W.S. Van Dyke

W.S. Van Dyke


W.S. Van Dyke
Film: North side of the 6100 block of Hollywood Boulevard
Actor | Director | Producer | Writer
Born Woodbridge Strong Van Dyke II on March 21, 1890 in San Diego, CA
Died Feb. 5, 1943 in Brentwood, Calif.

W.S. “Woody” Van Dyke is credited with directing 90 motion pictures from 1917 to 1942. He was twice nominated for the best director Academy Award, for “The Thin Man” (1934) and “San Francisco” (1936). Frank Capra won the awards in each of those years, for “It Happened One Night” (1934) and “Mr. Deeds Goes to Town” (1936).

Van Dyke also directed and acted in the 1933 “Eskimo” (also known as “Mala the Magnificent”), which won the first Oscar for film editing.

A native of San Diego, Van Dyke was a vaudeville child actor, on stage almost as a baby, and played legitimate theaters as a juvenile. When he was 17, in 1907, he joined a construction gang and helped build a trail in the remote Canadian wilderness. He returned to vaudeville and plays and began trying his hand at writing plays.

After service in the armed forces in World War I, he returned to the theater and soon devoted his full time to motion picture direction.

Among the films he directed were “White Shadows in the South Seas” (1928), “Trader Horn” (1931) and “Laughing Boy” (1934) and other productions filmed in far places of the Earth. He is perhaps best remembered for directing Myrna Loy and William Powell in the “The Thin Man” and three sequels.

A major in the Marine Corps Reserves, Van Dyke was active in recruiting for the Marine Corps until ill health forced his retirement.

He was a member of the Explorers Club, International Adventurers Club, a fellow of the Royal Geographic Society of London and belonged to dozens of fraternal, professional, athletic and honorary organizations.

He was a cousin of Henry Van Dyke, a philosopher, writer and U.S. ambassador to The Hague.

After his death at 53, Hedda Hopper, wrote in the Times, that Van Dyke "never failed to help what some call the little people. I prefer to think of them as the gallant ones — those who ran into hard luck, many of them picture pioneers.

“Woody had a list of their names, wouldn’t do a picture without them. Once he held up shooting six hours because a certain woman who needed the job wasn’t on the set. I’m glad his last picture, “Journey for Margaret,” was such a hit. He gave Metro a new star, [then 5-year-old] Margaret O’Brien.

“It was Woody’s understanding of children, having three of his own, which helped so much. More than a year before we went into war he turned his office at the studio into a recruiting office for the Marines. He was a great, colorful character. We’ll keep on missing him.”

Related stars

Points of interest

Click for more information

    Academy Awards

    Year Category Work
    1934 Best Director The Thin Man Nomination
    1936 Best Director San Francisco Nomination

    Two thoughts about W.S. Van Dyke

    Share a thought about W.S. Van Dyke

    • Did you ever meet W.S. Van Dyke? Share your memory.
    • Which other stars on the Hollywood Walk of Fame have connections to W.S. Van Dyke?
    • Are other places in the world important to W.S. Van Dyke?
    • Does W.S. Van Dyke deserve this star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame?