Robert Florey

Robert Florey (14 September 1900 – 16 May 1979) was a French-American director, screenwriter, film journalist and actor.

Robert Florey
Robert Gustave Fuchs

(1900-09-14)September 14, 1900
Paris, France
DiedMay 16, 1979(1979-05-16) (aged 78)
  • Director
  • screenwriter
  • journalist

Born as Robert Fuchs in Paris, he became an orphan at an early age and was then raised in Switzerland. In 1920 he worked at first as a film journalist, then as an assistant and extra in featurettes from Louis Feuillade. Florey moved to the United States in 1921. As a director, Florey's most productive decades were the 1930s and 1940s, working on relatively low-budget fillers for Paramount and Warner Brothers. His reputation is balanced between his avant-garde expressionist style, most evident in his early career, and his work as a fast, reliable studio-system director called on to finish troubled projects, such as 1939's Hotel Imperial.

He directed more than 50 movies. His most popular film is likely the first Marx Brothers feature The Cocoanuts of 1929, and his 1932 foray into Universal-style horror, Murders in the Rue Morgue is regarded by horror fans as highly reflective of German expressionism. In 2006, as his 1937 film Daughter of Shanghai was selected for preservation in the United States National Film Registry by the Library of Congress, Florey was called "widely acclaimed as the best director working in major studio B-films".[1]

Life and work

Early life

Florey grew up in Paris near the studio of George Melies, and as a young man served as assistant to Louis Feuillade.[2] He was an assistant director on L'orpheline (1921), and Parisette (1921).


Florey went to Hollywood in 1921 as a journalist for Cinemagazine. He worked as foreign publicity director for Douglas Fairbanks and Mary Pickford and was European advance manager for Rudolph Valentino.[3]

He was an assistant director on Parisian Nights (1925). He went to MGM where he was an assistant on The Masked Bride (1925), Exquisite Sinner (1926), Bardelys the Magnificent (1926), La Bohème (1926) and The Magic Flame (1927). He also shot newsreel footage in New York.

Early films

Florey's first film as director was One Hour of Love (1927) for Tiffany Productions. He did The Romantic Age (1927) for Columbia and Face Value (1927) for Stirling Pictures. He was assistant on The Woman Disputed (1928).

He directed and co-wrote the 27-minute experimental film Johann the Coffinmaker in 1927, said to have been made for $200 in his spare time, shooting at night while working on other films in the daytime. The avant-garde film was made on only three sets, and involved a lot of trick photographic effects.[4]


In the late 1920s he produced two experimental short films: The Life and Death of 9413: a Hollywood Extra (1928) co-directed with Slavko Vorkapić, and Skyscraper Symphony the following year. He also directed the shorts Johann the Coffinmaker (1927), The Love of Zero (1928), Hello New York! (1928) with Maurice Chevalier, and Pusher-in-the-Face (1929) from a script and story by F. Scott Fitzgerald.


Florey accepted a contract to direct at Paramount Pictures, where he made The Hole in the Wall (1929) with Claudette Colbert and Edward G. Robinson and The Cocoanuts (1929), the first film of the Marx Brothers.[5]

He directed a short with Fanny Brice, Night Club (1929) and made The Battle of Paris (1929) with Gertrude Lawrence.[6]

Florey went to England to direct a French musical The Road Is Fine (1930) and to Germany for My Wife's Teacher (1930), a Spanish language version of the film Rendezvous. While in Germany he directed Love Songs (1930). He did Black and White (1931) with Raimu, co-directing with Marc Allegret.

Murders in the Rue Morgue

Florey made a significant but uncredited contribution to the script of the 1931 version of Frankenstein. Florey was to be given the job of directing Frankenstein, and filmed a screen test with Bela Lugosi playing the monster, but Universal Pictures wound up giving the job to James Whale, who cast Boris Karloff.

Instead Universal assigned Florey and Lugosi to Murders in the Rue Morgue (1932). Florey, with the help of cinematographer Karl Freund and elaborate sets representing 19th century Paris, made Murders into an American version of German expressionist films such as Cabinet of Dr. Caligari (1920).[7][8][9]

Florey directed The Man Called Back (1932) with Conrad Nagel for Tiffany Pictures, and Those We Love (1932) with Mary Astor. He wrote the script for a version of A Study in Scarlet (1933).

Warner Bros.

