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From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

Sam Wood
Sam Wood, American film director (1883-1949).jpg
Sam Wood
Born
Samuel Grosvenor Wood

(1883-07-10)July 10, 1883
Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, United States
DiedSeptember 22, 1949(1949-09-22) (aged 66)
Hollywood, California, U.S.
Other namesShad Applegate
OccupationFilm director, writer, producer, actor, real estate broker
Years active1917–1949
Spouse(s)
Clara L. Roush
(m. 1908)
Children2

Samuel Grosvenor Wood (July 10, 1883 – September 22, 1949) was an American film director and producer, who is best known for having directed such Hollywood hits as A Night at the Opera, A Day at the Races, Goodbye, Mr. Chips, and The Pride of the Yankees, and for his uncredited work directing parts of Gone with the Wind. He was also involved in a few acting and writing projects.

As a youth Wood developed an enthusiasm for physical fitness that persisted into his senior years and influenced his interest in making sports-themed films.[1]

Wood advanced from making largely competent yet routine pictures in the 1920s and 1930s to directing a number of highly regarded works during the 1940s at the peak of his abilities, among them Kings Row (1942) and Ivy (1947).[2]

Wood's quick, efficient and professional execution of his film assignments endeared him to studio executives and, though not a "brilliant" director, Wood's legacy represents "a long and respectable film career."[3]

Early life and family

Samuel Grosvenor Wood was born on July 10, 1883, in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, to William Henry Wood and Katherine (née Corn) Wood. He attended M. Hall Stanton School. One of Wood's daughters, born Gloria Wood, was film and television actress K.T. Stevens.[4]

Jackie Coogan and director Sam Wood; publicity shot for Peck's Bad Boy (1921)
Jackie Coogan and director Sam Wood; publicity shot for Peck's Bad Boy (1921)

Early career in Hollywood

When Wood turned 18-years-old in the summer of 1901, he and a companion began a year-long trek across the United States, ultimately arriving in Los Angeles where Wood embarked on a successful career as a real estate broker. By 1906, the then-primitive film industry in Southern California enticed Wood to gain entrée into the nascent industry by way of acting, adopting the screen name "Chad Applegate." He carefully concealed his (then regarded) ill-reputed avocation from real estate associates and clients.[5]

In 1908, Wood married Clara Louise Roush, who encouraged her spouse to commit to a career in film. Spurred by a collapse in the real estate market, Wood obtained work as a movie production assistant and by 1914 was serving as an assistant director to Cecil B. DeMille. During the next five years, Wood contributed to the manufacture of hundreds of movies shorts as an assistant director, mostly for Paramount Pictures.[6][7][8]

Directorial debut: The Wallace Reid films, 1920

At the end of 1919, Wood won his first assignment as director in the Paramount feature Double Speed, the first of five films he was paired with screen star Wallace Reid, all of which were filmed and released in 1920. Wood demonstrated efficient and effective direction that made him attractive to Paramount executives. The success of these hour-long action-comedies were highly praised by production head Jesse Lasky for their "assembly line" output and profitability.[9]

Actor Reid, injured during a shoot in 1919, suffered from chronic pain that he treated with morphine. (A functioning addict during his collaboration with Wood, he would die in 1923 at the age of 32 due to complications related to his addiction.)[10]

Despite the outstanding success of his Reid features, Wood expressed a desire to work on other projects. Paramount "perhaps as a sign of displeasure" obliged Wood by demoting him to their subsidiary movie unit, Realart, a venue for the production of low-budget "routine programme pictures" that offered little in the way of substance. Wood endured the assignment, making four films at Realart, starring Ethel Clayton and Wanda Hawley, all filmed in 1920. Wood's perseverance at Realart earned him the reputation as a reliable studio asset.[11]

The Swanson-Wood pictures, 1921-1923

Sam Wood was all right, but he was a real estate dealer at heart...there was nothing of the temperamental artist about him. We had been grinding out pictures since The Great Moment, and each one was worse than the last. The only thing that changed was the number and the length of dresses I wore and the face of the leading man.

Gloria Swanson, from her memoir Swanson on Swanson (1980).[12]

Edythe Chapman (actress), Sam Wood, Alfred Gilks (cinematographer) & Osmond Borradaile (cameraman), on the set of Beyond the Rocks
Edythe Chapman (actress), Sam Wood, Alfred Gilks (cinematographer) & Osmond Borradaile (cameraman), on the set of Beyond the Rocks

Paramount's appreciation for Wood's "fast, efficient" delivery of film product and his excellent rapport with his cast and crew landed him the honor of directing their recently acquired actor Gloria Swanson in her first starring vehicle, The Great Moment (1921). DeMille, whom Wood had served as an assistant director from 1914 to 1916 and Swanson, a close personal friend to Wood, each influenced Paramount's choice.[13][14]

With the popular success of The Great Moment, co-starring Milton Sills (in one scandalous scene, he sucks rattlesnake venom from Swanson's chest) Paramount proceeded to finance nine more Swanson-Wood collaborations over the next two years, beginning with Under the Lash (1921) and finishing with Bluebeard's 8th Wife (1923). Cameraman Alfred Gilks photographed all ten of the productions.[15] During the Wood-Swanson series of films "the costume department broke all records for Hollywood lavishness..."[16]

Wood's pictures included an array of scenarios and settings, providing abundant opportunities for Swanson and her leading men to "besport themselves in a variety of period costumes" (e.g. Beyond the Rocks (1922) with Rudolf Valentino), and to appear in the "daring modern clothing" of the Jazz Age (e.g. Prodigal Daughters (1923) with Ralph Graves). Swanson's silent film career was significantly enhanced by these Wood productions. However, In 1923 by mutual consent, Swanson and Wood agreed to conclude their collaboration.[17]

Sam Wood and Swanson "had clearly found the formula for success in these romantic comedies of marriage and intrigue laced with a series of handsome leading men and a never ending parade of fabulous gowns."[18]

Principal Pictures and Irving M. Lesser, 1924-1925

In late 1923, Wood's relationship with Paramount began deteriorating due to his discontent over the quality of his project assignments. Wood completed the "heavy-handed morality tale" His Children's Children at the end of 1923, and only made Bluff (1924) with Agnes Ayers under protest due to his low appraisal of Ayers' star potential.[19]

Wood accepted two offers from producer Irving "Sol" Lesser of the newly formed Principal Pictures to make "a most unusual film", The Female (1924), set in the South African Veld starring Betty Compson, as well as a Western and Wood's first effort in this genre, The Mine with the Iron Door (1924) with Dorothy Mackaill. Wood consented to make another film with Dorothy Mackaill for Paramount in The Next Corner (1924) that despite its "expensive production values" was burdened with a "meager plot". Wood and Paramount reached an impasse when he refused to direct another Agnes Ayers vehicle. Wood was officially suspended from Paramount and the other major studios for a year.[20]

Sol Lesser at Principal Pictures reached out to Wood to direct a film version of novelist Harold Bell Wright's The Re-Creation of Brian Kent, a soap opera. When Wood's adaptation proved a box office success, Paramount executives sought to lure Wood back to the studio, bestowing on him a lavishly financed production, Fascinating Youth (1926). Wood completed the "light comedy" but remained convinced that he had no future with Paramount and successfully arranged for a release from his contract.[21]

Wood's separation from Paramount proved to be fortuitous for the director. Indeed, it was "a major turning point in his career." In 1927, he briefly directed films for Cole-Robertson Pictures, a small Boston outfit, and simultaneously negotiated a long-term commitment to Hollywood's dominant studio, Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer (M-G-M).[22]

Harold "Red" Grange and the Cole-Robertson Pictures, 1926-1927

Robertson-Cole Pictures (soon to be the Film Booking Company, F.B.O and later associated with RKO Radio Studios) instantly picked up the now available Wood. Production manager Joseph P. Kennedy had famous sports hero "Red" Grange under contract and Wood, a gridiron enthusiast, welcomed the opportunity to deliver a compelling football story, One Minute to Play (1926).[23] Wood directed Grange a second time in a small epic honoring horse racing. Emphasizing the virtues of the sport rather than the less than impressive acting performance by Grange, A Racing Romeo (1927), completed Wood's duties for Cole-Robertson.[24]

Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer (M-G-M), 1927-1939

Wood's first two assignments for M-G-M, Rookies, with Karl Dane and George K. Arthur, and The Fair Co-Ed with Marion Davies were comedies, both made in 1927, earning him a long-term contract with the studio for whom he would almost exclusively make films for over ten years.[25]

Wood proceeded to bring his signature speed and efficiency to M-G-M, directing their top stars and supplied with screenplays "of the slimmest material": Norma Shearer in The Latest from Paris (1928), William Haines in Telling the World (1928), the Duncan Sisters (1929) in It's a Great Life and in his first sound film in 1929, introduced actor Robert Montgomery.

