Dore Schary

Isadore "Dore" Schary (August 31, 1905 – July 7, 1980) was an American motion picture director, writer, and producer, and playwright who became head of production at Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer and eventually president of the studio during the 1950s.[1][2]

Dore Schary
Isadore Schary

(1905-08-31)August 31, 1905
DiedJuly 7, 1980(1980-07-07) (aged 74)
New York City
OccupationScreenwriter, playwright, film director, studio executive
Spouse(s)Miriam Svet
ChildrenJill Schary Robinson
Joy Schary
Jeb Schary

Early life

Schary was born to a Jewish family, in Newark, New Jersey.[3][4] Schary's father ran a catering business called the Schary Manor. He attended Central High School for a year. He left school to sell haberdashery and buy china, later going back to school and completing his three remaining years of classwork in one year, graduating in 1923.[5]

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.[6]



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 Walter Wanger, a film producer, who wired his New York office: "Hire Dore Schary. She writes with a lot of vigor - for a woman." Schary was hired as a $100 a week film writer.[7]

Early films

Schary moved to Hollywood but his option with Wanger was dropped after three months.

One of his plays was read by Walter Wanger who hired Schary.[7] Schary's early writing credits include He Couldn't Take It (1933) for Monogram, and Fury of the Jungle (1933) and Fog (1933) at Columbia.

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.

At Warners Schary wrote Murder in the Clouds (1934) and Red Hot Tires (1935). He did some uncredited work on Paramount's Mississippi (1935), and wrote for Republic's Racing Luck (1935).

At Universal, Schary worked on Storm Over the Andes (1935), Chinatown Squad (1935), and (uncredited) The Raven (1935).

Schary went to Fox for Silk Hat Kid (1935), Your Uncle Dudley (1935) and Song and Dance Man (1936). He was briefly under contract at MGM for a few months in 1936.[8]

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.

A play Schary wrote, Too Many Heroes, ran on Broadway for 16 performances in the fall of 1937.

Writer at MGM

At MGM he worked on two Spencer Tracy films Big City (1937) and Boys Town (1938). Schary earned Oscar nominations on the latter for Best Screenplay and Best Story, winning for Best Story.

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).

Producer at MGM

MGM promoted Schary to a producer of MGM's "B" pictures unit. He began with Joe Smith, American (1942), based on Shary'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.[9]

David O. Selznick

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.

Head of Production at RKO

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.[10][11]

Schary personally produced Mr Blandings Builds His Dream House (1948), a big hit, and championed Crossfire (1948), a major success for the studio.

He greenlit the directorial debuts of Nicholas Ray (They Live by Night (1948)) and Joseph Losey (The Boy with Green Hair (1948), both of which lost money.

While at RKO, studio employees Edward Dmytryk and Adrian Scott were fired because of their membership in the Communist Party.

Hits included Every Girl Should Be Married (1948). Other films included Station West (1949), The Set-Up (1949) and The Window (1949).

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.[12] He soon accepted a job offer from Louis B. Mayer at MGM.

Head of Production 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.[7] Schary signed to be vice president in charge of production in July 1948.[13]

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."[14]

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."[7]

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.[15]

MGM Post-Mayer

Schary's personal productions started losing money: Washington Story (1952), Plymouth Adventure (1952), and Dream Wife (1953).

However Take the High Ground! (1953) and Bad Day at Black Rock (1955) were moderately successful.

Schary wrote and produced the documentary film The Battle of Gettysburg (1955), getting two Oscar nominations for his work.

Schary greenlit such films as The Blackboard Jungle (1955), Teahouse of the August Moon and Don't Go Near the Water which all proved to be big successes at the box office.[16]

Fired from MGM

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.[17]

Contemporary newspaper reports and Schary later claimed he was fired because of his political activities, including his close association with the Democratic Party.[18]

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.

