Arthur Lubin

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Arthur Lubin
Arthur Lubin.jpg
Born Arthur William Lubovsky
(1898-07-25)July 25, 1898
Los Angeles, United States
Died May 12, 1995(1995-05-12) (aged 96)
Glendale, California, United States
Occupation Film director, writer

Arthur Lubin (July 25, 1898 – May 12, 1995) was an American film director and producer who directed several Abbott & Costello films, Phantom of the Opera (1943), the Francis the Talking Mule series and created the TV series Mister Ed. A prominent director for Universal Pictures in the 1940s and 1950s, he is perhaps best known today as the man who gave Clint Eastwood his first contract in film.


Lubin in 1928

Early life[edit]

Arthur Lubin was born Arthur William Lubovsky in Los Angeles in 1898. His family moved to Jerome, Arizona when Arthur was five. He was interested in acting at an early age, appearing in local Sunday school productions, with the encouragement of his mother, who died when Lubin was six. His father remarried and the family moved from Jerome to San Diego when Lubin was eight. He managed the music and drama clubs at high school and joined the San Diego Stock Company at $12 a week; the director was John Griffith Wray and the actors including Harold Lloyd.[1]

As a child he had worked as a water boy for touring theatre companies and volunteered for circuses. He attended Page Military Academy and Carnegie Tech, where he studied drama and made money by shifting scenery and props. On graduation from college in 1922 he decided to become an actor.[2] He worked as a drama coach at Canadian Steel Mills before following one of his college drama teachers, B. Iden Payne, to New York.[1]


In New York Lubin managed to get work on stage in such plays as The Red Poppy, Anything Might Happen and My Aunt from Ypsilanti. None of these plays were particularly successful so he moved to Hollywood, where he succeeded in getting roles in some films such as His People. He also acted in stage, notably at the Potboiler Act Theatre.[1]

In 1925 the Los Angeles Times called him "one of this year's juvenile screen sensations."[3] He began directing shows for the Hollywood Writers Club.[3][4]

As an actor he specialized in heavy melodrama, in sharp contrast with his later work as a film director.[5]

He appeared in Lillion'. In 1925 he and some friends were charged with obscenity by the Los Angeles police for putting on a production of Eugene O'Neill's Desire Under the Elms.[6] He later worked on Broadway.

A 1926 profile described him as a "genius" actor who was very down to earth:. "When I met him, it was if I were meeting a young banker or a matter of fact businessman... human and charming... not only good but awfully good looking."[1]

His films as an actor included The Woman on the Jury (1924), His People (1925), Bardelys the Magnificent (1926), Millionaires (1926), Afraid to Love (1927), The Wedding March (1928), The Bushranger (1928), Eyes of the Underworld (1929) and Times Square (1929).

Over time his interests increasingly leant towards directing. "Every director should have acting experience," he later said. "You can talk their language. You know the problems. You know how the scene should be acted. Too many directors are former writers. They have the scene in their mind but they don't know what the actor has to do to interpret it."[7]


Lubin went back to New York where he produced When the Bough Breaks with Pauline Frederick and One Man with Paul Muni. He also worked for the Ray-Minor Company, a subsidiary of Paramount, which brought him to the attention of that studio's chief, B.P. Schulberg. In June 1932 Lubin returned to Hollywood to work for William Le Baron at Paramount as an associate producer. His contract included the right to return to New York in the first six months to produce and direct a play.[8]

Lubin began directing Little Theatre in his spare time, including productions of Lilliom, and got reputation for doing "outstanding work".[9] He also started directing films for low budget companies such as Monogram, and Republic.[4]

Monogram and Republic[edit]

Lubin's first film as director was at Monogram, A Successful Failure (1934). It was followed by Great God Gold (1935), Honeymoon Limited (1935), and Two Sinners (1935).

Lubin moved over to Republic Pictures where he made Frisco Waterfront (1935) and The House of a Thousand Candles (1936).


In 1936 he signed a contract with Universal starting 15 April.[10] His first film for them was Yellowstone (1936).

It was followed by Mysterious Crossing (1936), then a series of films with a young John Wayne: California Crossing (1937), I Cover the War (1937), Idol of the Crowds (1937) and Adventure's End (1937).

After Midnight Intruder (1938) with Louis Hayward, Lubin went over to Warner Bros for The Beloved Brat (1938) then returned to Universal: Prison Break (1938), Secrets of a Nurse (1938), Newsboys' Home (1938), Risky Business (1939), Big Town Czar (1939), Mickey the Kid (1939), Call a Messenger (1939) (with The Little Tough Guys, and The Big Guy (1939).