Wood was renowned for consistently delivering his features "on time and on budget", but these virtues, which pleased the Front Office, "militated against his getting worthier assignments."[26] Two more comedies followed in 1930, The Girl Said No and They Learned About Women, the latter with a baseball theme and a sentimental vehicle starring German actor Louis Mann in a fine performance, and with co-star Robert Montgomery.[27]

Wood directed silent matinee idol John Gilbert in a maritime romance-adventure Way for a Sailor, a vehicle that the actor hoped would redeem his reputation in the emerging "talkies". Gilbert was poorly cast as a tough seaman opposite Wallace Beery. Legend has it that M-G-M's studio chief Louis B. Mayer was complicit in miscasting Gilbert in a virile role that did not suit his image, and Wood failed to salvage his performance. Concentrating on action scenes depicting high seas shipwrecks and rescues, Wood invested Way for the Sailor with no more than a measure of realism.[28][29]

Silent movie flapper and rising talkie star Joan Crawford was paired with Wood for Paid (1930), a crime drama that benefited from Wood's "taut" execution and Charles Rosher's cinematography,[30]

Wood followed with two less fortunate assignments and the last two of the four features he would make with William Haines: A Tailor Made Man and New Adventures of Get Rich Quick Wallingford, both 1931. Haines would subsequently retire from acting to become a successful interior decorator. Wood finished off the year by directing his final and successful film with Robert Montgomery, The Man in Possession, a "knockabout comedy."[31]

Ramon Novarro: Huddle and The Barbarian, 1932-1933

The 1932 Huddle was another opportunity for Wood to demonstrate his talent for presenting American collegiate football. Madge Evans appears opposite leading man Ramon Novarro, a silent era star who struggled to make the transition to sound films.[32]

In a bid to revitalize Novarro's career, M-G-M tasked Wood with filming a remake of the "romantic-exotic" silent era success The Arab, originally filmed by director Cecil B DeMille in 1915 starring Edgar Selwyn, and in 1924, starring the then 25-year old Navarro, both carrying the same title. Wood remade The Barbarian with emerging film star Myrna Loy as the object of Novarro's affection, who steals her from fiancé Reginald Denny in this cinematic ally "attractive minor package".[33]

Prosperity (1932) and Christopher Bean (1933): Marie Dressler

A former star in stage and Vaudeville, the 62-year-old Marie Dressler and co-star Wallace Beery scored a huge financial success for M-G-M, with the 1930 Min and Bill, directed by George Hill, earning her an Academy Award for Best Actress. Wood directed Dressler in this fast-paced light comedy Prosperity (1933), about a small-town bank president (Dressler) who spars with her provincial neighbors and patrons. Wood was reunited with Dressler in 1933 to make Christopher Bean, a light burlesque on the humorous aspects of greed.[34]

Hold Your Man (1933): Jean Harlow and Clark Gable

Wood served as both producer and director on Hold Your Man, a dual role that he did not relish within the "assembly-line" organization that prevailed in the major studios of the 1930s.[35] The assignment, however, was a promotion for Wood, providing him with the opportunity to make a crime-romance that is "sentimental, cheeky, wise-cracking" and as always "swiftly paced" and featuring two of M-G-M's top stars of the period, Jean Harlow and Clark Gable.[36]

After finishing his two Dressler features, Wood made the second of his three films with Myrna Loy, Stamboul Quest (1934), a spy-romance set in Turkish Dardanelles during World War I. Loy plays a Mata Hari-like character pursued by counter-spies and her devoted swain George Brent. Wood enjoyed the services of James Wong Howe's expert cinematography.[37] During Wood's decade-long tenure with M-G-M, he made only one film for another studio, Edward Small's Reliance studios. Let 'Em Have It (1935) stars Richard Arlen in an Underworld vs. G-man themed story that Wood attempted to add substance by including sequences describing U.S. Department of Justice's modern crime-fighting methodology.[38]

Irving Thalberg and The Marx Brothers, 1935-1937

In 1935, head of production for M-G-M studios, the highly regarded Irving Thalberg, hired the comedy team The Marx Brothers who had made five career-defining movies films at Paramount Pictures, but whose dispute with Paramount over unpaid monies as well as the tepid box office of their now-classic "Duck Soup" (1933) resulted in their 5-picture contract not being renewed. Thalberg, in offering them a film contract with M-G-M, demanded a significant degree of control over every aspect of the project. To this the Marx Brothers acquiesced. Zeppo had left the team in 1934 to focus on other business ventures and the trio now consisted of Groucho Marx, Harpo Marx and Chico Marx.[39]

Thalberg's decision to approach Wood to direct the Marx Brothers would mark a "turning point" in the director's professional career. Now in his late forties and "largely undistinguished" during the silent era (though exhibiting "unexpected moments of genius") Wood was regarded as one of M-G-M's "top men."[40][41]

A Comedy Magnum Opus: A Night At The Opera (1935)

Initially skeptical about undertaking A Night at the Opera, Thalberg assured Wood that a coherent film structure would be imposed to incorporate love interests and musical numbers, alternating with the Marx Brothers' comedy creations. Wood's masterful control over the screenplay and cast served to integrate these elements into the film. Historian John Baxter observes that:

Wood's handling the nihilistic Marx Brothers in A Night At The Opera...is impeccable, perhaps because unlike other [directors] he does not neglect the supporting cast for the intervening musical and romantic sequences which Irving Thalberg considered necessary to the film's commercial success. Under Wood's direction, the Marx set-pieces do not come as high points in a dull landscape but arise naturally from the smooth fabric of the film.[42]

Wood's "perfectionist" approach to shooting A Night at the Opera involved daily reviews of the footage and editing the scenes, a process that guaranteed reshoots that "endangered the spontaneity of the humor." Wood's often tedious approach to re-filming key Marx Brothers scenes placed a strain on cast and crew that Wood addressed with good-natured blandishments.[43]

The enormous success of A Night At The Opera ensured that a sequel would be made, but Thalberg had declared a temporary moratorium in order to increase interest in the public for the anticipated feature. Wood was designated in advance as its director.[44]

While Paramount planned the next Marx Brothers comedy epic, Wood was occupied with a two-picture assignment. The first was Whipsaw (1936), a romance-crime drama with Myrna Loy and Spencer Tracy. The shooting included a brief clash between Wood and Tracy, the actor rebelling against the director for being "too meticulous".[45] Wood's second effort was a "slick and glossy melodrama" with "M-G-M's stylish trimmings" with Loretta Young and Franchot Tone and a fine supporting cast: The Unguarded Hour (1936).[46]

A Day at the Races (1937)

The Marx Brothers on the A Day at the Races set with Wood
The Marx Brothers on the A Day at the Races set with Wood

While filming the Marx Brothers' A Day at the Races, Wood became exasperated by the brothers' lack of seriousness on the set:
Wood: "You can't make an actor out of clay!"
Groucho Marx (shouting back): "Nor a director out of Wood!"[47]

