The Babe Ruth Story" (1948), a train wreck of a film centered around the life of baseball icon Babe Ruth (William Bendix). Bending historical truths to the breaking point, Del Ruth's biopic was rushed through production amidst news of the ailing Ruth's declining health, leading to a disjointed film that often veered into the ridiculous. Even Del Ruth remained unsatisfied with the results.

Del Ruth's career never recovered from the "Babe Ruth" disaster. He directed a fading George Raft in the forgettable crime drama "Red Light" (1949), Milton Berle and Virginia Mayo in the comedy "Always Leave Them Laughing" (1949), and James Cagney in the vibrant misfire "The West Point Story" (1950). Following a pair of mediocre Doris Day musicals, "Starlift" (1951) and "On Moonlight Bay" (1951), his career took a nosedive with the farcical comedy "Stop, You're Killing Me" (1952) and the military musical "About Face" (1953). He went on to direct Jane Powell and Gordon MacRae in "Three Sailors and a Girl" (1953), before reaching a true low point with the 3-D horror flick "Phantom of the Rue Morgue" (1954). Away from the director's chair for the next five years, Del Ruth returned to helm the truly ridiculous horror picture "The Alligator People" (1959), a bizarre tale about humans being partially transformed into alligators in the Deep South. After the long forgotten indie thriller "Why Must I Die?" (1960), Del Ruth called it a career. He died a year later on April 27, 1961 at 67 years old from causes unknown.

By Shawn Dwyer

Filmography

 

Director (Feature Film)

Why Must I Die? (1960)
Director
The Alligator People (1959)
Director
Phantom of the Rue Morgue (1954)
Director
Three Sailors and a Girl (1953)
Director
Stop, You're Killing Me (1953)
Director
About Face (1952)
Director
Starlift (1951)
Director
On Moonlight Bay (1951)
Director
The West Point Story (1950)
Director
Red Light (1949)
Director
Always Leave Them Laughing (1949)
Director
The Babe Ruth Story (1948)
Director
It Happened on 5th Avenue (1947)
Director
Ziegfeld Follies (1946)
Director "A Sweepstakes Ticket"
Broadway Rhythm (1944)
Director
Barbary Coast Gent (1944)
Director
Presenting Lily Mars (1943)
Addl scenes Director by
Du Barry Was a Lady (1943)
Director
Panama Hattie (1942)
Director of retakes
I Married an Angel (1942)
Director
Maisie Gets Her Man (1942)
Director
The Chocolate Soldier (1941)
Director
Topper Returns (1941)
Director
He Married His Wife (1940)
Director
The Star Maker (1939)
Director
Here I Am a Stranger (1939)
Director
Tail Spin (1939)
Director
Happy Landing (1938)
Director
My Lucky Star (1938)
Director
On the Avenue (1937)
Director
Broadway Melody of 1938 (1937)
Director
It Had to Happen (1936)
Director
Private Number (1936)
Director
Born to Dance (1936)
Director
L'homme des Folies Bergère (1935)
Mise-en-scène de [Dir]
Folies Bergère de Paris (1935)
Director
Broadway Melody of 1936 (1935)
Director
Thanks a Million (1935)
Director
Kid Millions (1934)
Director
Bulldog Drummond Strikes Back (1934)
Director
Upper World (1934)
Director
Bureau of Missing Persons (1933)
Director
Captured! (1933)
Director
The Mind Reader (1933)
Director
Lady Killer (1933)
Director
Employee's Entrance (1933)
Director
The Little Giant (1933)
Director
Winner Take All (1932)
Director
Blessed Event (1932)
Director
Taxi! (1932)
Director
Beauty and the Boss (1932)
Director
The Maltese Falcon (1931)
Director
Blonde Crazy (1931)
Director
Side Show (1931)
Director
My Past (1931)
Director
The Second Floor Mystery (1930)
Director
Divorce Among Friends (1930)
Director
Hold Everything (1930)
Director
The Life of the Party (1930)
Director
Three Faces East (1930)
Director
The Aviator (1929)
Director
The Desert Song (1929)
Director
Gold Diggers of Broadway (1929)
Director
The Hottentot (1929)
Director
The Terror (1928)
Director
Conquest (1928)
Director
Beware of Bachelors (1928)
Director
Powder My Back (1928)
Director
Five and Ten Cent Annie (1928)
Director
Ham and Eggs at the Front (1927)
Director
Wolf's Clothing (1927)
Director
The First Auto (1927)
Director
If I Were Single (1927)
Director
The Little Irish Girl (1926)
Director
Across the Pacific (1926)
Director
The Man Upstairs (1926)
Director
Footloose Widows (1926)
Director
Hogan's Alley (1925)
Director
Eve's Lover (1925)
Director
Three Weeks in Paris (1925)
Director
Shanghaied Lovers (1924)
Director
Smile Please (1924)
Director

