Mervyn LeRoy

Mervyn LeRoy /ləˈrɔɪ/ (October 15, 1900 – September 13, 1987) was an American film director, film producer, author, and occasional actor.

Mervyn LeRoy
LeRoy in 1958
Born(1900-10-15)October 15, 1900
DiedSeptember 13, 1987(1987-09-13) (aged 86)
Beverly Hills, California, U.S.
Resting placeForest Lawn Memorial Park (Glendale)
  • Film director
  • film producer
  • author
  • actor
Years active1928–1968
EmployerFirst National Pictures (1927-1929)
Warner Bros. (1929-1938)
Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer (1938-1945) (1948-1954)
Warner Bros. (1955-1959)[1]
  • Elizabeth Edna Murphy
  • (1927–1933; divorced)
  • Doris Warner
  • (1934–1942; divorced)
  • Katherine "Kitty" Spiegel
  • (1946–1987; his death)
ChildrenLinda Janklow
Warner LeRoy (1935–2001)

Early life

LeRoy was born on October 15, 1900[2] in San Francisco, to Jewish parents,[3] Edna (née Armer) and Harry LeRoy.[4][5] His family was financially ruined by the 1906 earthquake that destroyed his father's import-export business. To make money, young Mervyn sold newspapers in front of the Alcazar Theater after his dad's death in 1910. From this newspaper sales location, he was given a bit part for a play. Through his winning a Charlie Chaplin impersonation contest, he moved into vaudeville then minor parts in silent movies.[2]


LeRoy worked in costumes, processing labs and as a camera assistant until he became a gag writer and actor in silent films, including The Ten Commandments in 1923. LeRoy credits Ten Commandments director, Cecil B. DeMille, for inspiring him to become a director: "As the top director of the era, DeMille had been the magnet that had drawn me to his set as often as I could go."[6] LeRoy also credits DeMille for teaching him the directing techniques required to make his own films.[6]

His first directing job was with First National Pictures on 1927's No Place to Go.[2] LeRoy ended up working at Warner Bros. after they took control of First National.[7] When his movies made lots of money without costing too much, he became well received in the movie business. He directed two key films which launched Edward G. Robinson into major stardom, the Oscar-nominated critique of tabloid journalism Five Star Final (1931), and the classic gangster film Little Caesar (1931), which made his mark.[2] From that point forward, LeRoy would be responsible for a diverse variety of films as a director and producer. The following year's I Am a Fugitive from a Chain Gang was also nominated for the Academy Award for Outstanding Production as was his Anthony Adverse (1936).

In 1938 he was chosen as head of production at MGM,[7] where he was responsible for the decision to make The Wizard of Oz.[8] He was responsible for discovering Clark Gable, Loretta Young, Robert Mitchum and Lana Turner.[2] His 1941 film Blossoms in the Dust was nominated for the Academy Award for Outstanding Motion Picture. His first big hit as a director with MGM was 1942's Random Harvest which was their biggest of the season earning worldwide rentals of $8 million[9] and for which he was nominated for the Academy Award for Directing. The film was also nominated for the Academy Award for Outstanding Motion Picture. He hit big again two years later with Thirty Seconds Over Tokyo with rentals of $6 million.[9]

In 1951, he scored his biggest hit with Quo Vadis[10] earning worldwide rentals of $21 million as well as a nomination for the Academy Award for Best Motion Picture. In the early 1950s, LeRoy directed such musicals as Lovely to Look At, Million Dollar Mermaid, Latin Lovers and Rose Marie.

He returned to Warner Brothers in 1955.[1] He took over from John Ford as director on Mister Roberts, another big hit[10] which was also nominated for the Academy Award for Best Motion Picture. He also directed films for Warners such as The Bad Seed, No Time for Sergeants, The FBI Story and Gypsy.

He received an honorary Oscar in 1946 for The House I Live In, "for tolerance short subject", and the Irving G. Thalberg Memorial Award in 1976.[2]

A total of eight movies Mervyn LeRoy directed or co-directed were nominated for Best Picture at the Oscars, one of the highest numbers among all directors.

