Leisen's card from The Big Broadcast of 1938s credits
James Mitchell Leisen
October 6, 1898
Menominee, Michigan, U.S.
|Died||October 28, 1972 (aged 74)|
Woodland Hills, California, U.S.
|Occupation||Director, Art Director, Costume Designer, Producer|
He entered the film industry in the 1920s, beginning in the art and costume departments. He directed his first film in 1933 with Cradle Song and became known for his keen sense of aesthetics in the glossy Hollywood melodramas and screwball comedies he turned out.
His best known films include the Alberto Casella adaptation Death Takes a Holiday and Murder at the Vanities, a musical mystery story (both 1934), as well as Midnight (1939) and Hold Back the Dawn (1941), both scripted by Billy Wilder. Easy Living (1937), written by Preston Sturges and starring Jean Arthur, was another hit for the director, who also directed Remember the Night (1940), the last film written by Sturges before he started directing his scripts as well. The films Lady in the Dark (1944), To Each His Own (1946), and No Man of Her Own (1950) were later successes. Also Charles Brackett's comedy The Mating Season (1951) starring Gene Tierney, Miriam Hopkins and Thelma Ritter was an updated version of Leisen's earlier screwball comedies of the 1930s, and was also his last big movie success.
The Twilight Zone episode The Sixteen Milimeter Shrine" is a variation Billy Wilder's Sunset Blvd (1950). Wilder was unhappy with Leisen's script revisions in Hold Back the Dawn.
Though married, Leisen was reported to be gay or bisexual. According to Carolyn Roos, Leisen's longtime business manager's daughter, he had a very long relationship with dancer/actor/choreographer Billy Daniel until the 1950s (Daniel died in 1962). Leisen, with Daniel and dancer/actor Mary Parker, formed Hollywood Presents Inc. as a means of promoting both Daniel and Parker off-screen. Leisen died of heart disease in 1972, aged 74. His grave is located in Chapel of the Pines Crematory.
He garnered his sole Academy Award nomination in 1930 for Art Direction for Cecil B. DeMille's Dynamite. he directed Hold Back the Dawn (1941), which was nominated for the Academy Award for Best Picture.
|1933||Cradle Song||Paramount||Dorothea Wieck / Evelyn Venable|
|1934||Bolero||Paramount||George Raft / Carole Lombard||Co-directed with Wesley Ruggles|
|1934||Death Takes a Holiday||Paramount||Fredric March / Evelyn Venable||Released to DVD|
|1934||Murder at the Vanities||Paramount||Victor McLaglen / Jack Oakie / Carl Brisson|
|1934||Behold My Wife||Paramount||Gene Raymond / Ann Sheridan / Sylvia Sydney|
|1935||Four Hours to Kill!||Paramount||Richard Barthelmess / Ray Milland / Gertrude Michael|
|1935||Hands Across the Table||Paramount||Carole Lombard / Fred MacMurray|
|1936||Thirteen Hours by Air||Paramount||Fred MacMurray / Joan Bennett / Zasu Pitts|
|1936||The Big Broadcast of 1937||Paramount||Jack Benny / George Burns / Gracie Allen / Ray Milland|
|1937||Swing High, Swing Low||Paramount||Carole Lombard / Fred MacMurray / Dorothy Lamour||Released to DVD|
|1937||Easy Living||Paramount||Jean Arthur / Edward Arnold / Ray Milland||Released to DVD|
|1938||The Big Broadcast of 1938||Paramount||W.C. Fields / Martha Raye / Bob Hope / Dorothy Lamour||Released to DVD|
|1938||Artists and Models Abroad||Paramount||Jack Benny / Joan Bennett||Released to DVD|
|1939||Midnight||Paramount||Claudette Colbert / Don Ameche / John Barrymore / Mary Astor||Released to DVD|
|1940||Remember the Night||Paramount||Barbara Stanwyck / Fred MacMurray||Released to DVD|
|1940||Arise, My Love||Paramount||Claudette Colbert / Ray Milland|
|1941||I Wanted Wings||Paramount||Ray Milland / William Holden / Wayne Morris / Veronica Lake||WON Academy Award for Best Visual Effects.|
|1941||Hold Back the Dawn||Paramount||Charles Boyer / Olivia De Havilland / Paulette Goddard||Nominated for Academy Award for Best Picture.|
Released to DVD (region 2).
|1942||The Lady is Willing||Paramount||Marlene Dietrich / Fred MacMurray|
|1942||Take a Letter, Darling||Paramount||Rosalind Russell / Fred MacMurray|
|1943||No Time for Love||Paramount||Claudette Colbert / Fred MacMurray|
|1944||Lady in the Dark||Paramount||Ginger Rogers / Ray Milland||Technicolor film|
|1944||Frenchman's Creek||Paramount||Joan Fontaine / Arturo de Córdova / Basil Rathbone / Nigel Bruce||Technicolor film|
|1944||Practically Yours||Paramount||Claudette Colbert / Fred MacMurray|
|1945||Kitty||Paramount||Paulette Goddard / Fred MacMurray|
|1945||Masquerade in Mexico||Paramount||Dorothy Lamour / Arturo de Córdova|
|1946||To Each His Own||Paramount||Olivia de Havilland / John Lund||Academy Award for Best Actress.|
Released to VHS.
|1947||Suddenly, It's Spring||Paramount||Paulette Goddard / Fred MacMurray|
|1947||Golden Earrings||Paramount||Marlene Dietrich / Ray Milland|
|1948||Dream Girl||Paramount||Betty Hutton / Macdonald Carey|
|1949||Bride of Vengeance||Paramount||Paulette Goddard / Macdonald Carey / John Lund|
|1949||Song of Surrender||Paramount||Claude Rains / Wanda Hendrix / Macdonald Carey|
|1950||No Man of Her Own||Paramount||Barbara Stanwyck / John Lund|
|1950||Captain Carey, U.S.A.||Paramount||Alan Ladd / Wanda Hendrix|
|1951||The Mating Season||Paramount||Gene Tierney / John Lund / Miriam Hopkins / Thelma Ritter||Nominated Academy Award for Best Supporting Actress Thelma Ritter|
|1951||Darling, How Could You!||Paramount||Joan Fontaine / John Lund|
|1952||Young Man with Ideas||MGM||Glenn Ford|
|1953||Tonight We Sing||20th Century Fox||David Wayne / Ezio Pinza / Roberta Peters / Tamara Toumanova||Technicolor film|
|1955||Bedevilled||MGM||Anne Baxter / Steve Forrest||Co-directed with Richard Thorpe / Eastmancolor film|
|1958||The Girl Most Likely||RKO Radio Pictures||Jane Powell / Cliff Robertson||Technicolor film|
|1967||Spree||Trans American||Co-directed with Walon Green / Documentary / Color film|
The very model of the crack studio director, Mitchell Leisen spent much of his career at Paramount, where he tackled projects as radically different as the archly theatrical "Death Takes a Holiday" (1934) and the frothy revue film "The Big Broadcast of 1938" with the same composure and elegance.Kehr's review of the DVD releases of Easy Living (1937) and Midnight (1939).
Seeing Leisen's films, though, kindles the urge to get up in arms, hoist a banner or two in the hope of securing the director his rightful share of the limelight. Segue to To Each His Own, a quintessential Leisen weepie - what one could unkindly call glittery trash created by the best minds of the motion picture industry, but that just might be wonder-full enough to do the job.Shadoian is a film scholar who wrote the monograph Dreams and Dead Ends: The American Gangster Film (1978, 2003).