Return to Broadway and later films

Following his departure from MGM, Schary obtained the rights to the life of Franklin D. Roosevelt in April 1957.[19] 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.[20]

Schary returned to Hollywood when he wrote and produced the film Lonelyhearts (1958), starring Montgomery Clift and directed by Vincent J. Donehue.[21]

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[22]) and Triple Play (1959), a collection of short plays, which he produced.[23]

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.[24]

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).[25]

Schary wrote, produced and directed The Devil's Advocate (1961), based on the novel by Morris West, which ran for 116 performances.[26] He produced and directed Something About a Soldier (1962) by Ernest Kinoy[27] and Love and Kisses (1963) by Anita Block[28] both which had short runs. He also wrote a memoir, For Special Occasions (1962).[29]

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.

Later career

On Broadway he wrote, produced and directed One by One (1964), which ran for seven performances,[30] and produced and directed the musical, The Zulue and the Zayda (1965) which went for 179.[31]

Schary wrote two more produced Broadway plays, Brightower (1970) (one performance[32]) and Herzl (1976) (8 performances,[33] neither of which had long runs. He wrote his memoirs, Heyday, which came out shortly before his death.[34]

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."[35]


Although one of the studio executives who formulated the 1947 Waldorf Statement, he became an outspoken opponent of the anti-communist investigations of the House Un-American Activities Committee.

He served as National Chairman of the B'nai B'rith's Anti-Defamation League from 1963[36] and was appointed by Mayor John Lindsay to the office of New York City Commissioner for Cultural Affairs.

Personal life

He worked as a printer in his youth at Art Craft Press in Newark, N.J. 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.

Select filmography

As screenwriter

As Head of MGM B Unit

For David O. Selznick

Films Overseen While Head of RKO

Personally Produced While Head of MGM

Films Overseen While Head of MGM

Post MGM Films

  • Lonelyhearts (1958) - writer, producer
  • Startime (1960) (TV series) - episode "What About You" - writer, producer
  • Sunrise at Campobello (1960) - writer, producer
  • Westinghouse Presents: The Sound of the Sixties (1961) (TV special) - producer
  • Act One (1963) - writer, producer director (producer)

Theatre Credits

  • Too Many Heroes (1937) - writer
  • Sunrise at Campobello (1958) - writer, producer
  • A Majority of One (1959) - producer, director
  • Triple Play (1959) - producer
  • The Highest Tree (1959) - writer, producer, director
  • The Unsinkable Molly Brown (1960) - producer, director
  • The Devil's Advocate (1961) - writer, producer, director
  • Something About a Soldier (1962) - producer, director
  • Love and Kisses (1963) - producer, director
  • One by One (1964) - writer, producer, director
  • The Zulue and the Zayda (1965) - producer, director
  • Brightower (1970) - writer
  • Herzl (1976) - writer, producer