The Marx Brothers arrived for the filming of A Day at the Races having tested new routines at burlesque venues, and Thalberg and Wood were prepared to use this material to emulate the profitability of A Night At the Opera. Shortly into the filming, Thalberg unexpectedly died, at thirty-seven, from pneumonia, a loss that left Wood personally shaken. Wood proceeded with the picture, adhering to the formula that balanced the "romance and musical numbers" with the fulsome humor offered in the Marx Brothers sequences.[48]

Final years at M-G-M, 1937-1938

"If it isn't too good, keep it moving."—Director Sam Wood on his principles for Hollywood filmmaking.[49]

After the success of his two Marx Brothers features, Wood requested and was awarded more substantial stories and scripts from M-G-M. Wood furnished the studio with "with good pieces of entertainment" in his next four works "but nothing memorable".[50]

Navy Blue and Gold (1937): Here Wood returned to collegiate athletics, endowing this "light comedy" - starring James Stewart, Robert Young and Tom Brown—with a "rousing" Army-Navy football game. Florence Rice provides the love interest.[51]

Madame X (1937): A popular stage play by Alexandre Bisson that enjoyed numerous film adaptations until 1966, Wood directed Gladys George as the long-suffering mother who sacrifices for her children. Biographer Tony Thomas reports that the actress was one of the rare cases in which Wood developed a personal dislike for a player.[52]

Lord Jeff (1938): A sentimental tale of orphan boys preparing for an apprenticeship in the British navy. Popular child actor Freddy Bartholomew undergoes correction by an older fellow orphan Mickey Rooney, with assistance from Peter Lawford.

Stablemates (1938): In Rooney's second appearance in a Wood film, a "race-track waif" he reforms the alcoholic yet good-hearted horse veterinarian Wallace Beery. Wood, in his handling of these inherently sentimental vehicles, avoids descending into "bathos", a temptation that "he avoided in all his films."[53]

During the next 10 years until his death in 1949, Wood would direct and produce his most substantial work as one of Hollywood's major filmmakers.[53]

Raffles (1939) and Samuel Goldwyn Productions

A perennial favorite among filmmakers since 1904, Raffles is based on the popular short story "The Amateur Cracksman" (1899) by E.W. Hornung and filmed by director King Baggot in 1925, and Harry D'Arrast and George Fitzmaurice in 1930. Wood made the film while loaned out to Sam Goldwyn for this production.[54]

Raffles' stars Olivia de Havilland and debuts David Niven as the gentleman jewel thief who good-naturedly thwarts Scotland Yard. Wood, like a number of his fellow directors, among them King Vidor, suffered from Goldwyn's intrusiveness on the set.[55][56]

Goodbye, Mr. Chips (1939)

The film rights to British novelist James Hilton's popular novelette Goodbye, Mr. Chips were obtained by M-G-M's Irving Thalberg after literary critic Alexander Wolcott's praise for the work helped popularize it in the United States. Wood traveled to England to make Goodbye, Mr. Chips, the only professional sojourn of his career, part of an attempt by M-G-M to accommodate demands by British trade unions for a share of the lucrative American film exports market.[57][58]

The novel spans the life of an English school master Robert Donat whose lonely and inhibited existence is transformed through the love of his understanding spouse Greer Garson into a good-natured pedagogue beloved by generations of his students. Wood's direction of Donat was painstaking in its precision, a role that required the actor to portray his character in youth and old age (in four stages, at twenty-four, forty, sixty-four and eighty-three years-of-age). An inherently touching tale, Wood demonstrated his restraint in telling the story convincingly without lapsing into sentimentality.[59] Actress Greer Garson made her Hollywood debut with Goodbye, Mr. Chips. Just days before "the still uncast" actress was to return to Great Britain after M-G-M had withdrawn her film option, Wood by chance saw her screen test and quickly informed M-G-M that he wanted her to play the role of Katherine.[60]

Goodbye, Mr. Chips won Donat a Best Actor Oscar, and Wood received the first of his three Academy Award nominations for Best Director. Upon his return from England, Wood determined he would end his long association with M-G-M, confident that he could thrive by offering his services independently to any of the major studios.[61]

Gone with the Wind (1939)

Wood's parting assignment under M-G-M was to take over the filming of Gone with the Wind when the director Victor Fleming collapsed during shooting and did not return to the studio for a month. The film epic was based on Margaret Mitchell's popular novel set during the American Civil War. Fleming received screen credit for directing the film, though the precise contribution by Wood, as well as that of several other contributors, including George Cukor, Leslie Howard, David O. Selznick, and William Wellman has not been fully documented. A number of uncredited cinematographers also shared in making the picture, among them Joseph Ruttenberg, Wilfred Cline and Lee Garmes, who often worked "at first units located on widely separated locations".[62][63]

Other than overseeing the vast operations at the movie's multiple venues, Wood with certainty filmed in its entirety the sequence in which a Yankee bummer (Paul Hurst) breaks into the plantation household and is shot by its mistress (Vivian Leigh). Wood also personally handled some of the scenes that depict wounded Confederate troops at the Atlanta train depot, Whatever way the attributions are allocated, the collective efforts of the cast and crew produced "a remarkable film."[64][65]

Our Town (1940)

Now operating as an independent agent, Wood was instantly offered the option by his former associate and producer Irving "Sol" Lesser to adapt Thornton Wilder's play Our Town. Wilder's Pulitzer Prize-winning play had first been staged on Broadway in 1938, and was "not the kind of vehicle that 1940 Hollywood would have been expected to produce", but Lesser was determined to bring the "unusual" qualities of the work faithfully to the screen.[66]

Wilder worked closely with both Wood and Lesser to help preserve the qualities of the stage production by retaining narrator Frank Craven, who on-screen observes the lives of two rural families in New Hampshire near the turn of the 20th century. Lesser and Wood convinced Wilder to permit one major alteration in his allegorical play: Emily Webb, played by Martha Scott, does not die in childbirth, but only in a dream sequence, a re-write that Wilder admitted was preferable in a cinematic treatment of his work. The atmosphere of the picture was enhanced by the simplicity of the scenery conceived by set designer William Cameron Menzies and by the haunting musical score by American composer Aaron Copland. The excellent supporting cast, including Fay Bainter, Beulah Bondi, Thomas Mitchell and Guy Kibbee contributed to the Our Town's nomination for Best Picture.[67][66]

Kitty Foyle (1940): Ginger Rogers

Based on a Christopher Morley story entitled "Kitty Foyle: The Natural History of a Woman", Ginger Rogers plays the working class protagonist who struggles to choose between two men in a love triangle.[68]

Wood approached the filming of Kitty Foyle with immense care, delineating camera orientation, a precise script and "notes on interpretation" to achieve the "utmost clarity." However implausible the narrative of the love story, Wood maintained his signature control that balances the film's "tenderness and intelligence" with a firmness of direction that avoids sentimentality. The director was emphatic in his disdain for over-acting: "I find [over-acting] unforgivable because it destroys realism. I don't allow scenery chewing while emoting."[69] Wood received the second of his three Academy Award Best Director nominations for Kitty Foyle and a nomination for Best Picture. Ginger Rogers won for Best Actress.[70][71]

Wood returned to Paramount Pictures to make an action-packed Western that borders on a burlesque of the genre, Rangers of Fortune (1940). Starring Fred Macmurray and Gilbert Roland with supporting cast Albert Dekker and Betty Brewer. The madcap escapades of these desperadoes stop short of "buffoonery" when Wood applies his story-telling skills to assert his "sense of balance...one of the most valuable assets" that Wood possessed as a filmmaker.[72]

The Devil and Miss Jones (1941): Jean Arthur, RKO Pictures

Wood opted for RKO Pictures to film Norman Krasner's original screenplay The Devil and Miss Jones, a comedy starring Jean Arthur and Charles Coburn. Frank Ross, Arthur's husband, produced the picture. The stars delivered superb performances in a "social satire" that pits a department store saleswoman-cum-strike organizer (Arthur) against the Scrooge-like owner (Coburn). As with most of Wood's work, consistency, pace and balance characterized his expert handling of the story and script.[73]