Florey went to Warner Bros. where he made directed a number of "B" movies: Girl Missing (1933) with Glenda Farrell and Ben Lyon, Ex-Lady (1933) with Bette Davis, The House on 56th Street (1933) with Kay Francis, Bedside (1934) with Warren William, Registered Nurse (1934) with Bebe Daniels, Smarty (1934) with Joan Blondell and William, I Sell Anything (1934) with Pat O'Brien,I Am a Thief (1934) with Astor, The Woman in Red (1935) with Barbara Stanwyck, and The Florentine Dagger (1935) with Donald Woods. [10]

He did some uncredited work on Go Into Your Dance (1935) with Al Jolson and Ruby Keeler and was assistant director on I've Got Your Number (1934). He also did some location filming in China for Oil for the Lamps of China (1935).[11][12]

Florey directed Going Highbrow (1935) with Guy Kibbee, Don't Bet on Blondes (1935) with William (and a young Errol Flynn), and The Payoff (1935) with James Dunn.


Florey went to Paramount where he directed Ship Cafe (1935) with Carl Brisson, The Preview Murder Mystery (1936) with Reginald Denny, Till We Meet Again (1936) with Herbert Marshall, Hollywood Boulevard (1936) with John Halliday and a young Robert Cummings, Outcast (1937) with William, King of Gamblers (1937) with Claire Trevor and Lloyd Nolan, Mountain Music (1937) with Bob Burns and Martha Raye, This Way Please (1937) with Charles "Buddy" Rogers and Betty Grable, Daughter of Shanghai (1937) with Anna May Wong, Dangerous to Know (1938) with Wong, and King of Alcatraz (1938) with Gail Patrick and Nolan. He did some uncredited work on Rose of the Rancho (1936). His films were marked by fast pace, cynical tone, Dutch angles, and dramatic lighting.

Florey directed Hotel Imperial (1939) with Isa Miranda and Ray Milland, The Magnificent Fraud (1939) with Akim Tamiroff and Nolan, Death of a Champion (1939) with Lynne Overman, Parole Fixer (1940) from a book by J. Edgar Hoover, and Women Without Names (1940) with Ellen Drew.


Florey went to Columbia for The Face Behind the Mask (1941) with Peter Lorre, Meet Boston Blackie (1941) with Chester Morris, and Two in a Taxi (1941) with Anita Louise.[13]

Warner Bros.

Florey went to Warner Bros. for Dangerously They Live (1941) with John Garfield, Lady Gangster (1942) with Faye Emerson and the big budget musical The Desert Song (1943) with Dennis Morgan.

At 20th Century Fox he did some assisting on Bomber's Moon (1943) and directed Roger Touhy, Gangster (1944) with Preston Foster. He went to Republic for Man from Frisco] (1944).

In April 1944, he was burned when his car was on fire.[14] Back at Warners Florey directed God Is My Co-Pilot (1945) with Morgan, and Danger Signal (1945) with Emerson and Zachary Scott.[15]

He did some uncredited work on San Antonio (1945) with Errol Flynn and returned to the horror genre with The Beast with Five Fingers (1946).

He was also associate director to Charlie Chaplin on Chaplin's film Monsieur Verdoux (1947).

Freelance director

Florey directed Tarzan and the Mermaids (1948) with Johnny Weissmuller for Sol Lesser in Mexico, and two French Foreign Legion films: Rogues' Regiment (1948) with Dick Powell and Outpost in Morocco (1949) with George Raft.[16]

He did The Crooked Way (1949) with John Payne, The Vicious Years (1950), Johnny One-Eye (1950) with Pat O'Brien, and Charlie's Haunt (1950) with Edgar Bergen then did some uncredited work on Flynn's The Adventure of Captain Fabian (1951).


Florey's earliest work for television included The Walt Disney Christmas Show (1951) and Operation Wonderland (1951) for Disney.

