Mervyn LeRoy – Little Caesar (1931)

Posted on 03:00
Is the thirst for power more consuming than the thirst for money? Money is vanilla, everyone wants it. But only the true gangster craves pure authority and clout–power for its own sake. And when that guy comes along, he’ll do whatever it takes to get it. This is true for Caesar Enrico “Rico” Bandello (Edward G. Robinson) in Little Caesar (1931) directed by Mervyn LeRoy. In the beginning of the film, Rico sees a newspaper article about a Chicago gangster, Pete Montana (Ralph Ince), and then decides to head east to pursue that same power and recognition. “I could do all the things that this fella does and more,” he says to his partner, Joe Massara (Douglas Fairbanks Jr.). Massara agrees that he wants to head east to Chicago, but for him it’s the “money, girls, and clothes” and the chance to purse a career in dancing. That’s not why Rico’s in it: “Money’s okay, but it ain’t everything. Be somebody. Look hard at guys and know they’ll do anything you tell them.”

The newspaper article that sets off Rico is the timeless anecdote of temptation, a theme that dates as far back as the Bible and Shakespeare, and that has endured into gangster film history. “When the devil had finished all this tempting, he left him until an opportune time.” Luke 4:13; the witches who tempt Macbeth; the cocaine deal and opportunity to usurp the boss that initiates Tony Montana in Scarface (1983). The allure of power insights the evil acts. Rico recognizes that, in his town, power is attainable for those who are willing to kill. So that’s just what he’ll have to do.

Little Caesar is a great film to watch if only for historical context. It’s a seminal piece in the gangster genre and it transports the Macbethian greed-archetype to the big screen and onto the dark streets of 1930s Chicago. But it sets up other conventions too, like the Boss who goes soft and is usurped by a tough hood from the trenches. The shark smells blood in the water (see: Scarface (1932 and 1985), et al.). And, of course, there is the inevitable downfall of the villain, who dies by the sword after having risen by it.

Historical relevance aside, the film is great because of the performance of Edward G. Robinson, who stands above the rest. He is more convincing and dynamic than his colleagues, and it makes the movie all the more compelling. He’s brash, confident, and even at 5’5” he dominates the screen. His tilted fedora leaves just enough room to reveal his pointed eyebrows and malevolent stare. His grin is sharp and wrathful, and he talks the talk: “If anybody turns yellow and squeals… my gun’s gonna speak its piece.”

Robinson is the ultimate tough guy; he embodies the criminal who couldn’t care less about the money and toys. In one scene, he gets fitted for a suit–the symbol of moving of up in the world–but he scoffs at the style and the way it fits. No, he just wants power–to put the fear of God in the men around him. You believe it to when you see him on screen, too. That’s why he’s an Original Gangster, and up there with the best of his contemporaries: James Cagney from Public Enemy (1931) and Paul Muni from Scarface (1932), in particular. He’s the type to “shoot first and argue afterward.” If you’re into this tradition, this is a must-see. If you’re “yella” you better run and hide.

Rail Trip Produces Big Win in Mervyn Leroy

Posted on 02:58
Rail Trip  Produces Big Win in Mervyn Leroy
Rail Trip and Rafael Bejarano take the Mervyn Leroy at Hollywood Park.
Heavy favorite Rail Trip returned from a long layoff in the Mervyn Leroy Handicap (gr. II) (VIDEO) May 8 looking strong as ever while posting a decisive 3 1/4-length victory at Hollywood Park.
Trainer Ron Ellis joked that he hoped last year's Hollywood Gold Cup (gr. I) winner would win wrapped up by jockey Rafael Bejarano, and he just about did while opening up a big lead in the stretch. The grand-looking bay cruised home comfortably in front of Sangaree  , who looked like he might be a threat at the top of the lane but finished willingly to gain second at odds of 16-1.
"He was still learning how to run last year," Ellis said of Rail Trip. "He's a much more mature horse now, physically and mentally. He's filled out. He's a fresh horse and he's happy, but he's got to win the Gold Cup first to say he's better than last year."

