August 31, 1905
|Died||July 7, 1980 (aged 74)|
New York City
|Occupation||Screenwriter, playwright, film director, studio executive|
|Children||Jill Schary Robinson|
|Relatives||Jeremy Zimmer (grandchild)|
Isadore "Dore" Schary (August 31, 1905 - July 7, 1980) was an American playwright, director, and producer for the stage and a prolific screenwriter and producer of motion pictures. He directed just one feature film, Act One, the film biography of his friend, playwright and theater director Moss Hart. He became head of production at Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer and eventually president of the studio in the 1950s.
Schary was born to a Jewish family, in Newark, New Jersey. Schary's father ran a catering business called the Schary Manor. Dore attended Central High School for a year but dropped out to sell haberdashery and buy china. When he finally returned to school, he completed his three remaining years of classwork in one year, graduating in 1923.
Schary worked as a journalist, did publicity for a lecture tour by Rear Adm. Richard E. Byrd and was an assistant drama coach at the Young Men's Hebrew Association in Newark. The head coach was Moss Hart.
Schary worked in theatre as an actor and writer. In 1927 he got a bit part on Broadway in a play with Paul Muni. Then he worked with Hart at a summer resort in the Catskill Mountains, where they wrote, produced and directed skits and plays.
Schary appeared on Broadway in The Last Mile with Spencer Tracy. He wrote a play which was read by film producer Walter Wanger, who wired his New York office: "Hire Dore Schary. She writes with a lot of vigor - for a woman." Wanger subsequently hired Schary as a $100 a week film writer. Schary moved to Hollywood, but his option with Wanger was dropped after three months.
Schary worked on Let's Talk It Over (1934) for Universal, The Most Precious Thing in Life (1934) at Columbia, and Young and Beautiful (1934) at Universal. Other work for Universal included Storm Over the Andes (1935), Chinatown Squad (1935), and (uncredited) The Raven (1935).
At Paramount he did Timothy's Quest (1936), Mind Your Own Business (1936), Her Master's Voice (1936), Outcast (1937), and The Girl from Scotland Yard (1937). He did Ladies in Distress (1937) at Republic.
Schary's play Too Many Heroes ran on Broadway for 16 performances in the fall of 1937.
Schary went on to write Broadway Melody of 1940 (1940), Young Tom Edison (1940) with Mickey Rooney and Edison, the Man (1940) with Tracy. He also worked on Married Bachelor (1941). For Republic, Schary wrote Behind the News (1940).
MGM promoted Schary to producer of their "B" pictures unit. Schary began with Joe Smith, American (1942), based on Schary's own story, which became a solid hit. Kid Glove Killer (1942), the directorial debut for Fred Zinnemann, was also profitable.
Journey for Margaret (1942) was a big success, making a star of Margaret O'Brien. Bataan (1943) made a profit of over one million dollars. Lassie Come Home (1943) with Roddy McDowall and Elizabeth Taylor had a profit of over two million.
Schary accepted an offer to go to work for David O. Selznick's Vanguard Films as head of production. He produced I'll Be Seeing You (1944), The Spiral Staircase (1946), Till the End of Time (1946), The Farmer's Daughter (1947) with Loretta Young, and The Bachelor and the Bobby-Soxer (1947) with Cary Grant, Myrna Loy and Shirley Temple. All films were considerable critical and commercial successes.
Schary's Vanguard films were released through RKO who offered him the job as head of production. Although he still had eleven months left on his Vanguard contract they let him go and Schary signed a five-year deal with RKO in January 1947.
Expensive money losers included Adventure in Baltimore (1949) with Shirley Temple.
RKO was taken over by Howard Hughes, who clashed with Schary, particularly over Schary's desire to make Battleground, a film about the Battle of the Bulge. Schary resigned in July 1948. He soon accepted a job offer from Louis B. Mayer at MGM.
MGM were struggling to adapt to the post-war filmmaking environment, and in 1947 recorded their first-ever end-of-year financial loss. The movie industry was faced with the threat of the Paramount Decree, rising labor costs, political turmoil, labor unrest and the threat of television. MGM's parent company, Loews Incorporated in New York decided that Schary might be able to turn the tide. Schary signed to be vice president in charge of production in July 1948.
Schary and studio chief and founder Louis B. Mayer would soon be at odds over philosophy, with Mayer favoring splashy, wholesome entertainment and Schary leaning toward what Mayer derided as darker "message pictures".
"Films must provoke thought in addition to entertainment", Schary once said. "They must educate and inform as they entertain."