He soon devoted himself to television almost exclusively, doing episodes of Your Favorite Story, The Loretta Young Show, Walt Disney's Wonderful World of Color, The Star and the Story, Four Star Playhouse, Ethel Barrymore Theater, Wire Service, Telephone Time, Studio 57, Jane Wyman Presents The Fireside Theatre, General Electric Theater, Schlitz Playhouse, M Squad, Wagon Train,The Restless Gun (the pilot), Goodyear Theatre, Alcoa Theatre, Black Saddle, Westinghouse Desilu Playhouse, The Rough Riders, The David Niven Show, Lock Up, Zane Grey Theater, The Untouchables, The DuPont Show with June Allyson, Markham, The Texan, Checkmate, Michael Shayne, Hong Kong, The Barbara Stanwyck Show, Adventures in Paradise, Thriller, Alcoa Premiere, Alfred Hitchcock Presents, The Dick Powell Theatre, Going My Way, The Great Adventure, The Twilight Zone ("Perchance to Dream", "The Fever", "The Long Morrow") and The Outer Limits.[3][17]

He also wrote a number of books, including Pola Negri (1927) and Charlie Chaplin (1927), Hollywood d'hier et d'aujord'hui (1948), La Lanterne magique (1966), and Hollywood annee zero (1972).

In 1950, Florey was made a knight in the French Légion d'honneur.[18]

His 1937 thriller Daughter of Shanghai (1937), starring Anna May Wong, was added to the National Film Registry in 2006.

He was married once from 1928 to 1936[19] and then a second time.

He was buried at the Forest Lawn, Hollywood Hills Cemetery in Los Angeles.

Complete filmography

This filmography lists Florey's credits as director of feature films, and is believed to be complete.

Short subjects


  • Taves, Brian (1986). Robert Florey, The French Expressionist. Scarecrow Press. ISBN 978-0-8108-1929-0.


  1. "Films Added to National Film Registry for 2006 - News Releases (Library of Congress)". Retrieved 19 January 2015.
  2. Lovers of cinema: the first American film avant-garde, 1919-1945, by Jan-Christopher Horak, page 95
  3. Services Today for Robert Florey, 79, Film Director Los Angeles Times 18 May 1979: f20.
  4. Workman, Christopher; Howarth, Troy (2016). "Tome of Terror: Horror Films of the Silent Era". Midnight Marquee Press. p. 313. ISBN 978-1936168-68-2.
  5. GETTING INTO HOLLYWOOD: Linder's Studio. Author of Several Books. New York Times 16 Dec 1928: X5.
  6. FLOREY DOES FAST MOVING JAZZ COMEDY The Washington Post 22 Dec 1929: A2.
  7. "MURDERS IN THE RUE MORGUE" (director: Robert Florey), Universal Hughes, Maud. Picture Show; London Vol. 27, Iss. 681, (May 21, 1932): 7.
  8. WEIRD FILMS: Character Changes in "Rue Morgue" New York Times 10 Jan 1932: X6.
  9. Return of the Repressed Wood, Robin. Film Comment; New York Vol. 14, Iss. 4, (Jul/Aug 1978): 25-32,80.
  10. WARNERS OPEN BUSY PROGRAM: Largest Outlay in Eight-Year Period Awaits Camera Multi-Starred Musical to Be First Film Started Season's Production Plans Include Sixty Features Los Angeles Times7 June 1933: A8.
  11. BEDSIDE (First National). Director: Robert Florey Picture Show; London Vol. 31, Iss. 797, (Aug 11, 1934): 19.
  12. Bribes Chinese with Pictures of Film Stars: Director Reports They're Better Than Money. Shaffer, George. Chicago Daily Tribune 12 June 1934: 17.
  13. NEWS OF THE SCREEN: Martha Scott Borrowed by Columbia for Role in 'They Dare Not Love'--Two Swedish Films Open Here Of Local Origin By DOUGLAS W. CHURCHILL New York Times 27 Dec 1940: 22.
  14. Allies Capture Jap Positions Near Kohima Los Angeles Times 29 Apr 1944: 2.
  15. Teresa Wright Mulls Return to Footlights: Scott, Bennett Cast as Rivals; Terry 'Scandals' Lead; Barr Set as Villain Schallert, Edwin. Los Angeles Times 17 Jan 1945: 8.
  16. DRAMA AND FILM: O'Keefe Star of 'T-Man; England Gets 'Escape' Schallert, Edwin. Los Angeles Times 3 June 1947: A3.
  17. Movie Directors Urged to Add Their Talents to Television Swirsky, Sid. Los Angeles Times 16 Aug 1953: D11.
  18. French Award Announced for Director Florey Los Angeles Times 9 Feb 1950: A12.
  19. Rift Laid to Temperament: SUIT PLANNED BY WIFE OF VETERAN DIRECTOR Los Angeles Times 4 Aug 1936: A2.
  20. The Love of Zero on YouTube
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