In his first start since finishing third in the Pacific Classic (gr. I) at Del Mar Sept. 6, Rail Trip completed the 1 1/16-mile Mervyn Leroy in a time of 1:42.37 over the Cushion Track.

Bejarano rode the 5-year-old son of Jump Start   for the first time, replacing Jose Valdivia Jr., who had been aboard the Jay Em Ess Stable's gelding in each of his prior nine starts but has shifted his tack to Delaware Park.

"Unbelievable, he just galloped," Bejarano said. "He surprised me a lot. I knew I had a lot of horse at the end. I thought I was going to win easy, but not this easy. I think this horse is going to be the best horse around."

Tres Borrachos, ridden by Victor Espinoza, was hustled to the front with a couple of quick cracks of the whip and set a steady pace (:24.45, :48.70, and 1:12.66) while opening up a two-length advantage on the backstretch over Rail Trip. The favorite advanced on the front-runner heading into the final turn and grabbed the lead as they made their way out of the bend. Dakota Phone, along the inside and Sangaree, rallying three wide, moved into contention as well.

But Rail Trip quickly took command at the top of the lane by 1 1/2 lengths. Sangaree, ridden by Martin Pedroza, swept past Tres Borrachos but was unable to mount a threat to the winner while a clear second by 1 1/4 lengths. Cigar Man, at 24-1, rallied late under Joe Talamo to nose the tiring Tres Borrachos for third.

After beginning his career with five consecutive victories in late 2008 and 2009, Rail Trip suffered his first loss in last year's Mervyn Leroy when he finished second to Ball Four. He ran second in the Californian Stakes (gr. II) as well before scoring a 9-1 upset in the Gold Cup by three lengths over Tres Borrachos. In his only subsequent start last year, he ran a better-than-it-looked third in the Pacific Classic but was given time to recover from sore feet rather than going on to the Breeders' Cup Classic (gr. I).

"In last year's race (Leroy), it was the first time he'd ever been behind horses and it schooled him really well," Ellis said. "He learned a lot from Ball Four. He's put it together each time after that."

Ellis took his time returning Rail Trip to action this year in hopes of having him in peak condition for the 2010 Breeders' Cup, which will take place at Churchill Downs.

Rail Trip improved his career mark to 7-2-1 in 10 races with earnings of $877,790 with the $90,000 winner's check.

Out of the Carson City mare Sweet Trip, Rail Trip was bred in Kentucky by Donarra Thoroughbreds.
The winner carried top weight of 121 pounds and paid $3, $2.60, and $2.10 as the 1-2 choice.
Sangaree, returned to routing by trainer Bob Baffert after three consecutive sprint efforts, returned $8 and $4.60 and completed a $22.60 exacta. Cigar Man was $7.20 to show.

Mervyn LeRoy, 86, Dies; Director and Producer

Posted on 02:56
Mervyn LeRoy, the versatile movie director of such explosive dramas as ''Little Caesar'' and ''I Am a Fugitive From a Chain Gang'' and such lush romances as ''Waterloo Bridge'' and ''Random Harvest,'' died early yesterday at his home in Beverly Hills, Calif. He was 86 years old and had had Alzheimer's disease. 

Mr. LeRoy directed the musical ''Gold Diggers of 1933,'' the biographical ''Madame Curie,'' the wartime drama ''Thirty Seconds Over Tokyo,'' the religious epic ''Quo Vadis'' and the comedy ''Mister Roberts.'' He also produced 13 of his own movies and several for other directors, including the classic ''The Wizard of Oz'' in 1939. 

The movie maker was a short (5 feet 7 1/2 inches), gregarious and youthful-looking man whose main education was vaudeville from the age of 14. He believed emphatically that the aim of movies was to entertain. He read widely to find fresh material, and said his criteria for filming a subject were that ''it was believable, had a good, solid story and the quality I call 'heart.' '' 

In 1945, Mr. LeRoy received a special Oscar for a short documentary decrying intolerance, ''The House I Live In,'' which he directed and co-produced. In 1975, he won the Irving G. Thalberg Memorial Academy Award for career achievements. 

He set records: 20 of his films were shown at Radio City Music Hall, with ''Random Harvest'' running for 12 weeks. He made 75 movies over 40 years and boasted, ''I never repeated myself'' or ''made a major flop.'' 'A Lotta Feeling!' 