A collaborative masterpiece: Kings Row (1942), Warner Brothers

After a protracted struggle to formulate a screenplay satisfactory to censors at the Hays Office, Wood and Warner Brothers commenced to film Henry Bellamann's grim and anti-nostalgic novel of American small town life: Kings Row.[74][75]

Wood's "discipline as a story-teller" was essential in conveying to the screen Kings Row "troubling message without sacrificing its integrity."[76][77]

The high quality of Wood's directorial performance was augmented by three of Hollywood's finest professionals in their fields: Set designer William Cameron Menzies, cinematographer James Wong Howe and composer Erich Wolfgang Korngold, collectively creating a film of "classical proportions."[78]

Biographer Tony Thomas offers this appraisal:

[I]t is Sam Wood who guided all these elements and molded them into a fascinating portrait of love, hate, madness, tragedy and happiness in the life of an American town around the turn-of-the-century. Kings Row will doubtless continue to be one of the prime choices of [cineastes].[79]

The Pride of the Yankees (1942): Sam Goldwyn and RKO

L to R, Gary Cooper, Teresa, Wright, Sam Wood (director), rehearsing on set of Pride of the Yankees.
L to R, Gary Cooper, Teresa, Wright, Sam Wood (director), rehearsing on set of Pride of the Yankees.

When beloved baseball player Lou Gehrig of the New York Yankees died, aged thirty-seven in 1941 of ALS, a fatal neuromuscular disorder, Wood determined that a film biography was in order. The career of the "modest and likable" Gehrig spanned 17 years (1923-1939), during which he played more than two thousand consecutive games.[80]

Though idolized by his fans, Wood met with resistance from studio executives to a project that was likely to appeal to only half of the American demographic: male sports fans. Wood, an ardent sports enthusiast, was able to sway producer Sam Goldwyn to sponsor the film, and they both agreed that the picture would be an "ideal vehicle" for Gary Cooper, "a kind of idealization of the American male", and significantly, under contract to Goldwyn, to whom Cooper owed one more film.[81][82]

An avid outdoorsman, Cooper was virtually ignorant of baseball as a professional sport, but complied with his contract. Wood's encouragement and support for Cooper served to create a satisfactory portrayal of Gehrig, matching "the perfect actor with the perfect director" assuring the film's success.[83][84]

While filming on set, Wood was initially dismayed at what at first appeared to be Cooper's inept acting. Upon reviewing the actual footage, Wood was relieved and pleased to discover that Cooper's "underplaying" translated effectively to the screen.[85]

Cooper was nominated by the Academy of Motion Pictures Arts and Sciences for Best Actor, and the film earned nine more nominations, including Best Picture. The Pride of the Yankees remains "one of the best and most popular screen biographies as well as the quintessential baseball movie."[86][87]

Even as Wood was filming Kings Row for Paramount in 1941, he began working on his major project for Warner Brothers: an adaption of novelist Ernest Hemingway's For Whom the Bell Tolls. Wood proceeded to shoot numerous landscape scenes in the High Sierra Nevada range before the cast for the movie had been selected. Production on the film was set aside when Wood made The Pride of the Yankees for Samuel Goldwyn, and only returned to For Whom the Bell Tolls when that project was completed.[88]

For Whom the Bell Tolls (1943), Paramount Pictures

Wood's 1943 For Whom the Bell Tolls was "the major project of [his] career." Adapting Ernest Hemingway's Spanish Civil War epic had a personal and political significance to Wood, identifying as he did with Hemingway's idealistic protagonist Robert Jordan and the Republican cause for which he fought.[89]

Paramount Pictures' casting of the doomed hero was a foregone conclusion, as the book's author, Hemingway, had his friend and actor Gary Cooper in mind as Robert Jordan when he conceived the story. Cooper was conveniently already under contract with the studio and owed producer Sam Goldwyn one more film. Wood was obliged to complete Pride of the Yankees (1942) before could commit himself fully to For Whom the Bell Tolls, already under production since late 1941.[90][91]

Wood favored ballet dancer and actress Vera Zorina for the role of the young guerrilla fighter, Maria, an opinion that was at odds with Hemingway and as well as members of "Wood's own family." During shooting on location, Wood realized his error when Zorina did not take to the part, and Ingrid Bergman, who had coveted the role, was auditioned after completing her role as Ilsa Lund in director Michael Curtiz's Casablanca (1942), and winning "the coveted role."[92][93]

Audiences and critics felt "the love interest was over-played" in For Whom the Bell Tolls at the expense of clarifying the political issues that defined the Spanish Civil War: a brutal and violent struggle between fascist and anti-fascist forces.[94][95]

Wood was undoubtedly disappointed when "the major project of his career" did not garner him an Academy Award nomination, an honor that was bestowed on his cinematographer Ray Rennahan, his set designer William Cameron Menzies, musical director Victor Young and his four leading cast members, with Katina Paxinou winning Best Supporting Actor in her role as the revolutionary matron Pilar.[96][97]

Filmed shortly after the United States entered World War II, the government placed wartime limits on Hollywood's access to new building materials. To obviate these restrictions, Wood chose to do most of the filming outdoors at the picturesque Sonora Pass in the Sierra Nevada range. Wood recalled the ordeal of filming For Whom the Bell Tolls:

I never experienced anything as difficult as filming under the conditions we had, at an elevation of ten thousand feet, scrambling over rocks. We even uprooted wildflowers and greenery to prevent the harsh landscape from becoming 'pretty' for the Technicolor camera and we substituted ancient, gnarled tree trunks instead. Due to the quartz and metallic content of the rocks, painters had to spray down the backgrounds of almost all the exteriors. Not only did we go to the mountains, but we painted it too.[98]

Though For Whom the Bell Tolls did not achieve the critical success that Paramount had anticipated, Bergman and Cooper, who recognized the potential of their film pairing, followed Wood to Warner Brothers to star in a Western romance Saratoga Trunk (1946).[99][100]

Saratoga Trunk (1943, released 1945), Warner Brothers

Warner Brothers sought to exploit the "exciting potential" of a Bergman-Cooper pairing in Saratoga Trunk (1945), an "expensive and lavish" production that did not live up to expectations. (The "Trunk" refers to the Saratoga Trunk Line, owned by a railway baron played by John Warburton) Though filmed in early 1943, the picture was not given general release until early 1945, initially presented only to US servicemen stationed overseas during the war.[101][102]

Wood's direction of Saratoga Trunk lacked his characteristic celerity and its "languid" tempo earned the film only an "admirable but dull" rating by critics, despite its "rich production values."[103] The director of Hollywood's Production Code Administration, Joseph Breen registered some distaste for the characterization of Clio Dulaine (Ingrid Bergman) as a mixed-race (half-Creole) courtesan who seeks matrimony with wealthy white gamblers and capitalists. The only acting Academy Award nomination went to British actress Flora Robson, who wore blackface makeup to portray the mulatto servant Angelique Buiton.[104]

A commercial failure, Saratoga Trunk did not diminish the mutual esteem which Cooper and Wood held for one another. Their next feature was decidedly not of the epic-heroic proportions of their three previous collaborations, but a light comedy: Casanova Brown.[105]

Three Comedies: Casanova Brown, Guest Wife and Heartbeat: 1944-1946

Wood continued his collaboration with Cooper in a comedic vein after the delayed release of Saratoga Trunk with International Pictures' Casanova Brown (1944), a vehicle intended to appeal to female movie patrons. Cooper absconds with his own infant daughter from a maternity ward in order to prevent his former wife offering the child up for adoption. Wood's situation comedy was no more than a moderate success. Wood followed with Guest Wife (1946) starring Claudette Colbert and RKO's Heartbeat (1946) starring Ginger Rogers.[106]