A more prestigious project was Black Friday (1940), with Boris Karloff and Bela Lugosi. He went back to Republic to make Gangs of Chicago (1940) then returned to Universal: Meet the Wildcat (1940), I'm Nobody's Sweetheart Now (1940), Who Killed Aunt Maggie? (1940), The San Francisco Docks (1941) and Where Did You Get That Girl? (1941).

Abbott and Costello[edit]

Lubin's career received a big break when he was assigned to direct the first Abbott and Costello star vehicle, Buck Privates (1941). The movie was a big hit, earning $4 million – Lubin, who was paid $350 a week, was given a $5,000 bonus. He went on to direct the duo's next four movies, In the Navy (1941) (which earned him another $5,000 bonus), Hold That Ghost (1941) (shot before In the Navy but released afterwards), Keep 'Em Flying (1942) and Ride 'Em Cowboy (1942) (shot before Keep 'Em Flying but released afterwards).[11] All the films were successful – Variety magazine named Lubin the most commercially successful director in Hollywood in 1941[12] – but Lubin asked to work on other movies:

I asked to be released after the fifth picture because they came on the set late, they didn't know their lines, and I think they were beginning to get tired of one another. They were bored. and for the first time they were beginning to complain about the scripts. But it was five fabulous pictures with the boys. They were very good for me. They gave me a reputation. I learned everything about timing from them. And I think I was very good for them, in this respect: not their routines, but in trying to give them some class. Whenever they got crude or rude, I'd try to soften it. And I tried in all my set-ups to keep a balance of refinement against the earthiness of some of their routines.[13]

Lubin with Mary Pickford in 1943

One of Universal's Top Directors[edit]

Lubin then directed the war film, Eagle Squadron (1942), which was a massive hit. He was now established as one of Universal's leading directors. In 1942 the New York Times did a profile on the director which said:

On the set, Lubin is personally intense, but an easy boss to his casts. He is friendly and witty. Players like to work for him. He strives to keep them relaxed for the cameras. Holding a pow-wow before rehearsing a scene, he will frequently sit cross legged on the floor with the players seated about him. But when the camera starts going, so does Lubin. He is a pacer... He pantomimed all the parts[4]

Lubin made White Savage (1943) with Maria Montez, Jon Hall and Sabu, then was given his largest ever budget when he replaced Henry Koster on Phantom of the Opera (1943) with Claude Rains. This was enormously successful, as was Ali Baba and the Forty Thieves (1944) with Montez, Hall and Sabu.

Delightfully Dangerous (1945) was made for Hunt Stromberg and United Artists. Back at Universal he made The Spider Woman Strikes Back (1946) then the expensive box office disappointment Night in Paradise (1946).

He made two more for United Artists, New Orleans (1947) and Impact (1949). Lubin continued to direct theatre on the side, doing This Young World at the Pasadena Playhouse in 1948.

Francis the Talking Mule[edit]

He bought the rights to a series of books about Francis the Talking Mule and set up the project as a film at Universal. Francis (1950) was a big hit, leading to a series of films directed by Lubin, in which the director had a percentage of the profits.[14] Francis Goes to the Races (1952) was the first sequel.

Lubin also made Queen for a Day (1951) (for United Artists), and Rhubarb (1951) (for Paramount) about a cat that inherits a baseball team by proxy. He made Francis Goes to West Point (1952), It Grows on Trees (1952) (Irene Dunne's last film), South Sea Woman (1953) (with Burt Lancaster at Warner Bros), and Francis Covers the Big Town (1953). He complained during filming the latter that he was becoming typecast as an animal director. He hoped to make The Interruption from a suspense story by W. W. Mason "just to remind producers that I can direct people too."[15]

After the swashbuckler Star of India (1954) at United Artists, there was Francis Joins the WACS (1954) before he succeeded in filming Interruption, which became Footsteps in the Fog (1955).

Clint Eastwood[edit]

Lady Godiva of Coventry (1955) was a period swashbuckler with Maureen O'Hara. It featured a young Clint Eastwood who Lubin had put under personal contract. Eastwood had a larger role in Francis in the Navy (1955), Lubin's last Francis movie; both he and star Donald O'Connor elected not to appear in Francis in the Haunted House (1956).

Eastwood was given another support role in two films Lubin made for his own company released through RKO, The First Traveling Saleslady (1956) and Escapade in Japan (1957).

TV and Mr Ed[edit]

In the late 1950s Lubin got involved in television. He directed episodic TV shows like Bronco (1958), Maverick (1959), Bonanza (1960), and The Addams Family (1965).

