Henry Hathaway Biography

(Film Director)

Birthday: March 13, 1898 (Pisces)

Born In: Sacramento, California, United States

Henry Hathaway was an American film director and producer famous for directing films like ‘The Lives of a Bengal Lancer’ and ‘Call Northside 777.’ Having gained prominence as a director of Westerns, he was equally skilled at navigating other genres like semi-documentaries, often using the film noir style. The son of the actor and stage manager, Rhody Hathaway and his actress wife Jean, Henry Hathaway was exposed to the show business at an early age. Greatly inspired by his parents as a young child, he started appearing in short films by the time he was ten. He quit school as a teenager and began working with Universal Studios as a prop boy while also exploring acting opportunities. The World War I interrupted his career for a while as he was called to serve in the military. However, the young man’s passion for films led him back to cinema after the war ended. Realizing his love for direction, he became an assistant director and worked under prominent directors such as Josef von Sternberg and Victor Fleming. He eventually went on to direct his first feature film, the Western, ‘Heritage of the Desert’ starring Randolph Scott. After gaining a reputation for his Westerns he changed course and focused on film noirs and semi-documentaries.
Quick Facts

Also Known As: Marquis Henri Léopold de Fiennes

Died At Age: 86


Spouse/Ex-: Blanche Gonzalez (1932–1985; his death), Elvira Weil (1919–1931)

father: Rhody Hathaway

mother: Jean Hathaway

Directors T V & Movie Producers

Died on: February 11, 1985

place of death: Hollywood, Los Angeles, California, United States

U.S. State: California

City: Sacramento

Childhood & Early Life
Henri Léopold de Fiennes Hathaway was born on March 13, 1898 in Sacramento, California. His father, Rhody Hathaway, was an actor and stage manager, while his mother, the Marquise Lillie de Fiennes, was a Hungarian-born Belgian aristocrat, who acted under the name Jean Hathaway.
Due to his parents’ profession the young boy was exposed to the show business at an early age. He began appearing in short films as a child actor. He was not academically inclined and dropped out of school while in his mid-teens.
With the help of his mother he got a job as a prop boy at the Universal Studio and also did some acting roles. When the World War I broke out, he enlisted in the army and served as a gunnery instructor.
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After his military service, he returned to the world of cinema. By now he had realized that he was more interested in directing than in acting and began working as an assistant director under famed directors such as Josef von Sternberg and Victor Fleming, in 1925. Over the next few years, he honed his craft under the guidance of his mentors.
He made his directorial debut in 1932 with the Western film production, ‘Heritage of the Desert’, based on a Zane Grey novel. The film saw actor Randolph Scott in his first starring role. This film was followed by other Westerns and soon Hathaway gained a reputation for his stories of the settling of the American West.
In 1935, he directed the Gary Cooper starring film ‘The Lives of a Bengal Lancer’ which received seven Academy Award nominations, including nomination for the Academy Award for Directing for Hathaway. During the 1930s, he directed a total of five films with Gary Cooper.
He began the 1940s with the biographical romantic drama film ‘Brigham Young’ and the crime thriller ‘Johnny Apollo,’ both in 1940. In 1941, Hathaway directed ‘The Shepherd of the Hills’ starring John Wayne, Betty Field and Harry Carey, and followed it with the war film ‘Sundown’ the same year.
Having established himself as a reputed director of Westerns, Henry Hathaway began making films in a semi-documentary vein, often using the film noir style during the second half of the 1940s. Some of his films from this era are ‘The House on 92nd Street’ (1945), ‘13 Rue Madeleine’ (1945), ‘The Dark Corner’ (1946), ‘Kiss of Death’ (1947) and ‘Call Northside 777’ (1948).
His thriving career continued into the 1950s and he made many popular films like ‘The Desert Fox’ (1951) and ‘Rawhide’ (1951), ‘Niagara’ (1953), ‘Prince Valiant’ and ‘Garden of Evil’ (1954), ‘The Racers’ (1955), ‘From Hell to Texas’ (1958), and ‘Woman Obsessed’ (1959).
In 1962 Henry Hathaway coordinated with John Ford and George Marshall to direct the spectacular ‘How the West Was Won’ in which he directed most of the river, prairie, and train robbery sequences.
Some of his later movies are ‘True Grit’ (1969), ‘Raid on Rommel’ (1971), and ‘Shoot Out’ (1971). His 65th and final film was ‘Hangup’ (1974).
Major Works
One of Hathaway’s best known movies is the epic-adventure-drama film ‘The Lives of a Bengal Lancer.’ Described as "one of the greatest adventure films of all time" by historian John Reid, the movie was nominated for seven Academy Awards and grossed $49 million at the box office.

Awards & Achievements
Henry Hathaway received a nomination for the Academy Award for Directing for ‘The Lives of a Bengal Lancer.’
He was nominated for a Best Director award by the New York Film Critics Circle for the film ‘The House on 92nd Street.’
He has a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame at 1638 Vine Street in recognition of his contribution to cinema.
Personal Life & Legacy
Henry Hathaway was twice married. His first marriage was to Elvira Weil from 1919 to 1931.
His second marriage was to Blanche (Skip) Gonzalez in 1932 with whom he had one son. The couple remained together for 53 years until Hathaway’s death.
He suffered a heart attack and died on February 11, 1985, at the age of 86.

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