A cinematic "trifle" largely carried by the virtues of star Colbert, Guest Wife also benefits from Wood's expert handling of his cast, "a talent in itself." Biographer Tony Thomas summarizes Wood's approach to controlling his actors:

As a director Wood was especially good with actors…he never [regarded them] as puppets...each Wood filming began with a casual discussion with his players as to how they saw their parts. Frequently, with actors who differed with his own concept, he would shoot a scene both ways and later in the projection room, explain why his own handling was necessary to the construction of the film. Wood was the most diplomatic of dictators.[107]

Wood rejoined Ginger Rogers after their success in the romance Kitty Foyle (1940) to film a remake of French director Henri Decoin's 1939 Battement de coeur, in Heartbeat. The Dickensian theme features Rogers as an Oliver Twist-like character who enlists to serve the Fagin-like figure (Basil Rathbone) as a pickpocket. The picture would have been better served is Wood possessed "the sly touch of a Guitry or a Lubitsch" rather than Wood's obvious humor.[108]

A "Gaslight Noir": Ivy (1947), Universal-International Pictures

Based on a short story by Marie Belloc Lowndes set during Great Britain's Edwardian era , this 1947 melodrama is considered by some critics, but not universally, to be "a minor cinematic masterpiece." Wood's crime-noir stars Joan Fontaine as the "ruthless" and scheming social climber whose homicidal deed leads to her sordid demise.[109][110]

Ivy was essentially a collaborative effort between director Wood and producer and renowned set designer William Cameron Menzies, who also served as producer on the picture. Wood and Menzies had worked splendidly on a number of projects including Gone with the Wind (1939), Our Town (1940) and For Whom the Bell Tolls (1943). The fine rendering of the British upper-class milieu is attributed largely to the uncredited Menzies, although screen credit went to Richard H. Riedel.[111][112]

Photographed "lovingly" by cameraman Russell Metty, Fontaine's Orry-Kelly wardrobe reduced the actress to a "gorgeous artifact" and she complained later that director Wood neglected to develop the potential dramatic complexities of her character.[113]

Biographer Tony Thomas sums of Wood's directorial effort on Ivy:

The film was strong on moods and mysteries and movement but there are those who felt that Wood was too obvious in his story telling, that more subtly on his part would have produced an even better film.[111][114]

Command Decision (1949), M-G-M

An adaption of the William Wister Haines World War II drama published in 1947, Wood's portrayal of the "anguish of wartime aviation command" is "unembellished" by any combat footage and shows fidelity to the novel of the same name.[111]

The film's depictions of the military establishment during wartime balances "the devious expediency and opportunism" inherent to high command with "the heroism and heartfelt concern among various militarists and politicians." The film's scenario offered Wood the ideal platform on which to demonstrate his "thoroughly masculine and no-nonsense style of filmmaking" delivered by an all-male cast who represented officers and men from the U.S. Army Eighth Army Air Corps, played by Clark Gable, Van Johnson, Walter Pidgeon, Brian Donlevy and Charles Bickford. Biographer Tony Thomas describes the picture as "fairly honest in revealing the almost dehumanizing function of operating a modern war machine."[115][116]

A key sequence from the film, developed specifically for Clark Gable (who served as an air force combat officer during the war) and well-executed by Wood, portrays his character, Brigadier General K.C. Dennis, in his dramatic "talking down" of a crippled Flying Fortress attempting to land.[117][118]

Sports biography redux: The Stratton Story (1949), M-G-M

Wood returned to his sports métier when he was tasked with directing the story of Chicago White Sox major league pitcher Monty Stratton. One of baseball's youngest and foremost pitchers, Stratton lost a leg to amputation after a hunting accident at age of twenty-six. Director Wood expertly recounted the athlete's struggle to adapt to the use of a prosthetic and return to professional baseball in the minor leagues. An inherently "maudlin" tale, Wood presented the events without succumbing to sentimentality: "it told a true story, and kept to the facts…"[119][120]

Actors Van Johnson and Gregory Peck were considered for the role of Monty Stratton, but M-G-M settled on James Stewart, the actor Stratton himself felt would portray his life most effectively.[121]

Contrary to conventional wisdom among Hollywood studio executives that sports features were "box-office poison", The Stratton Story was "the sixth-biggest theatrical draw of 1949 and Stewart's first bona fide hit since his return from World War II."[122]

Ambush (1950), M-G-M

Sam Wood's directorial swan song was the adventure Western Ambush, filmed in 1949 and released in 1950 after Wood's unexpected death from a heart attack. A "Grade A" M-G-M production, it starred Robert Taylor as a hardened US Army Indian fighter and companion John Hodiak and adversary Chief Thundercloud:

...horses leapt and galloped, cavalrymen and Indians bit the dust in rapid order, and dozens of characters were shot, scalped or chased. Soldiers wiped out Indians and vise versa, and customers were well-satisfied.. Wood considered it just one last assignment. Unfortunately, it would be his last.[123]

When Wood was arranging a production of No Sad Songs for Me, a Margaret Sullavan vehicle for Columbia Pictures, he was suddenly stricken by a heart attack on September 22, 1949, and died a few hours later in hospital.[124]

Political beliefs

Wood became a committed and ardent Anti-Communist in the years that saw the rise of McCarthyism in the late 1940s. Wood first exhibited this political perspective In 1943, when he reduced much of the anti-fascist content of For Whom the Bell Tolls, saying "It would be the same love story if they were on the other side." In 1944, he founded and served as the first president of the Motion Picture Alliance for the Preservation of American Ideals, an organization that was "dedicated to seeking out and expelling those people it considered traitorous to American interests."[49][125][126]

The organization, "formed of management and labor in the film industry," quietly lobbied the House Un-American Activities Committee to examine purported Communist elements in the movie industry, which they did in 1947. Wood had been keeping a black notebook in which he wrote the names of those he considered subversive. His daughter Jeane Wood said that his crusade "transformed Dad into a snarling, unreasoning brute." There was nothing in Wood's personal and professional demeanor during the course of his long career that anticipated the intensity of his anti-Communist rage which "disappointed some of his friends and greatly concerned his family."[49][125]

Shortly following a 1949 meeting of his Motion Picture Alliance in which he had protested against a liberal screenwriter who was suing the group for slandering him, Wood suffered a fatal heart attack. He had added a condition to his will: No one, including his children, could collect their inheritance until they filed a legal affidavit affirming that they had never been Communists. Wood's daughter and actress, K.T. Stevens made these observations about her father's demise:

I think two things contributed to my father's death at sixty-five. One was the energy he burned up making Ambush on location; they were at an elevation of 9,000 feet for several weeks and Dad had never stopped... he was first up in the morning and the younger actors were amazed at the way he ran around all day. The second thing was politics. His [Anti-Communist] anger was so deep he seethed with it and I believe it affected his health.[124]

Death

Wood died from a heart attack, in Hollywood, at the age of 66. His grave is located in Glendale's Forest Lawn Memorial Park Cemetery.

For his contribution to the motion picture industry, Wood received a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame at 6714 Hollywood Boulevard on February 8, 1960.[127][128]

Biographer Tony Thomas provides this eulogy:

Wood's death meant little to the public but it marked the end of a long and respectable film career. Wood had been in the business forty years and he had seen it grow from infancy to a major industry. Rarely did he show signs of brilliance yet he was never at any time less than thoroughly professional. The work is the man: Sam Wood was uncomplicated, self-assured, clear-minded and he enjoyed working. In so far as he understood it, he was a master of his craft.[129]

Depictions

Wood is played by John Getz in Jay Roach's Trumbo.

