Thursday, October 8, 2015

Born Today October 8: Rouben Mamoulian


Born in Tiflis, In the Empire of Russia (Tiblisi the capital of the Republic of Georgia) as Rouben Zachary Mamoulian to Armenian parents who were Jewish; he would eventually go on to be a director of films in Hollywood by way of stage work in London and New York City.  He arrived in London 1922 and directed plays there.  In 1923 he was hired by Vladimir Rosing to serve as the head of the drama school at the Eastman School of Music in Rochester, New York and directed both theater and opera there.  This is when is first involvement in film came.  Famous choreographer Martha Graham was recruited by him to come the the Eastman School and she is known to have been involved in experimental two color short film in 1926 The Flute Of Krishna (another title that I am proud to have added to IMDb years back), he is known to have been involved in the project in some form--certainly at least as producer; however, it has been long thought that he was also the director.  It was Graham who said that Mamoulian was "getting a bad, a very bad deal" at the school and he left for New York City the summer of that same year to direct (many say brilliantly) on Broadway. She, herself, left shortly there after as well for the same reasons.

His first Broadway directed production Porgy hit Broadway in 1927.  He first film director credit came in 1929 with the early talkie Applause.  Shot in New York for Paramount.  This opened up a new door for another area of direction for him, although he continued a much more successful career directing on Broadway.  For example, he was the first director to stage Oklahoma on Broadway.  He went on the have a regular film directing career all through the 1930's and 40's.  Then he got caught up in the whole Hollywood Blacklist affair, and there was hiatus in his film directing; I don't believe, though that he was actually ever blacklisted himself.  A lot of Hollywood workers that were blacklisted had Jewish ancestry.  It remains one of the darkest stains on both the Hollywood film business, and this country in general  In later film projects, he was known to be a very decisive, leave me alone and let me do things my way, kind of director.  He, was after all primarily a stage director.  The studios didn't appreciate this approach and he was fired from some very high profile projects, one of the most famous of which is Cleopatra (1963)--where he was replaced by Joseph L. Mankiewicz, which starred Elizabeth Taylor and Richard Burton.  Another, earlier firing, from the filming of Porgy And Bess (1959), must have stung, since it was he back in 1927 the he had such a hit with that same play on Broadway.  After the 1963 firing, he decided he was done with film directing. As a side note: in 1931 he directed Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde starring Frederic March.  This is not just a Fright Month mentioning for the Countdown To Halloween, as this was the first horror movie ever to win an Academy Award, with the Best Actor Oscar going to March; it nominated for two more.  It is widely considered to be the best filmed version of the novel, and, I believe, the first talky film version of it too.

Mamoulian passed away of natural causes at the ripe old age of 90 on the 4 of December 1987 in Los Angeles.  He was buried in Forest Lawn Memorial Park; the same place where Carole Lombard and Clark Gable are entombed next to each other.

Frederic March as Mr. Hyde


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  2. Hi, I was just wondering where you found out that Mamoulian's parents were Jewish. I've been digging and digging and I can't come up with any sources for this.