  1. "Dore Schary". The New York Times.
  2. Schary, Dore (1979). Heyday: An autobiography. Boston: Little, Brown. ISBN 0-316-77270-4.
  3. Edwards, Anne (January 28, 2014). The Reagans: Portrait of a Marriage. ISBN 9781466863262.
  4. Brook, Vincent (December 15, 2016). From Shtetl to Stardom: Jews and Hollywood: Chapter 1: Still an Empire of Their Own: How Jews Remain Atop a Reinvented Hollywood. Purdue University Press. p. 17. ISBN 9781557537638.
  5. Phillips, McCandlish. "Schary Named City's First Cultural Chief", The New York Times, February 25, 1970. Accessed March 27, 2018. "He was born in Newark and attended Newark Central High School, dropping out at 14 to work but later making up the missed credits."
  6. Staff. "Dore Schary, Playwright and Movie Producer, 74, Dies; Human-Rights Leader Powerful in Hollywood Rejoined Hart in Catskills Some M-G-M Movies", The New York Times, July 8, 1980. Accessed March 27, 2018.
  7. HOLLYWOODBy, S. B. (1949, Feb 06). Plan for hollywood -- by schary. New York Times (1923-Current File) Retrieved from
  8. By A.H. WEILER. (1948, Aug 15). BY WAY OF REPORT. New York Times (1923-Current File) Retrieved from
  9. The Eddie Mannix Ledger, Los Angeles: Margaret Herrick Library, Center for Motion Picture Study
  10. DORE SCHARY HEAD OF RKO PRODUCTION. (1947, Jan 02). New York Times (1923-Current File) Retrieved from
  11. By DORE SCHARY, Executive Vice President in Charge of Production, RKO,Radio Pictures. (1947, Apr 06). GOING ON RECORD. New York Times (1923-Current File) Retrieved from
  12. Special to THE NEW,YORK TIMES. (1948, Jul 01). DORE SCHARY RESIGNS RKO PRODUCTION POST. New York Times (1923-Current File) Retrieved from
  13. Schary signed as production pilot of MGM. (1948, Jul 15). Los Angeles Times (1923-Current File) Retrieved from
  14. By, T. M. (1954, May 16). HOLLYWOOD DOSSIER. New York Times (1923-Current File) Retrieved from
  15. By THOMAS M PRYOR Special to THE NEW,YORK TIMES. (1951, Jul 17). DORE SCHARY GETS FULL METRO POWER. New York Times (1923-Current File) Retrieved from
  16. Tinee, M. (1956, Aug 26). Dore schary, a movie man of convictions. Chicago Daily Tribune (1923-1963) Retrieved from
  17. By MILTON ESTEROWThe New,York Times. (1956, Nov 29). SCHARY IS OUSTED AS CHIEF AT M-G-M. New York Times (1923-Current File) Retrieved from
  18. Butler hails dore schary's political stand. (1959, Oct 19). Los Angeles Times (1923-Current File) Retrieved from
  19. Dore schary gets the FDR story. (1957, Apr 12). The Washington Post and Times Herald (1954-1959) Retrieved from
  20. "Sunrise at Campobello – Broadway Play – Original - IBDB".
  21. By Richard, D. M. (1958, Sep 09). Dore schary returns to film-making. The Christian Science Monitor (1908-Current File) Retrieved from
  22. "The Highest Tree – Broadway Play – Original - IBDB".
  23. "Triple Play – Broadway Play – Original - IBDB".
  24. Sunrise at Campobello on IMDb
  25. "The Unsinkable Molly Brown – Broadway Musical – Original - IBDB".
  26. "The Devil's Advocate – Broadway Play – Original - IBDB".
  27. "Something About a Soldier – Broadway Play – Original - IBDB".
  28. "Love and Kisses – Broadway Play – Original - IBDB".
  29. By, M. S. (1962, Oct 21). Growing up in newark. New York Times (1923-Current File) Retrieved from
  30. "One by One – Broadway Play – Original - IBDB".
  31. "The Zulu and the Zayda – Broadway Musical – Original - IBDB".
  32. "Brightower – Broadway Play – Original - IBDB".
  33. "Herzl – Broadway Play – Original - IBDB".
  34. Kevin Kelly, G. S. (1980, Feb 10). SCHARY AUTOBIOGRAPHY IS MOSTLY SELF-TRIBUTE; ; HEYDAY - AN AUTOBIOGRAPHYBY DORE SCHARY. LITTLE, BROWN. 389 PP. $L4.95. Boston Globe (Pre-1997 Fulltext) Retrieved from
  35. Kleiman, C. (1980, Feb 28). Tempo. Chicago Tribune (1963-Current File) Retrieved from
  36. Raspberry, W. (1963, Feb 04). Dore schary elected by anti-defamation group. Los Angeles Times (1923-Current File) Retrieved from
  37. Beville Dunkerley (October 16, 2014). "Hank Williams Movie Casts Four New Roles". Rolling Stone. Retrieved October 28, 2014.
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