Mitchell Leisen

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Mitchell Leisen
Mitchell Leisen c. 1948.jpg
James Mitchell Leisen

(1898-10-06)October 6, 1898
DiedOctober 28, 1972(1972-10-28) (aged 74)
Woodland Hills, California, U.S.
OccupationDirector, Art Director, Costume Designer, Producer
Years active1920–1967
Spouse(s)Sandra Gahle

James Mitchell Leisen (October 6, 1898 – October 28, 1972) was an American director, art director, and costume designer.

Film career[edit]

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.[citation needed]

His best known films include Alberto Casella's adaptation of 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.[citation needed]

Lady in the Dark (1944), To Each His Own (1946), and No Man of Her Own (1950) were later successes. 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.[citation needed]

When his film career ended, Leisen directed episodes of such television series as Thriller, Shirley Temple's Storybook, The Twilight Zone, and The Girl from U.N.C.L.E.. He later became a nightclub owner.[1]

Personal life[edit]

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).[2][3] Leisen, with Daniel and dancer/actor Mary Parker, formed Hollywood Presents Inc. as a means of promoting both Daniel and Parker off-screen.[4] Leisen died of heart disease in 1972, aged 74. His grave is located in Chapel of the Pines Crematory.[5]


He garnered his sole Academy Award nomination in 1930 for Art Direction for Cecil B. DeMille's Dynamite.[6] He directed Hold Back the Dawn (1941), which was nominated for the Academy Award for Best Picture.

Filmography (as director)[edit]

Year Title Production Co. Cast Notes
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 Sidney
1935 Four Hours to Kill! Paramount Richard Barthelmess / Ray Milland / Gertrude Michael
1935 Hands Across the Table Paramount Carole Lombard / Fred MacMurray
1936 13 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 / Ray Milland
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


  1. ^ "Mitchell Leisen - Overview".
  2. ^ Barrios, Richard (2005). Screened Out: Playing Gay in Hollywood From Edison To Stonewall. Routledge. p. 157. ISBN 0-415-92328-X.
  3. ^ Mitchell Leisen at the TCM Movie Database
  4. ^ "Leisen's Circus". Look Magazine. August 1941.
  5. ^ Wilson, Scott. Resting Places: The Burial Sites of More Than 14,000 Famous Persons, 3d ed.: 2 (Kindle Location 27393). McFarland & Company, Inc., Publishers. Kindle Edition.
  6. ^ "NY Times: Dynamite". Movies & TV Dept. The New York Times. Baseline & All Movie Guide. 2012. Archived from the original on October 17, 2012. Retrieved December 7, 2008.

Further reading[edit]

  • Chierichetti, David (1995). Mitchell Leisen: Hollywood Director. Photoventures. ISBN 978-0-929330-04-4. Revised version of a 1973 biography.
  • Kehr, Dave (May 13, 2008). "New DVDs: Mitchell Leisen and 'The Big Trail'". The New York Times. 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).
  • Melville, David (2006). "Mitchell Leisen". Senses of Cinema (37). Melville is one of several critics who have been reassessing Leisen's contributions to cinema; he writes, "Leisen, glimpsed in this new light, is no longer a swishy hack. He's a subtle and stylish auteur who could add heart and humanity to the brittle sophistication of Billy Wilder, lend grace and elegance to the boisterous Americana of Preston Sturges. In his Biographical Dictionary of Film, David Thomson hails Leisen as "an expert at witty romantic comedies, too reliant on feeling to be screwball, too pleased with glamour to be satires – and thus less likely to attract critical attention.""
  • Rappaport, Mark (2008). "Mitchell Leisen". Rouge. This essay was written as an introduction to a retrospective series of showings of Leisen's films in 2008 at the Cinémathèque Française, which is in Paris, France. As does Melville, Rappaport speculates on how some of Billy Wilder's and Preston Sturges' scripts that Leisen directed would have fared if their writers had directed them instead.
  • Shadoian, Jack (September 1, 1998). "Exacting standards: Director Mitchell Leisen's film "To Each His Own" epitomizes the director's work". Film Comment. 34 (5): 40. Retrieved February 3, 2011. 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).

External links[edit]