Rex Ingram was a directing giant. As one of the most independent and visionary directors of the silent film era, Ingram was a primary sculptor of the art of film and a discoverer of talent who was instrumental in the careers of many of Hollywood's silent screen luminaries, including Rudolph Valentino, Ramon Novarro and Barbara La Marr.
Known as one of the most artistic directors of his time, Ingram's landmark epic "The Four Horsemen of the Apocalypse" (1921), based on Vicente Blasco Ibanez's novel, was a visual stunner with unparalleled pageantry and emotion, causing viewers to "fall under its spell."
"The elegant Parisian salons, the sordid Argentine cafe, in their enriched color and life, hold fascination for the eye," wrote film critic Edwin Schallert. He described Valentino, Alice Terry and Virginia Warwick, among others, as "magnetic interpreters" who "immediately claim your attention and hold it through force of personality."
As one of the largest-grossing films of the time, at more than $4 million, it ushered in a new era, the era of the first movie idol, Valentino, and his legacy as the "Latin Lover."
Ingram followed the film's success with another vehicle for his two main stars, Valentino and Terry, by directing "The Conquering Power" the same year, to rave reviews. "With the screening of this picture, Rex Ingram becomes a master of the beautiful in visual expression," wrote Schallert. "If true art can be determined by its symbols of beauty, its rhythm, its formal perfection and its reality, then 'Conquering Power' is the great artistic picture of the year."
While conquering film, Ingram also conquered love, in the form of his featured starlet, Terry, whom he first directed in "Hearts Are Trumps" (1920). He plucked her from obscurity to megastardom, alongside Valentino, when he cast her in "The Four Horsemen of the Apocalypse." They married in early 1922, forming a personal and professional partnership that lasted until his death. He directed Terry in "Turn to the Right" (1922), "The Prisoner of Zenda" (1922) and "Where the Pavement Ends" (1923), among others. Ingram and Terry co-directed the film "Baroud" (1932), of which Ingram wrote the screenplay. It was Ingram's only talkie and his swan song from filmmaking. As sound ushered in a new era, he found expression in sculpting and novel writing.
Never idle, always evolving, Ingram, the son of a clergyman, who spent many of his formative years in his father's rectory, announced in 1933 that he was leaving the film industry to pursue the Mohammedan faith. He returned to Hollywood in 1936.
Recognized for his fundamental influence in the artistry and evolution of filmmaking, including the dawn of the epic, the Directors Guild of America recognized him with an Honorary Life Member Award in 1949.