Leo McCarey Biography

(Film Director)

Birthday: October 3, 1898 (Libra)

Born In: Los Angeles, California, U.S.

Leo McCarey was an Academy Award winning American film director known for films like ‘Duck Soup’ and ‘The Awful Truth.’ Having built a reputation as a maker of screwball comedies during the 1930s, he was one of the most popular comedy directors in the pre-World War II Hollywood. Following the war, he shifted his focus towards socially conscious and religious movies and was equally successful in these genres too. A lawyer by education, he ventured into film-making by chance. A good-looking young man, he was referred to the director Tod Browning by his boyhood friend, the actor and future fellow director, David Butler. Browning encouraged him to go for the creative side of film-making rather than becoming an actor. Thus McCarey began his career writing gags before venturing into direction. He worked for the Hal Roach Studios where he developed his comedic abilities and played a major role in promoting the comedy team of Stan Laurel and Oliver Hardy. Having established himself in the comedy genre, he moved on to make movies with strong social messages and religious undertones. A highly accomplished director, screenwriter and producer, he was involved in the making of around 200 films in different genres and was the recipient of three Academy Awards.
Quick Facts

Also Known As: Thomas Leo McCarey

Died At Age: 70


Spouse/Ex-: Stella Martin (1920–1969)

father: Thomas J. McCarey

mother: Leona McCarey

children: Virginia

Directors American Men

Died on: July 5, 1969

place of death: Santa Monica, California, U.S.

U.S. State: California

City: Los Angeles

More Facts

awards: Academy Award for Best Director (1937)

Childhood & Early Life
Thomas Leo McCarey was born on October 3, 1898, in Los Angeles, California, U.S. to Thomas J. McCarey and his French-born wife, Leona (Mistrot) McCarey. His father was once called "the greatest fight promoter in the world" by the ‘Los Angeles Times.’
He attended St. Joseph’s Catholic school and Los Angeles High School before enrolling at the University of Southern California law school at the behest of his father. Following his graduation, he practised as a criminal defense attorney for some time and also dabbled in mining, boxing, and songwriting.
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McCarey's boyhood friend, the actor and future fellow director David Butler, referred him to director Tod Browning who took the creative young man as an assistant director in 1919.
In 1923, he joined Hal Roach Studios as a gagman and initially wrote gags for the ‘Our Gang’ series and other studio stars. He proceeded to form a highly productive collaboration with Charley Chase and produced and directed a number of shorts.
While at Roach, McCarey decided to team up two of the studio’s top comedians—Stan Laurel and Oliver Hardy. The enduring partnership of Laurel and Hardy proved to be very popular and McCarey made 19 films starring this comedic duo.
McCarey directed his first full-length features, ‘The Sophomore’ and ‘Red Hot Rhythm’ in 1929. In 1930, he directed ‘Part Time Wife,’ a comedy about an estranged couple portrayed by Edmund Lowe and Leila Hyams, who reconnect through golf.
In 1933, he made ‘Duck Soup’ starring the Marx Brothers. The film was a flop at the time of its release though it gained a cult following over the years and is now regarded as one of the greatest comedies of all time.
He made a series of comedies during the 1930s that reflected his trademark comic sense that blended reality and farce. One of his best known movies of this era was the Cary Grant and Irene Dunne starrer screwball comedy ‘The Awful Truth’ (1937).
Having gained a reputation for his comedies, he moved towards more serious movies in the 1940s. His 1944 film, the Bing Crosby starrer ‘Going My Way,’ a story about a priest and his unorthodox methods, proved to be a big success. McCarey reunited with Crosby for ‘The Bells of St. Mary’s’ (1945), which also proved to be a big hit.
His career suffered a decline following the World War II and his films were no longer as popular as they had once been. In 1952, he directed and produced ‘My Son John,’ a story about a man whose parents suspect he may be working as a Communist spy. The film failed at the box office.
In 1957, he directed, produced, and co-wrote the screenplay for ‘An Affair to Remember,’ a romantic drama starring Cary Grant and Deborah Kerr. The film was a remake of McCarey's 1939 film, ‘Love Affair’, starring Irene Dunne and Charles Boyer.

In 1958, he directed and produced ‘Rally 'Round the Flag, Boys!’, a comedy starring Paul Newman and Joanne Woodward. It was McCarey’s first comedy in a decade. He made his last film ‘Satan Never Sleeps’ in 1962 which was poorly received.
Major Works
He directed the comedy ‘The Awful Truth’ starring Irene Dunne and Cary Grant as a soon-to-be-divorced couple. A commercial as well as critical hit, the movie was selected for preservation in the United States National Film Registry in 1996, having been deemed "culturally, historically, or aesthetically significant."
The 1944 musical comedy ‘Going My Way’ directed and produced by Leo McCarey was the highest-grossing picture of 1944, and was nominated for ten Academy Awards, winning seven, including Best Picture.
Awards & Achievements
In 1937, he won the Academy Award for Best Director for ‘The Awful Truth.’
He earned his second Academy Award for Best Director for ‘Going My Way’ in 1944. He also won the Academy Award for Best Writing (Original Story) for the same movie.
Personal Life & Legacy
He married Stella Martin in 1920. The couple had a daughter, Virginia, and remained married for almost five decades until McCarey’s death in 1969.
Leo McCarey died of emphysema on July 5, 1969, at the age of 70.

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