Filmography

Silent Era

With Academy Award nominations and wins in the table

Sound Era

Year Film Nominations Won Academy Awards & Nominations
1930 They Learned About Women
The Girl Said No
The Sins of the Children
Way for a Sailor
Paid
1931 A Tailor Made Man
The Man in Possession
New Adventures of Get Rich Quick Wallingford
1932 Huddle
Prosperity
1933 The Barbarian
Hold Your Man
Christopher Bean
1934 Stamboul Quest
1935 Let 'Em Have It
A Night at the Opera
Whipsaw
1936 The Unguarded Hour
1937 A Day at the Races 1 0
Madame X
Navy Blue and Gold
1938 Lord Jeff
Stablemates
1939 Goodbye, Mr. Chips 7 1 Best Actor for Robert Donat
Nomination — Outstanding Production for Victor Saville
Nomination — Best Director
Nomination — Best Actress for Greer Garson
Raffles
Gone with the Wind (replaced Victor Fleming for twenty-four days when Fleming temporary left the production due to exhaustion) 13 8 Outstanding Production for Selznick International Pictures
Best Director for Victor Fleming
Best Actress for Vivien Leigh
Best Adapted Screenplay for Sidney Howard
Best Supporting Actress for Hattie McDaniel
Best Cinematography, Color for Ernest Haller and Ray Rennahan
Best Film Editing for Hal C. Kern and James E. Newcom
Best Art Direction for Lyle R. Wheeler
Nomination - Best Actor for Clark Gable
Nomination — Best Supporting Actress for Olivia de Havilland
Nomination — Best Visual Effects for Jack Cosgrove, Fred Albin and Arthur Johns
Nomination — Best Music, Original Score for Max Steiner
Nomination — Best Sound Recording for Thomas T. Moulton (Samuel Goldwyn Studio Sound Department)
1940 Our Town 6 0 Nomination — Outstanding Production for Sol Lesser
Nomination — Best Actress for Martha Scott
Rangers of Fortune
Kitty Foyle 5 1 Best Actress for Ginger Rogers
Nomination — Outstanding Production for David Hempstead
Nomination — Best Director
1941 The Devil and Miss Jones 2 0 Nomination — Best Supporting Actor for Charles Coburn
1942 Kings Row 3 0 Nomination — Outstanding Motion Picture for Hal B. Wallis
Nomination — Best Director
The Pride of the Yankees 11 1 Nomination — Outstanding Motion Picture for Samuel Goldwyn
Nomination — Best Actor for Gary Cooper
Nomination — Best Actress for Teresa Wright
1943 For Whom the Bell Tolls 9 1 Best Supporting Actress for Katina Paxinou
Nomination — Outstanding Motion Picture
Nomination — Best Actor for Gary Cooper
Nomination — Best Actress for Ingrid Bergman
Nomination — Best Supporting Actor for Akim Tamiroff
1944 Casanova Brown 3 0 Nomination — Best Art Direction (Black-and-White) for Perry Ferguson and Julia Heron
Nomination — Best Music (Score of a Dramatic or Comedy Picture) Arthur Lange
Nomination — Best Sound Recording for Thomas T. Moulton
1945 Guest Wife 1 0 Nomination — Best Music, Scoring of a Dramatic or Comedy Picture for Daniele Amfitheatrof
Saratoga Trunk 1 0 Nomination — Best Supporting Actress for Flora Robson
1946 Heartbeat
1947 Ivy
1948 Command Decision
1949 The Stratton Story 1 1 Best Writing, Motion Picture Story for Douglas Morrow
1950 Ambush