Schary's career at MGM got off to a strong start when Battleground (1949) proved to be MGM's most profitable film of the year. A 1949 profile called him a "boy wonder... very probably the most important man in the movie industry."
Schary received acclaim for his personal productions, including The Next Voice You Hear... (1950), Go for Broke! (1951) and Westward the Women (1951). Schary co-wrote (with Charles Palmer) the 1950 book Case History of a Movie, which extensively covered, from initial conception to screening, the production of the film The Next Voice You Hear....
Mayer and Schary's differences came to a head with production of The Red Badge of Courage (1951). Mayer presented an ultimatum to Nick Schenck, head of Loews, that Schary be fired. Schenck supported Schary and Mayer resigned. In July 1951 Schary took over complete control of production at MGM.
Schary wrote and produced the documentary film The Battle of Gettysburg (1955), getting two Oscar nominations for his work.
In Schary's last year at MGM he personally produced three films, all of which lost money: The Swan (1956), The Last Hunt (1956) and Designing Woman (1957). MGM recorded a loss in 1956 leading to Loews firing him from his $200,000 a year contract and replacing him with Ben Thau. He was to remain as a consultant for MGM until 1968 at $100,000 a year.
Contemporary newspaper reports and Schary later claimed he was fired because of his political activities, including his close association with the Democratic Party.
MGM swimming star Esther Williams would later state in her 1999 autobiography, The Million Dollar Mermaid, that Schary was just as rude, cruel, and as imperious as Mayer had been. She noted that she thought it appropriate that Schary was fired on Thanksgiving Day, since he was a "turkey". In 1956 in his final year running MGM, he appeared on the show This Is Your Life. Host Ralph Edwards stated that there had never been a show where more stars appeared to honor a guest.
Following his departure from MGM, Schary obtained the rights to the life of Franklin D. Roosevelt in April 1957. He wrote and produced the Broadway play Sunrise at Campobello (1958-59), about Roosevelt, starring Ralph Bellamy. The play won five Tony Awards and ran for 556 performances.
He had another Broadway hit when he produced and directed (but did not write) the comedy A Majority of One (1959-60) by Leonard Spigelgass, starring Gertrude Berg and Cedric Hardwicke. Schary earned a Tony nomination for his direction and the show ran for 556 performances. (It was later filmed, without Schary's involvement.)
Less successful was The Highest Tree (1959), which Schary wrote, produced and directed (and featured a young Robert Redford in the cast) and Triple Play (1959), a collection of short plays, which he produced.
Schary wrote and produced the film version of Sunrise at Campobello, which was released by Warner Brothers, directed by Donehue, in 1960. He also had a brief uncredited role in the film as Chairman of the Connecticut Delegation.
On Broadway, Schary had another huge hit as producer and director with the Meredith Wilson musical, The Unsinkable Molly Brown (1960) starring Tammy Grimes, which ran for 532 performances (and was later turned into a film).
Schary wrote, produced and directed The Devil's Advocate (1961), based on the novel by Morris West, which ran for 116 performances. He produced and directed Something About a Soldier (1962) by Ernest Kinoy and Love and Kisses (1963) by Anita Block both which had short runs. He also wrote a memoir, For Special Occasions (1962).
Schary made his directorial debut in movies with Act One (1963) based on the memoirs of Moss Hart; Schary also wrote and produced. It was a flop and marked both the beginning and the end of Schary's film directing career.
Schary wrote two more produced Broadway plays, Brightower (1970) (one performance) and Herzl (1976) (8 performances), neither of which had long runs. He wrote his memoirs, Heyday, which came out shortly before his death.
Reflecting on his career shortly before his death he said "I've always had an edge and the edge is that I'm a writer. No matter what happens I can write. And I'm tough. You had to be tough to outwit them, to wear them down. I've always been pretty lucky that way."
He worked as a printer in his youth at Art Craft Press in Newark, New Jersey. He married (March 5, 1932) Miriam Svet (pianist and later recognized painter) with whom he had three children: the novelist and memoirist Jill Schary Robinson, psychoanalyst Dr. Joy Schary, and CLIO award-winning producer Jeb Schary. Miriam and Dore Schary collectively had seven grandchildren and 13 great-grandchildren.
Dore Schary died in 1980, aged 74, and was interred in the Hebrew Cemetery, West Long Branch, New Jersey. Miriam Svet Schary died in October, 1986, aged 74, and was interred next to her husband in Hebrew Cemetery.
To honor his memory, the Anti-Defamation League established the Dore Schary Awards in 1982.