His best known work was Mr Ed. Lubin had wanted to make a TV series based on Francis but was not able to secure the rights. Instead he optioned a series of novels about a talking horse, Mr Ed.[16] The pilot was financed by comedian George Burns but Lubin was unable to sell it to a network. He decided to sell the show into syndication first, got a sponsor and managed to finance 26 episodes until the show was picked up by CBS.[16][17] The show ran for six seasons and 143 episodes. Star Alan Young recalled the producer-director:

He was a very lovable character, but he was a character. He wanted to rush through and get things done quickly, and he didn't want to stay around the studio too long. I'll never forget one line he used. He didn't like people fooling around on the set, cracking jokes. He really didn't have a great sense of humor for a man who did so many comedies! I'll never forget when he said: "Stop that! Stop all this laughing! This is comedy, there's no time for laughter!" Well, we just all broke up. He didn't realize what he said, he didn't care.[18]

As a longtime friend of Mae West, Lubin got her to appear on an episode of Mister Ed.[19]

He directed the occasional feature, such as The Thief of Baghdad (1961), The Incredible Mr. Limpet (1964) (with Don Knotts and Hold On! (1966) (with Herman's Hermits). Peter Noone who appeared in the latter remembers, "Arthur Lubin was really talented. He made us better than we actually were, which is what a good director does. I mean, this band was not exactly ready for Stanislavski."[20]

Later career[edit]

Lubin's last feature was Rain for a Dusty Summer (1971). His last work was the 1978 Little Lulu TV special on ABC Weekend Special. Lubin's career ended in the late 1970s.


He died at the Autumn Hills nursing home in Glendale, California on May 12, 1995 at age 96.[6]

Hospital worker Efren Saldivar allegedly told people he killed dozens of sick and elderly patients; there was some fear that Lubin was one of these.[21]


As director[edit]

TV credits[edit]

As actor[edit]

Unmade films[edit]

  • Miss Brown My Mother (circa 1952) - based on story by Leonard Merrick[22]
  • Wisdom of the Serpent (1952)[23]
  • The Israeli Story - romantic comedy set in Israel (circa 1957)[24]
  • An Old Spanish Custom - comedy set in Spain about an American diplomat[24]
  • Sex and Miss Mc-Adoo (circa 1957) based on a story by Adele St John[24]
  • The Digger (1962) - about a man who falls for a steam engine[7]
  • The Ghost of Drury Lane (1962) from a script by Mrs Wallace Reid[7]

Theatre credits[edit]

  • The Taming of the Shrew (1916) – San Diego – actor[25]
  • The Red Poppy (20 Dec – Dec 1922) – actor
  • Anything Might Happen (20 Feb – April 1923) – actor
  • He Who Gets Slapped (1924) – Pasadena Playhouse, Los Angeles – actor
  • Lilliom (1924) – Hollywood Art Theatre, Los Angeles – actor
  • The Failures (1924) – The Potboilers, Los Angeles – actor
  • Justice (1925) – Los Angeles – actor[26]
  • Hell Bent for Heaven (1925) – actor
  • Madam or Saint (1925) – actor
  • The Waltz of the Dogs (1925) – actor
  • The Dream Play (1925) – Pasadena Players, Los Angeles – actor
  • This One Man (21 Oct – Nov 1930) - New York – director – cast included Paul Muni
  • When the Bough Breaks (16 Feb – March 1932) – New York - director
  • Her Man of Wax (11 Oct – Oct 1933) – director
  • Growing Pains (23 Nov – Dec 1933) – director
  • Lilliom (1933) - Pasadena Playhouse, Los Angeles - actor
  • The Green Bay Tree (May 1934) - Belasco Theatre - director
  • City Without Jews (1934) - Pasadenia Playhouse, Los Angeles - director
  • This Young World (May 1948) - Pasadena Playhouse, Los Angeles - director - all-child cast included Dwayne Hickman and Darryl Hickman[27]


