George Seaton Biography

(Screenwriter, Film Director)
George Seaton

Birthday: April 17, 1911 (Aries)

Born In: South Bend, Indiana

George Seaton was a distinguished American film director, producer, screenwriter, playwright and theatre director. He made a humble beginning as a gag writer and general factotum in the entertainment industry and with his hard work and dedication rose up to become an exceptionally gifted writer and director. Starting with playing ‘The Lone Ranger’, in the test broadcasts of the radio show, he eventually got to play the title role in the show’s regular schedules. He was inducted as a contract writer by ‘MGM’ in early 1930s and thereafter by ‘20th Century Fox’ in early 1940s, where he contributed to writing several scripts. Film ‘Diamond Horseshoe’ marked his debut in direction following which he made several films contributing to direction and screenwriting. Some of the notable ones are ‘Apartment for Peggy’, ‘The Big Lift’, ‘Chicken Every Sunday’, ‘The Shocking Miss Pilgrim’, ‘For Heaven's Sake’ and ‘Little Boy Lost’. However he is best known for the films ‘Miracle on 34th Street’ and ‘The Country Girl’, both of which earned him ‘Academy Award for Best Adapted Screenplay’. The former also fetched him ‘Golden Globe Award for Best Screenplay’. The 1970 American drama film, ‘Airport’ directed by him was not only a box office hit but also earned ten ‘Academy Awards’ nomination including one for his screenplay.
Quick Facts

Died At Age: 68


Spouse/Ex-: Phyllis Loughton (1936–79)

Directors Screenplay Writers

Died on: July 28, 1979

place of death: Beverly Hills, California

Cause of Death: Cancer

U.S. State: Indiana

City: South Bend, Indiana

More Facts

awards: Academy Award for Best Adapted Screenplay 1947 & 1954
The Jean Hersholt Humanitarian Award 1961

