Delmer Daves

Delmer Lawrence Daves (July 24, 1904 – August 17, 1977) was an American screenwriter, director and producer.[1]

Delmer Daves
BornJuly 24, 1904
San Francisco, California
DiedAugust 17, 1977(1977-08-17) (aged 73)
La Jolla, California
OccupationFilm director, screenwriter, film producer

He would be known for his dramas and for the Western adventures that saw heroes battle Indians, nature, and outlaws, the two most acclaimed of these being Broken Arrow and 3:10 to Yuma. In addition, Daves would work with some of the most famous actors of the time; a few would make several movies with him, including Gary Cooper, Glenn Ford, Richard Egan, Alan Ladd, Troy Donahue, Ernest Borgnine, and Rossano Brazzi. He also launched soon-to-be-famous stars like Anne Bancroft, Olivia Hussey, George C. Scott, Sandra Dee, and Charles Bronson.[2][3]

Life and career

Early life

Born in San Francisco, Delmer Daves first pursued a career as a lawyer. While attending Stanford University, he became interested in the burgeoning film industry, first working as a prop boy on the western The Covered Wagon (1923), directed by James Cruze and serving as a technical advisor on a number of films. [4]

After finishing his education in law, he continued his career in Hollywood.

Screenwriter and actor at MGM

After moving to Hollywood in 1928, he became a screenwriter at MGM, his first credit being the "talkie" comedy So This Is College (1929), released by MGM, directed by Sam Wood. It was Robert Montgomery's film debut.

Daves also moonlighted as an actor making small appearances in films like The Night Flyer (1928) (produced by Cruze), Three Sinners (1928), and several films directed by Cruze: The Mating Call (1928) , Excess Baggage (1928), The Duke Steps Out (1929), and A Man's Man (1929), as well as So This Is College (1929), which he wrote.[4]

Daves appeared in The Bishop Murder Case (1930) and Good News (1930).

He wrote and appeared in Shipmates (1931) and Divorce in the Family (1931) and worked uncredited on Susan Lenox (Her Fall and Rise) (1931) and Slim (1931).

Daves then focused on writing, working on scripts for Clear All Wires! (1933) at MGM, and No More Women (1934) at Paramount.


Daves signed a contract at Warner Bros. where he wrote some musicals: Dames (1934) and Flirtation Walk (1934). He followed this with Stranded (1935), Page Miss Glory (1935) (for Cosmopolitan Pictures), Shipmates Forever (1935), and Miss Pacific Fleet (1935).

Daves' first really significant credit as screenwriter was The Petrified Forest (1936). He wrote The Go Getter (1937), The Singing Marine (1937), She Married an Artist (1938) (over at Columbia) and Professor Beware (1938) for Harold Lloyd at Paramount. He worked uncredited on Slim (1937).

Daves had a big critical and commercial success with Love Affair (1939) at RKO. (Almost twenty years later, Leo McCarey, director of Love Affair, helmed the nearly identical An Affair to Remember (1957) using Daves' script.)

He was very much in demand as a writer, his credits including two films at Paramount, $1000 a Touchdown (1939) and The Farmer's Daughter (1940). He did It All Came True (1940) at Warners and Safari (1940) at Paramount.

Daves wrote a propaganda short, Young America Flies (1940) then did Unexpected Uncle (1941) at RKO, The Night of January 16th (1941) at Paramount, and You Were Never Lovelier (1942) at Columbia. He also helped write Stage Door Canteen (1943), a huge hit for Warners.


Daves made his directorial debut in the Cary Grant wartime adventure Destination Tokyo (1943).[5]

He followed it with The Very Thought of You (1944), Hollywood Canteen (1944), and Pride of the Marines (1945). All these films were very successful commercially.[6]

Daves was a writer only on Ladies' Man (1947).

He wrote and directed The Red House (1947) for Sol Lesser at United Artists.

Back at Warners he wrote and directed Dark Passage (1947),[7] which utilized a first-person approach to great effect. He directed Richard Brooks' script in To the Victor (1948), directed A Kiss in the Dark (1949) and wrote and directed Task Force (1949) with Gary Cooper.

20th Century Fox

In February 1949 Daves signed a long term contract at Fox.[8] He directed the critically acclaimed Broken Arrow (1950) at 20th Century Fox, which made a star of Jeff Chandler.[7][9]

He wrote and directed Bird of Paradise (1951) at Fox; directed Return of the Texan (1952); and wrote and directed Treasure of the Golden Condor (1953) at Fox.[7]

As director only he did Never Let Me Go (1953) at MGM and Demetrius and the Gladiators (1954).

He returned to Warners to write, produce and directed Drum Beat (1954) with Alan Ladd, for Ladd's company.[10]

Daves was a writer only on White Feather (1955) for Fox. He wrote and directed Jubal (1956) at Columbia and The Last Wagon (1956) at Fox.[5]

He directed two films at Columbia, 3:10 to Yuma (1957) at Columbia and Cowboy (1958). Daves garnered a Directors Guild of America Award nomination for his work on Cowboy.

He also directed Kings Go Forth (1958) for United Artists, The Badlanders (1958) with Ladd at MGM and The Hanging Tree (1959).

Delmer Daves Productions

Daves wrote, produced and directed a series of films with Troy Donahue at Warners: A Summer Place (1959), Parrish (1961), Susan Slade (1961) and Rome Adventure (1962).

Daves final films were all at Warners Spencer's Mountain (1963) at Warners, Youngblood Hawke (1964) and The Battle of the Villa Fiorita (1965). Spencer's Mountain (1963), which he wrote, directed, and produced, based upon Earl Hamner Jr's autobiographical novel of the same name, and served as the basis for the popular television series The Waltons.[11]

Daves was married to actress Mary Lawrence from 1938 until his death on August 17, 1977.

He is interred at Glendale's Forest Lawn Memorial Park Cemetery.

Partial filmography


  1. "Delmer Daves". The New York Times.
  2. Delmer Daves, Motion Picture Executive, Actor The Washington Post 19 Aug 1977: C8.
  3. FILMS BY DELMER DAVES Pinkerton, Nick. Sight and Sound; London Vol. 23, Iss. 7, (Jul 2013): 97
  4. Delmer Daves Recalls His Route to the Top: Hollywood Letter By Richard Dyer MacCann. The Christian Science Monitor 11 Mar 1958: 11.
  5. The ethical romantic Tavernier, Bertrand. Film Comment; New York Vol. 39, Iss. 1, (Jan/Feb 2003): 42-49.
  6. Daves Clicks as Director Lusk, Norbert. Los Angeles Times 11 Jan 1944: 8.
  7. "Delmer Daves Filmography". The New York Times.
  8. Vera Ralston to Join John Wayne in 'Eagles;' 20th Signs Delmer Daves Schallert, Edwin. Los Angeles Times 24 Feb 1949: 21.
  9. Steigers Act Out Breakup of a Marriage: Breakup Acted Out by Steigers Loynd, Ray. Los Angeles Times (1923-Current File) [Los Angeles, Calif] 27 June 1969: d1.
  10. 'Drum Beat' Superior Frontier Melodrama Scheuer, Philip K. Los Angeles Times 11 Nov 1954: A13.
  11. HOLLYWOOD'S LITERARY SET: Gay Cocktail Party Scene From 'Youngblood Hawke' Transcribed to Warner Drama by Delmer Daves Drinking Bout Writer's Guide By MURRAY SCHUMACH. New York Times 19 May 1963: X7.
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