Footnotes

  1. ^ Thomas, 1974 p. 122: Wood "addicted….to general physical fitness..." And "Many of his films touched upon his fondness for the athletic life..."
  2. ^ Baxter, 1970 p. 29: "Sam Wood did not make his mark until late in his career, when in the Forties he made such masterpieces as Kings Row and Ivy. In the thirties, however, he was one of Metro's top men.
  3. ^ Thomas, 1974 p. 173: "Rarely did he show signs of brilliance, but he was never at any time less than thoroughly professional."
  4. ^ Trumbo, Dalton (June 1945). "Samuel Grosvenor Wood: A Footnote". The Screen Writer. Screen Writers' Guild, Inc. 1: 22–31. Retrieved October 18, 2019.
  5. ^ Thomas, 1974 p. 122-123: "In these years picture-making in California as held in little repute..."
  6. ^ Thomas, 1974 p. 123: ...he worked on several hundred...short, quickly made pictures... as an assistant director...in the employ of Paramount for three years..."
  7. ^ Hopper, Hedda (July 11, 1943). "Blue Chip Director -- But Regular Guy!". The Pittsburgh Press. Pennsylvania, Pittsburgh. p. 20. Retrieved October 18, 2019 – via Newspapers.com.
  8. ^ "Biography for Sam Wood". tcm.com. Retrieved June 22, 2010.
  9. ^ Thomas, 1974 p. 123-124: Wallace Reid ``was then at the peak of his considerable popularity." And: "...Wood's ability to handle the assignments quickly established him as a director." And p. 126: Lasky's approval of "assembly line" production.
  10. ^ Thomas, 1974 p. 126: Reid addiction "had not presented a problem" on the set.
  11. ^ Thomas, 1974 p. 127-128: "...survived the assignment… [his performance] in 1920 left no doubt about his capability...an ideal director of film product...fast, efficient…"
  12. ^ Swanson, 1980 Compostie quote p. 174 and p. 192
  13. ^ Thomas, 1974 p. 128: DeMille may have had "much to do" with the assignment and Swanson possibly had "a considerable say in the matter."
  14. ^ Swanson, 1980 p. 161: Sam Wood was "Mr. DeMille's favorite assistant director for years…"
  15. ^ Thomas, 1974 p.125:See photo caption regarding Gilks And p.128-129
  16. ^ Swanson, 1980 p. 161
  17. ^ Thomas, 1974 p. 129-131: Paramount was "well pleased" with the collaboration: "The team worked smoothly and Swanson's popularity climbed with every film...Swanson's career continued on a high gear for the remaining years of the silent era."
  18. ^ Swanson, 1980 p. 182
  19. ^ Thomas, 1974 p. 131: "...signs of discontent in Paramount's Front Office over his tendency to argue with their choice of projects." And: Wood "balked" at making Bluff and it "turned out to be a tepid picture [owing to] Wood's lack of enthusiasm.
  20. ^ Thomas, 1974 p. 131-132: Wood "refused the project"...a "discontented director…" And: Wood's suspension "tantamount to a blacklisting..."
  21. ^ Thomas, 1974 p. 132-134: Sol Lesser "...came to the rescue…"
  22. ^ Thomas, the 1974 p.134
  23. ^ Thomas, 1974 p.134: "Wood was able to inject a college football story with vim and vigor" and garnered praised from critic Mordaunt Hall.
  24. ^ Thomas, 1974 p. 134-135
  25. ^ Thomas, 1974 p.135
  26. ^ Thomas, 1974 p. 136: "His outstanding productivity and competence led executives to view him as a valuable 'workhorse'...proved time and time again he could make acceptable entertainment from the slimmest of material."
  27. ^ Thomas, 1974 p. 136: "...German actor Mann was the film's major asset."
  28. ^ Thomas, 1974 p. 136-137: "Wood made the film interesting with his action shots..."
  29. ^ LoBianco, TMC: John Gilbert wanted Way for a Sailor to be his chance at being seen in a good film, something he had not enjoyed since the beginning of 'talkies.' And: "...two versions of the legend have emerged; one was that MGM studio chief Louis B. Mayer was getting revenge on Gilbert after the actor hit him in the face in a bathroom...Whether the studio intended to humiliate Jack through this bizarre casting decision, or whether they saw it as a way to cash in on the publicity that followed the fistfight, Jack gritted his teeth and went ahead. To do otherwise would be to break his contract."
  30. ^ LoBianco, TMC: "The following year Crawford would have the breakout role which made her a star. As Peter B. Flint wrote in his New York Times obituary of Crawford, 'With a wind-blown bob, mocking eyes and swirling short skirt, she spun to stardom in 1928, frenziedly dancing the Charleston atop a table in the silent melodrama Our Dancing Daughters.' As a frivolous flapper she quickly made a series of spin-offs, including Our Modern Maidens (1929), Laughing Sinners (1931) and This Modern Age (1931). Endowed with a low voice, she easily made the transition to sound pictures"
  31. ^ Thomas, 1974 p. 137-: Wood "well-represented in 1931 by [these] four films..." And p. 138: Haines "an interior decorator in Beverly Hills..."
  32. ^ Thomas, 1974 p. 138: The film "an opportunity for Wood to "indulge his flair for filming grid-iron action." And: Novarro's "difficulty maintaining his popularity in talkies."
  33. ^ Thomas, 1974 p. 141: "...to bolster Novarro's career..."
  34. ^ Thomas, 1974 p.138-139: Re: Prosperity And p. 143: Re: Christopher Bean
  35. ^ Thomas, 1974 p. 141: "...Wood felt the irritation of the supervisor and he aspired to be a director-producer" in an independently produced film. "...in most cases the double-barreled job was not feasible" for Wood.
  36. ^ Thomas 1974 p. 141
  37. ^ Thomas, 1974 p. 142-143
  38. ^ Thomas, 1974 p. 143: "...some interesting sequences showing the actual workings of [crime] detection techniques" at DOJ
  39. ^ Thomas, 1974 p. 143: Thalberg insisted that they "submit themselves to his guidance...the brothers, unsure [of their prospects in the industry] accepted."
  40. ^ Baxter, 1970 p. 29: "Sam Wood did not make his mark until late in his career...in the thirties, however, he was one of Metro's top men."
  41. ^ Thomas, 1974 p. 143: The "Turning Point in the Sam Wood career now occurred."
  42. ^ Baxter, 1970 p. 29
  43. ^ Thomas, 1974 p. 145: "The tedious retake approach...often drove the Marx Brothers to distraction…" And: "before each [retake]...Wood would exhort his cast [to keep it] funny and fresh."
  44. ^ p. 145-146: Thalberg considered "a sequel imperative" but "the public should wait at least a year… [Marx Brothers were] "too special to overexpose." And: "Wood was ear-marked for the next [Marx Brothers] picture..."
  45. ^ Thomas, 1974 p. 146-147: When Wood ordered a reshoot of a "lengthy and difficult" Loy scene "Tracy lost his temper..."
  46. ^ Thomas, 1974 p. 146-148: "...full of plot crevices...and hokum..."
  47. ^ "When Dick Cavett Shared Carnegie Hall With Groucho". NPR.org.
  48. ^ Thomas, 1974 p. 148: "Wood considered hilarity as needing occasional relief..." And: "Wood had an especially warm regard for Thalberg..." And: Wood wept when he announced Thalberg's death to the cast and crew "...tears in his eyes..." And: "...Marx Brothers had tried out their [new] material on the road…" And: "As with the previous film, the Marx Brothers antics were balanced with romance and musical numbers."
  49. ^ a b c Thomas, 1974 p. 172
  50. ^ Thomas, 1974 p. 149
  51. ^ Thomas, 1974 p. 149: The naval cadets "objective...the admiral's daughter [Florence Rice]." And: "...the film defies criticism…"
  52. ^ Thomas, 1974 p. 150: "...Wood's two daughters agreed that Wood took a "personal disliking" to George.
  53. ^ a b Thomas, 1974 p. 152
  54. ^ Thomas, 1974 p. 152, p. 183: See Filmography section for previous versions.
  55. ^ Thomas, 1974 p. 152: "More than one director has passed the opinion that Goldwyn performed best in the office."
  56. ^ Durgnat and Simmons, 1988 p. 173: See "No more Goldwyn pictures!" quote
  57. ^ Thomas, 1974 p. 153-154: ",,,one of several films M-G-M made in England just before World War II.
  58. ^ Baxter, 1976 p. 55-56: On M-G-M's efforts to maintain good relations with British Government.
  59. ^ Thomas, 1974 p. 153-154: Wood "a director with proven story-telling skill, a feeling for sentiment - but sentiment held in check - and ability to deal with sensitive actors. And: Wood had Donat pose with "twenty-seven different mustaches before deciding on one."
  60. ^ Baxter, 1970 p. 30: "In Goodbye Mr. Chips and Raffles (both 1939) Wood was...sure of his handling of fairly conventional material, but it is regrettable that the Thirties work of this undoubtedly superior director should have been distinguished mainly by its secession of competent but routine films."
  61. ^ Thomas, 1974 p. 154-155
  62. ^ Baxter, 1970 p. 38: "...Fleming collapsed during shooting, [and] the film was completed by Sam Wood. And: "The exact contribution" of the professional who worked on the project "remains in doubt." And see Baxter for others who contributed in art direction.
  63. ^ Thomas, 1974 p. 155: "Who exactly was responsible for what in the vast canvas of Gone with the Wind is difficult to access...[producer] Selznick... thought it better not to reveal the hodgepodge of contributions."
  64. ^ Baxter, 1970 p. 38: "Whatever the precise share of responsibility...Gone with the Wind remains a remarkable film."
  65. ^ Thomas, 1974 p.155: "Fleming directed the bulk of the picture..."
  66. ^ a b Thomas, 1974 p. 157
  67. ^ Fristoe, TMC: "[T]he film's creators, finding that ending too downbeat for movie audiences of the day, asked Thornton Wilder to allow Emily to survive [childbirth] on film...Wilder wrote 'Emily should live.... In a movie you see the people so close "to" that a different relation is established. In the theater, they are halfway abstractions in an allegory, in the movie they are very concrete.... It is disproportionately cruel that she dies. Let her live....' And so, in the movie, the famous cemetery scene becomes a dream." And: "Our Town won Oscar nominations for Best Picture"
  68. ^ Steffen, TMC: "...highlights of The Devil and Miss Jones [include] Sam Wood's precisely realized direction and William Cameron Menzies' production design."
  69. ^ Thomas, 1974 p. 157: Wood "considered clarity of the utmost importance and that his characters should possess at least some of the personality of the characters they portray." And: Quote on "emoting" from unidentified interview given while filming Kitty Foyle.