Vivien Leigh considered ''Waterloo Bridge'' her best film. Greer Garson, who starred in ''Random Harvest,'' said that ''Mervyn's favorite last-minute exhortation to his actors is a whispered, 'Now let's have a nice scene with a lotta feeling!,' and that rather sums up the way he works, the way he moves through life.'' 

He battled hard for his beliefs. In 1957, he fought successfully to curb studio influence in the Academy Awards by persuading academy officials to change a rule and allow the academy, not the studios, to choose whether a performer should be nominated as best actor or best supporting actor. He tried, without success, to have Oscar votes made public, contending that secret balloting was undemocratic. 

Mr. LeRoy was a keen, adaptable director who made mostly taut, punchy, socially critical films at Warner Brothers for a decade and then - for 14 years at M-G-M - mostly romantic, sentimental films, some of which were derided as pretentious, vulgar and complacent. He returned to Warner Brothers in 1954 and made generally superior films again. 

Among his earlier movies were ''Five Star Final'' (1931), ''Tugboat Annie,'' which was Marie Dressler's last film (1933), the musical ''Sweet Adeline'' (1935), ''Anthony Adverse'' (1936), ''They Won't Forget'' (1937), ''Escape'' (1940) and ''Blossoms in the Dust'' (1941). 

''They Won't Forget,'' an indictment of lynch mobs that starred Claude Rains, was praised by Frank Nugent of The New York Times as ''a grim and savage drama, courageous in its conception, relentless in its execution, uncompromising in its conclusion.'' Roses and Razzle-Dazzle
In early 1955 Mr. LeRoy took over the just-begun ''Mister Roberts'' from the ailing John Ford. Later LeRoy films include ''The Bad Seed'' (1956), ''No Time for Sergeants'' (1958), ''Home Before Dark'' (1958), ''The F.B.I. Story'' (1959), ''A Majority of One'' (1962) and ''Gypsy'' (1962) - a vaudeville musical that gave him a chance to display his penchant for roses and razzle-dazzle. 

The movie maker worked easily with such widely feared studio chiefs as Jack L. Warner and Louis B. Mayer and, by 1938, was earning $300,000 a year. He deplored latter-day Hollywood in a 1974 memoir, ''Mervyn LeRoy: Take One,'' written with Dick Kleiner. 

''Nowadays, movies aren't made by great creative minds,'' he wrote, ''but by a cartel of businessmen on the one hand and a haphazard group of young and undisciplined rookies on the other. Today's films are made too fast and too dirty and cost either too much or too little. Too many directors today make movies that puzzle and offend and confuse the audience. They seem to equate bafflement with art.'' 

Mervyn LeRoy was born on Oct. 15, 1900, in San Francisco, the only child of Harry LeRoy, a department-store owner, and the former Edna Armer. His mother left when he was 5 to marry a hotel-reservation salesman, Percy Teeple, and his father's store was destroyed by the 1906 earthquake. The insurance companies went bankrupt; his father lost his spirit and had trouble supporting his family; he died in 1916. 

The youth had to sell newspapers at the age of 12 and then, at 14, sold papers by day and acted evenings in a stock company, where he perfected a Charlie Chaplin imitation. He then appeared in vaudeville for nine years, touring in the major national circuits under diverse billings, including ''The Singing Newsboy,'' ''The Boy Tenor of the Generation'' and, with a pianist, Clyde Cooper, for three years as ''LeRoy and Cooper, Two Kids and a Piano.'' 'Mervyn Mothball'
At the age of 23, he got a bit part in a movie in Fort Lee, N.J., and became intrigued by film directing. A cousin, the movie pioneer Jesse L. Lasky, got him a job in Hollywood as a wardrobe handler, with a weekly salary of $12.50. The job made him invariably reek of mothballs, and friends at his rooming house soon dubbed him ''Mervyn Mothball.'' He gained a transfer to the studio laboratory, working with dyes for film tinting. They discolored his skin, and friends began to call him ''Rainbow.'' 