Cast (Feature Film)

About Face (1952)
Professor

Producer (Feature Film)

Red Light (1949)
Producer
The Babe Ruth Story (1948)
Producer
It Happened on 5th Avenue (1947)
Producer

Production Companies (Feature Film)

The Babe Ruth Story (1948)
Company
It Happened on 5th Avenue (1947)
Company

Misc. Crew (Feature Film)

Forbidden City U.S.A (1989)
Other

Director (Short)

Gymnasium Jim (1922)
Director
Bright Eyes (1922)
Director

Cast (Short)

The Screen Director (1951)
Himself

Life Events

1915

Wrote first screenplay

1915

Gagman for Mack Sennett

1917

First short film as director

Photo Collections

Born to Dance - Behind-the-Scenes Photos
Here are some photos taken behind-the-scenes during production of Born to Dance (1936), starring Eleanor Powell.
Born to Dance - Movie Posters
Here are a few original-release movie posters from Born to Dance (1936) starring Eleanor Powell and James Stewart.

Videos

Movie Clip

Babe Ruth Story, The (1948) - Western Union Boy In a Boston bar with a reporter pal (Sam Levene), Babe (William Bendix) laments his pitching slump and meets (wholly fictional!) Claire (Claire Trevor), in The Babe Ruth Story, 1948.
Babe Ruth Story, The (1948) - Throw In A Cold Beer Director Roy Del Ruth's view of a fictional scene representing a dark day in Boston Red Sox history, Babe (William Bendix) meets the Yankee's owner (Matt Briggs) and manager (Fred Lightner), in The Babe Ruth Story, 1948.
Chocolate Soldier, The (1941) - Song Of The Flea Aiming to test her loyalty, Viennese opera star Karl (Nelson Eddy) appears at the club where his wife Maria (Rise Stevens) and best pal Bernard (Nigel Bruce) are in the audience, disguised as a romantic Russian, in MGM’s The Chocolate Soldier, 1941.
Blessed Event (1932) - The Devil In Southampton Columnist Moxley (Ned Sparks) returns from vacation to chew out his substitute (Lee Tracy as Alvin Roberts) for printing outrageous society gossip, Miss Stevens (Ruth Donnelly) steering clear, when the editor Miller (Walter Walker) arrives with a surprise ruling, in director Roy Del Ruth’s Blessed Event, 1932, from Warner Bros.
Blessed Event (1932) - How Can You Say No? Often mentioned but seen now for the first time 30-minutes into the picture, Dick Powell as radio band-leader Bunny Harmon, the frequent target and general enemy of gossip columnist Alvin (Lee Tracy) offers a tune by Joseph Burke, Al Dubin and Irving Kahal, then an insult as he hands off to Alvin, who counters, in Warner Bros.’ Blessed Event, 1932.
Blessed Event (1932) - Do You Ever Read My Stuff? Off to a flying start in the definitive Lee Tracy pre-Code picture, his first starring role, as novice newsman Alvin, from the advertising department, filling in for a vacationing columnist, having discovered the trick of fabricating news of prominent pregnancies, Ruth Donnelly as Miss Stevens, Mary Brian as society writer Gladys, in Blessed Event, 1932, from a play by Manuel Seff and Forrest Wilson.
Taxi! (1932) - What About Ellis Island After scenes establishing New York taxi conflict, we meet Matt (James Cagney) with a comical cop and fare (Robert Emmett O'Connor, Hector Sarno), then a shot of Columbus Circle where Pop (Guy Kibbee) tangles with a fixer (David Landau), early in Taxi!, 1932.
Employees' Entrance (1933) - All I Want Is You Good clean fun in Warner Bros.’ (First National's) otherwise plenty provocative pre-Code Employees’ Entrance, 1933, as department store middle-manager Wallace Ford, in his first scene, can’t help noticing the knockout new model (Loretta Young), with clever popular song references.
Employees' Entrance (1933) - I Didn't Know You With All Your Clothes On Tough-guy department store exec Anderson (Warren William) has summoned dress-model Polly (Alice White), who touch on their shared history as he dispatches her to entrap his unwitting older rival Ross (Albert Gran), in Employees’ Entrance, 1933.
Employees' Entrance (1933) - Smash Or Be Smashed After a prologue establishing a roughly 50-year history of department store profits, and mentions of a cut-throat executive named Anderson, we meet Warren William, intimidating his chairman (Hale Hamilton), Ross (Albert Gran) et al, in Warner Bros.’ Employees’ Entrance, 1933.
Employees' Entrance (1933) - How Would You Like A Wax Banana? Threatening to fire most everybody (excepting Ruth Donnelly, his assistant), hard-headed department store executive Anderson (Warren William) has a random meet-cute with wannabe employee Madeline (Loretta Young), even if it plays like they might be lovers already, in the steamy pre-Code Employees’ Entrance, 1933.
Starlift (1951) - James Cagney, Janice Rule Air Force men Mike (Dick Wesson, doing the impression) and Rick (Ron Hagerthy) are hoping to meet the fictional movie star Nell Wayne (Janice Rule), who comes from Rick’s hometown, killing time with Ruth Roman, Doris Day and James Cagney, all in San Francisco for a premiere, in the Warner Bros. novelty feature Starlift, 1951.

