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Jack Conway (filmmaker)

From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

Jack Conway
Conway in 1937
Hugh Ryan Conway

(1886-07-17)July 17, 1886
DiedOctober 11, 1952(1952-10-11) (aged 66)
  • Actor
  • director
  • producer
Years active1909–1948
Spouse(s)Viola Barry (1911–1918) (divorced) 2 children
Virginia Bushman (1926–1952) (his death) 2 children

Hugh Ryan "Jack" Conway (July 17, 1886 – October 11, 1952) was an American film director and film producer, as well as an actor of many films in the first half of the 20th century.

Conway and director Edmund Goulding share the distinction of directing the most Best Picture-nominated films without ever being nominated for Best Director, with three apiece. Conway's nominated films were Viva Villa!, A Tale of Two Cities, and Libeled Lady.

Conway was one of a team of MGM contract directors, who forsook any pretense to a specific individual style in favor of working within the strictures set forth by studio management. A thoroughly competent craftsman, he delivered commercially successful entertainment, on time, and within budget.

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Early life and career

Conway was born as Hugh Ryan Conway, on July 17, 1886, in Graceville, Minnesota, USA. Conway started out as an actor, joining a repertory theater group straight out of high school. He then moved into films, and in 1911, became a member of D.W. Griffith's stock company, appearing primarily in Westerns.

He briefly became a film star with The Valley of the Moon (1914).


Four years later, he made his mark as a director and gained valuable experience at Universal (1916–17 and 1921–23).

Conway made Quicksands (1923) written by Howard Hawks. He did some films for Fox, The Roughneck (1924) with George O'Brien, The Hunted Woman (1925) and two with Tom Mix, The Heart Buster (1924) The Trouble Shooter (1924).


Conway moved to MGM in 1925. He made two films with Elinor Glyn, Soul Mates (1925) and The Only Thing (1925).

Conway directed films with MGM's top stars - William Haines (Brown of Harvard, Alias Jimmy Valentine, The Smart Set), John Gilbert (Twelve Miles Out), Joan Crawford (The Understanding Heart, Untamed, Our Modern Maidens ), Lon Chaney (While the City Sleeps, The Unholy Three) and Marie Dressler (Bringing Up Father).

Conway directed Viva Villa!, a hit MGM film starring Wallace Beery that was nominated for four Academy Awards. In his most famous film, A Tale of Two Cities (1935), he used 17,000 extras for the Paris mob scenes alone. This spectacular adaptation of the Dickens classic is still regarded by many as the definitive screen version.[citation needed]

One New York Night (1935) was a little remembered comedy with Franchot Tone but the sophisticated all-star comedy Libeled Lady (1936) was a huge hit, with the New York Times reviewer commenting on Conway's "agile direction". It starred Harlow, William Powell, Myrna Loy and Spencer Tracy.

Saratoga (1937) with Clark Gable and Jean Harlow was very popular, in part due to publicity arising from the fact Harlow died during filming. Conway went into another film with Gable, Too Hot to Handle (1938) co starring Myrna Loy and Spencer Tracy.

He went to England to make A Yank at Oxford (1938) with Robert Taylor. Star and director were reunited in Lady of the Tropics (1938) with Hedy Lamarr. Let Freedom Ring (1939) was a Western with Nelson Eddy, then Conway had a big hit with Boom Town (1940) starring Gable, Claudette Colbert, Tracy and Lamar.

Honky Tonk (1941), with Gable and Turner, was another big hit as was Love Crazy (1941) with Powell and Loy and Crossroads (1942), a thriller with Powell and Lamar.

Conway made some war films - Assignment in Brittany (1943) with Jean Pierre Aumont and Dragon Seed (1944) with Katharine Hepburn. He did some uncredited directing on Desire Me (1947) a huge flop with Greer Garson. The Hucksters (1947) with Gable, Ava Gardner and Deborah Kerr was very popular. Less so was High Barbaree (1947) with Van Johnson and June Allyson. Conway's last film was Julia Misbehaves (1948), a popular comedy with Garson.

Private life

His first marriage was to silent film actress Viola Barry. Together, they had two children, including writer Rosemary Conway. His second marriage was to Virginia Bushman, daughter of silent screen star Francis X. Bushman. They had two children, as well, including the actor Pat Conway. They resided in Pacific Palisades, California, in a house designed by architect Allen Siple (1900–1973).[1] A street in Pacific Palisades, Jacon Way, is named for Conway. He retired from films in 1948 and died four years later at his home from pulmonary disease.[2]

Spencer Tracy read the eulogy while Conway's pallbearers included Robert Z. Leonard, Edward Sutherland, Eddie Mannix, and John Lee Mahin.[3]


According to critic Andrew Sarris, Conway "was submerged in the Metro studio system, and few of his films are worth mentioning even in passing, but there are moments of enchantment" although "Most of the enchantment can be attributed to... acting luminaries."[4]

Gloria Swanson wrote in her memoirs " Making a film with Jack Conway was like going to an elegant party every day."[5] She also described him:

. He was tall and lean, with blue eyes and wavy hair and a marvelous smile... He seemed to possess everything I thought of as refined and stylish behavior. He was like that man women in fashion magazines always had by the arm, the kind of man who automatically had a manicure when he had a haircut. [6]





  • The Girl from Missouri (1934)
  • Hell Below (1933)
  • Just a Gigolo (1931)
  • Our Modern Maidens (1929)


  1. ^ "PCAD - the Pacific Coast Architecture Database - Home". Retrieved May 4, 2020.
  2. ^ — Los Angeles Times Oct. 13, 1952 (October 13, 1952). "Jack Conway - Hollywood Star Walk - Los Angeles Times". Retrieved May 4, 2020.{{cite web}}: CS1 maint: multiple names: authors list (link) CS1 maint: numeric names: authors list (link)
  3. ^ "Film leaders assemble at Jack Conway's funeral". The Los Angeles Times. October 16, 1952. p. 31.
  4. ^ Sarris, Andrew (1968). The American cinema; directors and directions, 1929-1968. New York, Dutton. p. 254.
  5. ^ Swanson, Gloria (1987). Swanson on Swanson. Arrow Books. p. 85. ISBN 9780099522409.
  6. ^ Swanson p 83

External links

This page was last edited on 18 February 2024, at 12:30
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