Over five years, he was variously an assistant cameraman, bit player, featured actor and gag writer. In 1928, he directed his first film, ''No Place to Go,'' a silent marital comedy starring Mary Astor. He quickly shot nine more movies, three of them silent and six talkies, mostly forgettable farces. But he became a director to watch when he filmed ''Little Caesar,'' a riveting 1930 expose of a vicious mobster (Edward G. Robinson). The movie rocked the nation and spawned a spate of gangster films. His niche was secured by ''I Am a Fugitive From a Chain Gang,'' a 1932 tragedy about an innocent engineer (Paul Muni) who is brutalized into becoming a thief. The film had a stunning impact and prompted major reforms in laws and prison conditions. 

In World War II, he made a dozen public affairs shorts for the Government on such subjects as contending with bombs and putting out fires, to prepare Americans for a possible attack. 

Mr. LeRoy made movies zestfully, intensely and meticulously. On the set, he usually insisted on silence, but often relieved tension with practical jokes. He was tactful with performers as he sought their best efforts. 

For many years, he owned thoroughbred race horses, and served as president of the Hollywood Park race track. 

In a statement from the White House last night, President and Mrs. Reagan said: 

''Mervin LeRoy was a special part of our lives. It was he who introduced us and he was always a precious friend. In fact, we always referred to him as our Cupid. 

''Mervin LeRoy was one of the pillars of the entertainment industry, responsible for some of the finest motion pictures ever. He was one of the greatest directors and producers of all time, knowing exactly how a scene should be and knowing just what to say to get his actors to make it right. 

''He was dedicated to his profession and brought unmatched enthusiasm and energy to everything he did. He achieved excellence and earned the respect and affection of everyone he worked with.''
Mr. LeRoy was married briefly in the late 1920's to Edna Murphy, a film actress. From his 11-year marriage to Doris Warner, the daughter of Harry M. Warner - one of the three Warner brothers - he is survived by a son, Warner, a New York restaurateur; a daughter, Linda Janklow of New York City; two stepdaughters, Rita Roedling of Beverly Hills and Eugenia Bucci-Casari of Rome, and six grandchildren. He is also survived by his third wife, the former Katherine Spiegel, whom he married in 1946. 

A funeral service will be held on Wednesday at 2 P.M. at Forest Lawn Memorial Park in Glendale, Calif. 

photo of scene from 'Little Caesar'; photo of scene from 'Waterloo Bridge'; photo of scene from 'Mister Roberts'

Crown of Thorns reels in G2 Mervyn LeRoy

Posted on 02:55
B. Wayne Hughes' Spendthrift Farm LLC's Crown of Thorns upset Sidney's Candy in the $147,000 Mervyn LeRoy H. (G2) May 7 at Hollywood Park, giving the very talented but hard-luck 6-year-old his first stakes win since the 2008 Robert B. Lewis S. (G2) at Santa Anita.

Crown of Thorns basically stalked the 2-5 favorite Sidney's Candy for the first six furlongs, engaged the leader on the second turn, then finally gained the lead in deep stretch to win by 1 1/4-lengths. Completing the 1 1/16 miles over Cushion track in 1:42.73, Crown of Thorns pushed his earnings to $777,080. He is 3-4-1 in 10 lifetime outings. His 101 Beyer Speed Figure in the LeRoy was his fifth triple-digit number of his career.

The win was the fourth in the LeRoy, which is the first major prep for the $500,000 Hollywood Gold Cup July 9, for Hall of Fame trainer Richard Mandella.

"It was pretty much as you would have figured it on paper," said Mandella. "(Sidney’s Candy) looked like he'd be on an easy lead unless somebody teased him a little bit. That’s kind of what we had in mind, so he wouldn't think he was out there by himself.

"I've always loved this horse. He's a very good horse. We always thought he would be better going long. Just circumstances. He's fast enough to sprint and he can run on turf or anything we want, but I think two turns is better for him. He's really good right now."

Mervyn LeRoy

Posted on 02:52
Mervyn LeRoy,  (born October 15, 1900San Francisco, California, U.S.—died September 13, 1987Beverly Hills, California), American motion-picture director whose wide variety of films included dramas, romances, epics, comedies, and musicals. He also produced films, including the classic The Wizard of Oz (1939).