Trailer

Employees' Entrance -- (Original Trailer) An unscrupulous department store manager (Warren William) stops at nothing to get what he wants in Employees' Entrance (1933) co-starring Loretta Young.
Mind Reader, The - (Original Trailer) Warren William has one of his greatest roles as a phony mentalist who tries to go straight in The Mind Reader (1933).
Chocolate Soldier, The - (Original Trailer) A jealous husband tests his opera singer wife's fidelity by pretending to be another man in The Chocolate Soldier (1941) starring Nelson Eddy and Rise Stevens.
Captured! - (Original Trailer) Leslie Howard discovers that his fellow POW, Douglas Fairbanks, Jr., had an affair with his wife in Captured! (1933).
Bureau of Missing Persons - (Original Trailer) A police chief (Pat O'Brien) helps a young bride (Bette Davis) find her missing husband...or at least his corpse at the Bureau Of Missing Persons (1933).
Broadway Rhythm - (Original Trailer) A retired vaudevillian (Charles Winninger) clashes with his producer son (George Murphy) in this MGM Technicolor musical.
Beauty and the Boss - (Original Trailer) Bad boy Warren William is the boss who can't keep his mind on business and his hands off the secretaries in Beauty and the Boss (1932).
Barbary Coast Gent - (Original Trailer) Wallace Beery plays a bandit from the gold fields who moves to San Francisco and tries to go straight in Barbary Coast Gent (1944).
Presenting Lily Mars - (Original Trailer) A small-town girl fights for her chance on Broadway in Presenting Lily Mars (1943) starring Judy Garland.
Ziegfeld Follies - (Original Trailer) Legendary showman Flo Ziegfeld imagines the kind of Follies he could produce with MGM's musical stars in Ziegfeld Follies (1946) starring Judy Garland.
West Point Story, The - (Original Trailer) A Broadway producer tries to put on a show at the legendary military academy in The West Point Story (1950) starring James Cagney and Doris Day.
My Past - (Original Trailer) Bebe Daniels plays a showgirl who accepts an invite to a rich man's yacht, then falls in love with a married man in My Past (1931).

Family

Hampton Del Ruth
Brother
Gagman, director. Born 1979; died 1958.
Thomas Del Ruth
Son
Director of photography. Survived him.

Companions

Winnie Lightner
Wife
Actor. Survived him.

Bibliography