  1. ^ a b c d Kingsley, Grace (4 March 1926). "FOUGHT WAY TO SUCCESS: Arthur Lubin Steadily Climbs to Artistic Heights by Constantly Keeping Objective in View ARTHUR LUBIN WINS SUCCESS". Los Angeles Times. p. 23. 
  2. ^ "Arthur Lubin, 96, Director Of 'Mr. Ed' TV Series, Dies". The New York Times. 14 May 1995. 
  3. ^ a b "Arthur Lubin to Continue With His Stage Work". Los Angeles Times. Los Angeles, Calif. 8 Oct 1925. p. A9. 
  4. ^ a b c New York Times (28 June 1942). "JACK OF ALL MUSES". p. X4. 
  5. ^ "SO THE MULE TALKS--: REPORTER By ARTHUR LUBIN Director of "Francis"". New York Times. 12 Mar 1950. p. X4. 
  6. ^ a b ROBERT McG. THOMAS Jr (14 May 1995). "Arthur Lubin, 96, Director Of 'Mr. Ed' TV Series, Dies". New York Times. p. 38. 
  7. ^ a b c Ryon, Art (9 December 1962). "Director Lubin Digs New Off-Beat Movie". Los Angeles Times. p. E2. 
  8. ^ Kingsley, Grace (13 May 1932). "MAMOULIAN TO GUIDE "R.U.R.": Arthur Lubin Will Assist William LeBaron Mary and Doug Entertain Countess Frasso Donald Cook Quits Hospital for Home Tomorrow". Los Angeles Times. p. A9. 
  9. ^ von Blon, Katherine T. (27 May 1934). "Studio and Theater Comings and Goings: Arthur Lubin Will Produce Shairp Work "Green Bay Tree" in Rehearsal; Shubert Tryouts Planned". Los Angeles Times. p. A2. 
  10. ^ Schallert, Edwin (26 March 1936). "Dionne Family, Minus Quintuplets, to Play in "Where Are My Children?": Universal to Make Controversial Story "Simone Simon Will Start Work in Month on "Girl's Dormitory;" Arthur Lubin Signs to Direct; Foran Changing Type". Los Angeles Times. p. 11. 
  11. ^ Furmanek p 48
  12. ^ "FILM MONEY-MAKERS SELECTED BY VARIETY: ' Sergeant York' Top Picture, Gary Cooper Leading Star". New York Times. 31 Dec 1941. p. 21. 
  13. ^ Furmanek p 68
  14. ^ So The Mmule Talks--: Reporter: By Arthur Lubin Director of "Francis". New York Times, 12 March 1950: X4.
  15. ^ HOLLYWOOD DIGEST: Change in Taft-Hartley Act Sought by Actors Guild--R.K.O. Survey--Addenda European Canvass Songstress Returns Out of a Rut By THOMAS M. PRYOR. New York Times (1923-Current file) [New York, N.Y] 02 Sep 1951: 57.
  16. ^ a b Jack Gaver (26 July 1961). "Nag Talked Way Onto the Network". The Washington Post, Times Herald. p. B7. 
  17. ^ Hopper, Hedda (23 Sep 1960). "Juliet Prowse Is Wanted for Noel Coward Picture". Chicago Daily Tribune. p. d2. 
  18. ^ "Interview with Alan Young". The Jade Sphinx. 23 January 2014. 
  19. ^ West, Mae (2011-07-25). "Mae West: Mae West: Arthur Lubin". Retrieved 2016-09-07. 
  20. ^ "Peter Noone interview". 31 May 2011. Retrieved 29 September 2016. 
  21. ^ "30 Possible Hospital Slaying Victims Listed". Los Angeles Times. 30 March 1998. Retrieved 30 September 2016. 
  22. ^ Pryor, Thomas (11 Mar 1952). "LUBIN PLANS MOVIE OF MERRICK STORY: Director Buys Film Rights to 'Miss Brown, My Mother' -- McCarthy Doing Script". New York Times. p. 23. 
  23. ^ Pryor, Thomas (18 Oct 1952). "LUBIN WILL DO FILM OF ST. JOHNS STORY: Director Buys Screen Rights to 'Wisdom of the Serpent' -Irene Dunne to Star". New York Times. p. 16. 
  24. ^ a b c A. H. WEILER (29 Sep 1957). "REPORTS BY THOSE AT HOME ABROAD: Films In Israel, Spain Planned By Director --Other Travelers". New York Times. p. 121. 
  25. ^ LOCAL CORRESPONDENCE. (30 Apr 1916). "BARD HONORED IN PAGEANTRY.: Shakespeare Tercentenary is Fittingly Observed; School Children are Workers Behind Productions; Design and Finish Costumes; Read Immortal Lines. One of the Things He Didn't Miss.". Los Angeles Times. p. V12. 
  26. ^ "ARTHUR AT ART THEATERS". Los Angeles Times. 30 Aug 1925. p. D20. 
  27. ^ Von Blon, Katherine (21 May 1948). "Provocative Play Offered in Pasadena". Los Angeles Times. p. 23. 
  • Furmanek, Bob and Ron Palumbo (1991). Abbott and Costello in Hollywood. New York: Perigee Books. ISBN 0-399-51605-0

External links[edit]