Early work

After the LeRoy family home was destroyed in the San Francisco earthquake of 1906, LeRoy earned his first money by selling newspapers; that became his entreé to show business when one of his customers helped him get a part onstage as a newsboy. He performed in vaudeville as “the Singing Newsboy.” His cousin Jesse Lasky helped him get a job folding costumes at Famous Players–Lasky in 1919, and from there he ascended from lab technician to assistant cameraman. LeRoy managed a parallel career as an actor, often playing juveniles in films from 1922 to 1924.

After he outgrew those parts, LeRoy moved behind the scenes, writing gags (and sometimes more) for such Colleen Moore pictures as Sally (1925), Ella Cinders (1926), and Twinkletoes (1926). In 1927 Warner Brothers signed him to direct, and he commenced this most-important phase of his career with such low-budget efforts as Harold Teen (1928) and Oh Kay! (1928). Hot Stuff (1929), a comedy with Alice White, was his first sound picture, and White also starred in Broadway Babies (1929) and Show Girl in Hollywood (1930), an inside-Hollywood yarn with portions shot in Technicolor.

At Warner Brothers in the 1930s: Little Caesar, I Am a Fugitive from a Chain Gang, and Gold Diggers of 1933

Also in 1930 came Numbered Men, a prison drama, and Top Speed, a Joe E. Brown musical comedy. Then came Little Caesar (1931), the film that made LeRoy’s reputation, with Edward G. Robinson as a Capone-like crime czar. It stands as one of the seminal gangster pictures, along with William Wellman’s The Public Enemy (1931) and Howard Hawks’s Scarface (1932).

Gentleman’s Fate, Too Young to Marry, and Broadminded, the latter another comedy with Brown, all followed in 1931, though none had the impact of Little Caesar. However, Five Star Final (1931) again had the benefit of Robinson, this time playing a hard-boiled newspaper editor whose ethics are twisted out of shape in his pursuit of higher circulation. Local Boy Makes Good, yet another vehicle for Brown, and Tonight or Never completed LeRoy’s slate for 1931—seven releases, an impressive figure even by the standards of the time. High Pressure (1932) offered William Powell in top comic form as a promoter trying to find investors for an artificial rubber process, and Two Seconds (1932) had Robinson playing a convicted murderer who has just moments to relive his miserable existence before the electric chair ends it all.

Big City Blues (1932), a modest crime yarn, starred Eric Linden and Joan Blondell, and the melodrama Three on a Match (1932) starred Blondell, Bette Davis, and Ann Dvorak as childhood friends who reunite as adults just in time for one of them to meet a tragic fate. One of LeRoy’s most notable films was I Am a Fugitive from a Chain Gang (1932), a blistering adaptation of Robert E. Burns’s account of his horrible experiences in a Georgia prison camp. The film and Paul Muni’s harrowing portrayal of the unjustly imprisoned convict were nominated for Academy Awards. Hard to Handle (1933) did not have any such social consciousness but remains a fine example of Warner Brothers’s pre-Production Code comedies, with James Cagney as a press agent who will promote anything and everything.

Elmer, the Great (1933) had Brown as a very un-Ruthian home-run slugger, but it was the musical Gold Diggers of 1933 that became a classic. A follow-up to 42nd Street (1933), it had essentially the same cast and dance director Busby Berkeley, who staged such memorable production numbers as “We’re in the Money,” “Remember My Forgotten Man,” and “Pettin’ in the Park.” Tugboat Annie (1933), starring Wallace Beery and Marie Dressler, was another smash. LeRoy’s fifth release of 1933 was The World Changes, a soap opera starring Muni as a meatpacking tycoon and Mary Astor as his snobbish wife.

The advent in 1934 of the Production Code, which greatly restricted what could be shown on-screen, did not meld at first with LeRoy’s strengths. Hi, Nellie! (1934) had Muni again, this time in a minor newspaper story. Heat Lightning (1934) was a crime drama set in a gas station and motel in the Mojave Desert. Sweet Adeline (1934), a period musical, starred Irene Dunne as a Hoboken beer-garden singer and was awash in Jerome Kern and Oscar Hammerstein II songs. In the comedy Page Miss Glory (1935), Marion Davies starred as a chambermaid who happens to resemble a composite photo created by con men to win a beauty contest. I Found Stella Parish (1935) was a soap opera with Kay Francis as an actress trying to cover up her scarlet past.