Childhood & Early Life
He was born George Stenius on April 17, 1911, in South Bend, Indiana, to Swedish parents who emigrated from Stockholm.
He was baptised as Roman Catholic. He spent his childhood in Jewish neighbourhood of Detroit and considered himself a ‘Shabas goy’. He attended an Orthodox Jewish Yeshiva and studied Hebrew and was also mitzvahed.
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Making up his mind to pursue a career in acting he completed his graduation and instead of continuing his studies at Yale University he joined stock theatre company of noted American theatre director, actress, and drama company manager, Jessie Bonstelle for a weekly remuneration of $15.
During this time he changed his name to George Seaton as he felt ‘Seaton’ would be a much easier word to pronounce.
While acting on-stage he also contributed his voice for the title role of a program called ‘The Lone Ranger’ that was aired in ‘WXYZ’, a commercial radio station licensed to Detroit, Michigan. He first supplied his voice in the test broadcasts of the program in January 1933 and then contributed in the program’s regular schedules.
According to him, as he was unable to whistle for his horse as per requirement of the script of ‘The Lone Ranger’, he devised the cry ‘Hi-yo, Silver’.
He submitted one of the plays he wrote in the office of ‘Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer’ Studios Inc (‘MGM’), the famous American media company in 1933. Upon reading the play renowned American film producer Irving Grant Thalberg, who was often referred as ‘The Boy Wonder’ and who had an extraordinary quality of choosing the right scripts, was quite impressed by the potential of young Seaton.
The result was Seaton’s induction as contract writer by ‘MGM’ in 1933 with a weekly remuneration of $50.
The next few years saw him working as an ideas man and gag writer, although many of his work went uncredited. He got his break in 1935 when he contributed to the first film that the Marx Brothers did with ‘MGM’ after coming out from ‘Paramount Pictures’. It was a comedy titled ‘A Night at the Opera’ and the film emerged to be a blockbuster hit.
Impressed by his contribution, Groucho Marx, one of the Marx brothers counted among best comedians of that time, sought collaboration of Seaton on screenplay of their upcoming comedy ‘A Day at the Races’. This film marked Seaton’s first major screen credit as one of its writers along with Robert Pirosh and George Oppenheimer. Released on June 11, 1937, the film was a smashing hit.
During 1939-40 he worked for a short while with ‘Columbia Pictures’, another famous American film production and distribution studio, where he came under the guidance of producer William Perlberg.
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In 1941 Perlberg left ‘Columbia Pictures’ and joined another major American film studio, ‘20th Century-Fox’. Seaton accompanied Perlberg and the collaboration of the duo gave Seaton full discretion to pen down screenplay for the 1943 religious drama, ‘The Song of Bernadette’. The film became a commercial success and earned him his first ever ‘Academy Awards’ nomination.
His contract with ‘20th Century-Fox’ as a writer was till 1950 within which time he wrote several film scripts including Technicolor musical ‘Moon Over Miami’ (1941); historical comedy ‘Charley's Aunt’ (1941); and Technicolor musical ‘Coney Island’ (1943).
Meanwhile he also delved as a playwright making his debut with ‘But Not Goodbye’ in ‘Broadway’ in 1944. The show however closed after twenty-three onstage performances.
His debut film as director was the 1945 Technicolor musical ‘Diamond Horseshoe’ released by ‘20th Century-Fox’ on May 2. The film starring Betty Grable, became quite successful, but struggled to make up for the high production costs.
He also remained under contract with ‘20th Century-Fox’ as director from 1945 to 1950 and delivered many films in the capacity of writer-director. Some such films were musical comedy ‘The Shocking Miss Pilgrim’ and Christmas comedy drama ‘Miracle on 34th Street’ (both in 1947); comedy drama ‘Apartment or Peggy’ (1948); comedy ‘Chicken Every Sunday’ (1949); and drama ‘The Big Lift’ (1950).
Of these ‘Miracle on 34th Street’ based on a story by Valentine Davies and starring Edmund Gwenn, Natalie Wood, Maureen O'Hara and John Payne fetched him his first ‘Academy Award for Best Adapted Screenplay’.
During 1948-49 he served as President of ‘Screen Writers Guild’ (presently the Writers Guild of America, West).
After their stint with ‘20th Century-Fox’, Perlberg and Seaton endeavoured into yet another innings in 1952, this time with ‘Paramount Pictures’. Two notable films of the duo with the studio were the 1954 drama ‘The Country Girl’ and the 1956 drama war romance ‘The Proud and Profane’. In both the films Seaton contributed as director-writer and Perlberg as producer. ‘The Country Girl’ earned Seaton his second ‘Academy Award for Best Adapted Screenplay’.
Seaton also co-produced some big-budget films with Perlberg that included the 1954 war film ‘The Bridges at Toko-Ri’ and the 1957 western film ‘The Tin Star’.
From 1955 to 1958 he remained President of ‘Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences’. He also served as Vice President of ‘Motion Picture Relief Fund’ for some time.
In 1967 he made a comeback to ‘Broadway’ by directing ‘Love in E Flat’, a play by Norman Krasna. It failed to garner success both commercially and critically.
His later films included ‘The Pleasure of His Company’ (1961), ‘The Counterfeit Traitor’ (1962), ‘The Hook’ (1963) and ‘What’s So Bad About Feeling Good?’ (1968).
The 1970 drama film ‘Airport’ remains his last successful film as writer-director. The film based on best-selling novel by Arthur Hailey of the same title starring Burt Lancaster and Dean Martin became a blockbuster hit that not only helped ‘Universal Pictures’ make $100,489,151 at box office but also remained the 42nd highest-grossing film of all time.
Personal Life & Legacy
On February 19, 1936, he married Phyllis Loughton. She worked as a dialogue director in Hollywood. Phyllis served as first female mayor of Beverly Hills.
Their son Marc Seaton born on October 14, 1945, in Los Angeles, California. He became an actor.
Seaton succumbed to cancer on July 28, 1979, in Beverly Hills, California.

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