Oscar-winning producer-director Mervyn LeRoy set the tone of Hollywood moviemaking for 40 years with such films as "Little Caesar," "The Wizard of Oz," "Quo Vadis" and "Gypsy."
He had been a full-fledged director at First National (later Warner Bros.) for only three years when his handling of "Little Caesar" and "I Am a Fugitive From a Chain Gang" boosted Edward G. Robinson and Paul Muni to stardom — and set the tone of fast-paced toughness that dominated Warner's products for a decade.
Later, at MGM, he presided over a series of lush, romantic vehicles that enhanced the careers of such stars as Vivien Leigh and Greer Garson, while displaying a total mastery of such diverse forms as musicals, historical spectaculars, action films and even children's fantasy.
His winning impersonation of Charlie Chaplin got him started on a vaudeville career as part of an act called "Two Kids and a Piano," which ended far short of the Palace Theatre. He wound up stranded in New York.
A cousin who had already switched from vaudeville to the movies — whose name was Jesse L. Lasky — staked LeRoy to a rail ticket from New York to Hollywood and put him to work in the costume department of a studio called Famous Players-Lasky (later to be known as Paramount). LeRoy spent the next few months trying to make up his mind about whether he liked the town and the business.
LeRoy used a talent for inventing gags to break out of the costume department. He was soon inventing funny bits for Colleen Moore, who was instrumental in getting him his first feature directing assignment from First National, a 1928 effort called "No Place to Go" starring Lloyd Hughes and Mary Astor.
As the years passed, LeRoy's fluency in and grasp of all film forms was shown in directing such diverse efforts as "Tugboat Annie," "Anthony Adverse," "Three Men on a Horse," "Waterloo Bridge," "Johnny Eager," "Random Harvest," "Madam Curie," "Thirty Seconds Over Tokyo," "Without Reservations," "Little Women," "Quo Vadis," "Million Dollar Mermaid" and "Mister Roberts."
He also produced — but did not direct —"The Wizard of Oz" and "At the Circus" in the late 1930s, and was both producer and director for "The Bad Seed," "No Time for Sergeants," "Home Before Dark," "A Majority of One," "The FBI Story" and "Gypsy."
His final picture was "Moment to Moment" in 1966, but he was also credited with assisting John Wayne in making "The Green Berets" in 1968.
|1942||Best Director||Random Harvest||Nomination|
|1945||Special Award||The House I Live In||Win*|
|1975||Irving G. Thalberg Memorial Award||Win|