LeRoy was finally given a prestige property with Anthony Adverse (1936), a hugely successful costume drama set in the 18th century and based on the Hervey Allen best seller. Fredric March starred as the globe-trotting hero, and the cast included Olivia de Havilland, Claude Rains, and Gale Sondergaard, who won the first Oscar for best supporting actress. The film was nominated for best picture.

They Won’t Forget (1937) was the most serious drama LeRoy had been given in years. Based on a novel by Ward Greene that dramatized the 1913 rape and murder of a 15-year-old Atlanta girl (played by Lana Turner, who was under personal contract to LeRoy) and the subsequent trial, the film was a powerful indictment of political ambition. But then came the frothy Fools for Scandal (1938), starring Carole Lombard and Fernand Gravet as lovebirds in Paris. These last two films were also produced by LeRoy, but it was becoming clear that Warner Brothers had no sense of what projects best suited him.

At Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer: Random Harvest, Thirty Seconds over Tokyo, and Quo Vadis

LeRoy left Warner Brothers for the greener pastures of Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer (MGM), where he was offered an unusual deal that allowed him to function as either a producer or a director. He began by producing the films of other directors: Robert Sinclair’s Dramatic School (1938), W.S. Van Dyke’s Stand Up and Fight (1939), Eddie Buzzell’s At the Circus (1939), and, most enduringly, Victor Fleming’s The Wizard of Oz (1939). Finally, in 1940, LeRoy stepped behind the camera again. His first picture was Waterloo Bridge, adapted from the Robert E. Sherwood play about a London dancer (Vivien Leigh) and a soldier (Robert Taylor) who fall in love during an air raid.

Escape (1940) starred Taylor again, as an American trying to get his mother out of a concentration camp with the help of a Nazi officer’s mistress (Norma Shearer), and Blossoms in the Dust (1941) offered Greer Garson in one of her most sentimental roles, as the founder of an orphanage. Unholy Partners (1941) was an offbeat period crime yarn about a newspaper baron (Robinson) who must make a deal with a gang lord (Edward Arnold) to get his paper published. The crime opus Johnny Eager (1941) was driven by the star chemistry between Taylor and Turner.

Madame Curie [Credit: © 1943 Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer Inc.; photograph from a private collection] 

Random Harvest (1942), based on James Hilton’s novel, was a big box-office success. A soldier (Ronald Colman) is left with amnesia and shell shock after World War I, but his frustration melts away under the tender ministrations of a dancer (Garson), whom he falls in love with and marries. They have a child; then a collision restores his memory of his former life but wipes out that of his years of marriage, though she does not forget him. LeRoy earned his only Oscar nomination for best direction, and the film was also nominated for best picture. Madame Curie (1943) was a popular biopic about physicists Marie (Garson) and Pierre Curie (Walter Pidgeon) and was a best picture nominee.

Little Women [Credit: © 1949 Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer Inc.; photograph from a private collection]

LeRoy had been on a successful streak, and his next film was the World War II epic Thirty Seconds over Tokyo (1944), based on participant Ted Lawson’s book about the first U.S. bombing raid on Japan in 1942, which was led by Lieut. Col. James Doolittle. Van Johnson starred as Lawson, and Robert Walker, Robert Mitchum, and Spencer Tracy (as Doolittle) were among the other fliers. Another exercise in patriotism was a documentary short about religious tolerance, The House I Live In (1945), written by Albert Maltz (later of the Hollywood Ten), with Frank Sinatra delivering the message. LeRoy, Maltz, Sinatra, and three others won a special Oscar for the film; it was the only Oscar LeRoy would ever receive. Without Reservations (1946) was a pleasant romantic comedy with the offbeat pairing of John Wayne and Claudette Colbert. Homecoming (1948) was about the romance between a World War II battlefield surgeon (Clark Gable) and a nurse (Turner). LeRoy remade Little Women (1949) with Janet Leigh, Elizabeth Taylor, June Allyson, and Margaret O’Brien as the March sisters.