Personal life

LeRoy married three times and had many relationships with Hollywood actresses. He was first married to Elizabeth Edna Murphy in 1927, which ended in divorce in 1933. During their separation, LeRoy dated Ginger Rogers, but they ended the relationship and stayed lifelong friends. In 1934, he married Doris Warner, the daughter of Warner Bros. founder, Harry Warner. The couple had one son, Warner LeRoy and one daughter, Linda LeRoy Janklow, who is married to Morton L. Janklow.[2] His son, Warner LeRoy, became a restaurateur. The marriage ended in divorce in 1942. In 1946, he married Kathryn "Kitty" Priest Rand, a gentile who was previously married to Sidney M. Spiegel (the co-founder of Essaness Theatres and grandson of Joseph Spiegel); and to restaurateur Ernie Byfield).[11][12] They remained married until his death. LeRoy also sold his Bel Air, Los Angeles home to Johnny Carson.[13]

Later life

On February 8, 1960, he received a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame at 1560 Vine Street, for his contributions to the motion pictures industry.[14][15]

LeRoy retired in 1965 and wrote his autobiography, Take One, in 1974. After being bed ridden for six months, LeRoy died of natural causes and heart issues in Beverly Hills, California at age 86. He was interred in the Forest Lawn Memorial Park Cemetery in Glendale, California.[2]

Other interests

A fan of thoroughbred horse racing, Mervyn LeRoy was a founding member of the Hollywood Turf Club, operator of the Hollywood Park Racetrack[2] and a member of the track's board of directors from 1941 until his death in 1987.[16] In partnership with father-in-law, Harry Warner, he operated a racing stable, W-L Ranch Co., during the 1940s/50s.

Partial filmography

LeRoy directed or produced:

(As director, unless otherwise noted)


  1. Finler, Joel W. (April 2, 1992), The Hollywood Story (Second ed.), Mandarin, p. 458, ISBN 0-7493-0637-8
  2. "Producer Mervyn LeRoy dies". Lodi News-Sentinel. United Press International. September 14, 1987. p. 3. Retrieved May 12, 2017 via Google News.
  3. Mervyn LeRoy – Biography, Bruce Eder, Allmovie
  4. Peter B. Flint (September 14, 1987). "Mervyn LeRoy, 86, Dies - Director and Producer". Retrieved September 20, 2015.
  5. Scodel, Ruth; Bettenworth, Anja (March 9, 2009). Whither Quo Vadis: Sienkiewicz's Novel in Film and Television - Ruth Scodel, Anja Bettenworth - Google Books. p. 215. ISBN 9781444306132. Retrieved September 20, 2015.
  6. Tibbetts, John C. ed. American Classic Screen Profiles, Scarecrow Press (2010) p. 175
  7. Hay, Peter (1991). MGM: When the Lion Roars. Georgia: Turner Publishing, Inc. pp. 169–170. via Rudolph, Kalie (June 28, 2011). "The Golden Era of Hollywood: The Making of The Wizard of Oz and Gone with the Wind". Voces Novae: Chapman University Historical Review. 3 (1). Retrieved May 12, 2017.
  8. Harmetz, Aljean (1977). The Making of the Wizard of Oz. New York: Alfred K. Knopf. p. 3. via Rudolph, Kalie (June 28, 2011). "The Golden Era of Hollywood: The Making of The Wizard of Oz and Gone with the Wind". Voces Novae: Chapman University Historical Review. 3 (1). Retrieved May 12, 2017.
  9. The Eddie Mannix Ledger, Los Angeles: Margaret Herrick Library, Center for Motion Picture Study.
  10. Beaupre, Lee (January 5, 1966). "Star, Producer, Director Identification With All-Time Top Grossing Features". Variety. p. 7.
  11. Los Angeles Times: "Kathryn LeRoy; Philanthropist, Civic Leader" February 08, 1996
  12. Chicago Jewish History: "Ernest Byfield: The Pump Room and The Pageant" by William Roth September 2006
  13. Zannella, Michael (November 25, 1974). "The Johnny Carsons". People Magazine. Archived from the original on December 19, 2017. Retrieved December 19, 2017.
  14. "Mervyn LeRoy | Hollywood Walk of Fame". Retrieved June 21, 2016.
  15. "Mervyn LeRoy". Retrieved June 21, 2016.
  16. Archived February 18, 2009, at the Wayback Machine
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