Quo Vadis [Credit: © 1951 Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer Inc.]

LeRoy had not had a hit since Thirty Seconds over Tokyo, and make-work pictures such as Any Number Can Play (1949), which featured Gable as a gambler with marital problems, did nothing to reestablish him. East Side, West Side (1949) had the benefit of a great cast—Ava Gardner, James Mason, Barbara Stanwyck, and Van Heflin—but was not a success. Quo Vadis (1951), MGM’s $7 million epic about the persecution of Christians under the Roman emperor Nero, had actually been initiated in 1949 with John Huston directing, but LeRoy took over the production, which was filmed on location in Rome over six grueling months. The film was Oscar nominated for best picture and received seven other Oscar nominations, including one for Peter Ustinov’s outrageous interpretation of Nero. Quo Vadis was MGM’s second highest grossing picture ever, behind Gone with the Wind (1939).

From that height, LeRoy returned to more-routine projects. Lovely to Look At (1952), with Kathryn Grayson and Howard Keel, was a handsome if unnecessary remake of Roberta (1935), and Million Dollar Mermaid (1952), starring Esther Williams and Victor Mature, was a biopic about Australian swimmer Annette Kellerman (Williams), who became a Hollywood star in the silent era; Berkeley handled the musical numbers. Latin Lovers (1953), was a semimusical with Turner and Ricardo Montalbán, and Rose Marie (1954) was another inferior remake of a 1930s classic.

Return to Warner Brothers: Mister Roberts, The Bad Seed, and Gypsy

Rose Marie completed LeRoy’s tenure at MGM. He returned to Warner Brothers, where he both produced and directed. Strange Lady in Town (1955) was a minor western starring Garson as a frontier doctor, but then LeRoy was asked to take over the service comedy Mister Roberts (1955) from John Ford, who was ill and had disagreed violently during shooting with Henry Fonda, the star of the original Broadway success. Nevertheless, the film was a major box-office hit and was Oscar nominated as best picture. For the rest of his career, LeRoy made a specialty of adapting Broadway hits.

The Bad Seed (1956) had also been a hit on Broadway. LeRoy’s popular but slavishly faithful version of Maxwell Anderson’s play about a sweet little girl who is actually a murderer imported most of the original cast, of whom Nancy Kelly, Eileen Heckart, and child actress Patty McCormack all earned Oscar nominations. Toward the Unknown (1956) was a story about air force pilots, with William Holden and James Garner in his film debut. The hit service comedy No Time for Sergeants (1958) captured the spirit of Ira Levin’s Broadway show and laid the groundwork for Andy Griffith’s television career. Home Before Dark (1958) was a drama about a woman’s (Jean Simmons’s) efforts to readjust to a normal life after spending a year in a mental institution. The FBI Story (1959) was a capsule dramatization of the agency’s most famous cases; it starred James Stewart as an FBI agent and Vera Miles as his long-suffering wife.

The comedy Wake Me When It’s Over (1960) featured Dick Shawn and Ernie Kovacs as army pals who, out of boredom, build a resort on the Japanese island where they are stationed. The Devil at 4 o’Clock (1961) starred Tracy and Sinatra in a drama about the evacuation of a children’s hospital after a volcano erupts, and A Majority of One (1962) was a lengthy adaptation of the Broadway success, with the unusual casting of Rosalind Russell as a Jewish divorcée and Alec Guinness as a Japanese diplomat. Russell was better served in Gypsy (1962) as Rose Hovick, the frightening stage mother of Gypsy Rose Lee (Natalie Wood) and Baby June (Morgan Britanny).

The marital farce Mary, Mary (1963) was another adaptation of a Broadway success. LeRoy’s last credit was Moment to Moment (1965), a romantic thriller starring Jean Seberg and Honor Blackman. LeRoy also assisted Wayne on the Vietnam War film The Green Berets (1968) before retiring. His autobiography, Take One, was published in 1974, and he received the Irving G. Thalberg Memorial Award from the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences in 1976.

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