  70. ^ Feaster,TMC
  71. ^ Steffen, TMC: "One of the funniest and most finely crafted comedies of the Forties…"
  72. ^ Thomas, 1974 p. 159: A "slam-bang...rough and tumble...almost a parody on the genre but allowed to lapse into complete buffoonery..."
  73. ^ Thomas, 1974 p. 159-160: "The script...direction...performances blended into a delightful product..."And: Here, Arthur is "the deftest and most appealing of Hollywood's comedians..."
  74. ^ Baxter, 1970 p. 29: "Sam Wood did not make his mark until late in his career, when in the Forties he made such masterpieces as Kings Row and Ivy.
  75. ^ Wood, TMC: "It was initially believed that Henry Bellamann's novel could never be passed by the censors. Joseph Breen, of the Hays Office, wrote the producers that "To attempt to translate such a story to the screen, even though it be re-written to conform to the provisions of the Production Codes, in our judgment, a very questionable undertaking from the standpoint of the good and welfare of this industry." And: "[T]he film gradually reveals that all is not idyllic in this sleepy American town. Beneath the film's surface of quaint nostalgia and small-town melodrama appear signs of widespread malaise, revealing the community of Kings Row as a melting pot of gossip, jealousy, mental illness, possessive parents, class-rivalry, murder and suicide.
  76. ^ Wood, TMC
  77. ^ Thomas, 1974 p. 162: The novel's "convoluted" scenario required "an imaginative but level-headed director..."
  78. ^ Thomas, 1974 p. 162: ",,,it must be conceded that in giving the film its classical proportions [Wood] was helped by three superb artists…"And: Menzies "rich and melodramatic settings…"And: "Howe...a cinematographer of genius...literally created drama." And: Korngold's scoring "deepened the film's moods and swayed its emotions...virtually opera minus singing."
  79. ^ Thomas, 1974 p. 162
  80. ^ Thomas, 1974 p. 163
  81. ^ Thomas, 1974 p. 122: "Many of [Wood's] films touched upon his fondness for athletic life...in his maturity he was "addicted" to many sports. And: p. 163-165: "Cooper...contracted to Samuel Goldwyn…"
  82. ^ Nixon, TMC: "sports pictures were considered box-office poison because women, who made up more than half the audience, didn't like them. Also, among most couples, women usually made the choice of what movie to see. Nevertheless, when Wood showed Goldwyn newsreel footage of Gehrig's famous farewell speech at Yankee Stadium, the producer, with tears in his eyes, gave the biopic the green light.
  83. ^ Nixon, TMC: "It was up to Wood to deal with the other reason for Cooper's reluctance: Not only did he know or care little about baseball, he was very ill-suited to the physical demands of the sport, due to lack of experience and limitations imposed on him by years of on-set injuries."
  84. ^ Thomas, 1974 p. 163-164: On actor/director "perfect" match.
  85. ^ Nixon, TMC: "Wood said the first time he directed the star he thought he was seeing some of the worst acting in the history of motion pictures. "I was amazed at the result on the screen," Wood said. "What I thought was underplaying turned out to be just the right approach. On the screen, he's perfect."
  86. ^ Nixon, TMC
  87. ^ Thomas, 1974 p. 163: An "excellent" film.
  88. ^ Thomas, 1974 pp. 162-163 and pp. 164-165
  89. ^ Thomas, 1974 p. 164: "...the major project of Wood's career...[one] in which he thoroughly believed...Robert Jordan was [a] political idealization of direct appeal..."
  90. ^ Miller, TMC: "With several studios bidding for film rights, Hemingway chose Paramount, not just for their $150,000 offer, but because his friend Gary Cooper, on whom he had based the novel's leading man, was under contract there.
  91. ^ Thomas, 1974 p. 164: Thomas contradicts the claim that Cooper was under contract to Paramount: "Cooper...was contracted to Samuel Goldwyn and in order to get the actor Wood had to direct him in Pride of the Yankees before he [could appear] in Bell. See pp. 162-163 and pp.164-165 for the chronology of productions.
  92. ^ Thomas, 1974 p. 165: "Wood...made an error in picking Vera Zorina to play the role of Maria...adamant in thinking [so]...[but] after a week of shooting he conceded she was not right for the part and sent for Ingrid Bergman."
  93. ^ Miller, TMC: "...word came down from the locations in the Sierra Nevada that Zorina was not working out. After three weeks of disastrous rushes, Bergman was called in to audition. She won the coveted role during the final days of shooting on Casablanca and quickly drove to the remote location." And: "...the fact that [Zorina's] salary was considerably lower than the fee Paramount would have had to pay for Bergman" who was not under studio contract.
  94. ^ Thomas, 1974 p. 165: "...issue of the war almost secondary."
  95. ^ Miller, TMC: "...there was one thing missing from the picture - the story's politics [and] the film's apolitical nature may have hurt it" at the Academy Awards.
  96. ^ Thomas, 1974 p. 166: Likely a "bitter disappointment" not to be nominated.
  97. ^ Miller, TMC: "Only Paxinou won as Oscar."
  98. ^ Thomas, 1974 p. 165
  99. ^ Thomas, 1974 p. 166: "...For Whom the Bell Tolls...not quite the blockbuster everyone had thought it would be..."
  100. ^ Feaster, TMC: "Cooper and Bergman, directed by Sam Wood, proved such a successful team in For Whom the Bell Tolls (1943) that Warner Bros. attempted to repeat the Paramount formula and hopefully reap some of the rewards of a film that had garnered ten Oscar nominations."
  101. ^ Thomas, 1974 p. 166: Despite the film's "rich production values... [the leading characters] failed to generate sparks." And: The film a "considerable disappointment..."
  102. ^ Feaster, TMC: "Cooper and Bergman, directed by Sam Wood, proved such a successful team in For Whom the Bell Tolls (1943) that Warner Bros. attempted to repeat the Paramount formula and hopefully reap some of the rewards of a film that had garnered ten Oscar nominations…" And: "Though Saratoga Trunk was made in 1943, it was not released to the general public until 1945. Like a number of other productions caught up in the gears of the war...the film was shown to members of the armed forces…"
  103. ^ Thomas, 1974 p. 166: The slow pace made a "long story [seem] even longer."
  104. ^ Feaster, TMC: "The film was a modest commercial success though casting of Bergman as a partly black woman involved with a white man was rather scandalous subject matter for the time, at least for Joseph Breen, director of the Production Code Administration." And "...a Best Supporting Actress nod for Flora Robson - as a sympathy vote for her willingness to wear a thick shellac of brown make-up and absurdly heavy brows that gave her a permanently grumpy expression while playing the mulatto Angelique."
  105. ^ Thomas, 1974 p. 166-167: The "mutual regard" between Cooper and Wood remained "high and firm" despite the failure of Saratoga Trunk.
  106. ^ Thomas, 1974 p. 168: "...the films no mightier as audience pleasers than Casanova Brown…"
  107. ^ Thomas, 1974 p. 168
  108. ^ Thomas, 1974 p. 168: "As more than one critic pointed out [the film required more than Wood's] open-handed humor."
  109. ^ Thomas, 1974 p. 168-169: The film "...still has its supporters, people who consider it a minor masterpiece, thereby differing from others who find it somewhat dull…" And: "...a beauteous murderess...who kills to advance her wealth and place in society...[and dies] plunging down a lift shaft."
  110. ^ Fristoe, TMC: "a murder mystery known in the trade as a "gaslight noir..."
  111. ^ a b c Thomas, 1974 p. 169
  112. ^ Fristoe, TMC: "...produced by William Cameron Menzies, the legendary art director who had won a special Academy Award for his monumental production design of Gone With the Wind (1939)." And: "...Wood and Menzies had worked together on some half-dozen other films including, notably, 1942's Kings Row, 1943's For Whom the Bell Tolls - and Gone With the Wind itself, for which Wood directed some scenes. And: "...production designer Richard Sylbert described Ivy, because of its reliance on art direction, as "the perfect Menzies movie."
  113. ^ Fristoe, TMC: "[Fontiane] felt that Wood considered her merely one part of the film's design, a lovely and exquisitely dressed mannequin but not a commanding dramatic figure." And: "...movie's striking visuals, which also include the cinematography of Russell Metty and costume designs by Orry-Kelly and an uncredited Travis Banton
  114. ^ Fristoe, TMC: "Variety's reviewer praised the look of the film but complained of 'directorial obviousness.'"
  115. ^ Thomas, 1974 p. 169: The film "pulling no punches " in showing the realities of high command.
  116. ^ TMC: "Based on a play by William Wister Haines, Command Decision is an intriguing look at the hard decisions commanders have to make that often result in the unavoidable deaths of brave American soldiers."
  117. ^ Thomas, 1974 p. 169-170: Wood "excelled in one sequence of Command Decision where [Gable]...'talks down' a crippled Flying Fortress." And: "Clark Gable was at ease in the uniform of a Brigadier General…"
  118. ^ TMC: "Director Sam Wood acknowledged the limitations of filming a stage play, shooting all scenes from a "relentlessly ground level", and used master shots and single-camera group shots that allowed the actors to use the choreography of the theatrical play to establish dramatic and moral relationships."
  119. ^ Thomas, 1974 p. 170-171: "The Stratton Story was another perfect vehicle for Wood [and Wood excelled in] his ability to present a baseball story...yet he was always able to cut off sentiment before it became maudlin. In other hands The Stratton Story might have become very maudlin."
  120. ^ Steinberg, TMC: Sam Wood's "distinguished resume included another foremost baseball melodrama, The Pride of the Yankees (1942)."
  121. ^ Steinberg, TMC: "When the originally slated Van Johnson vacated the title role, and Gregory Peck subsequently passed, MGM turned to James Stewart, who was in fact Stratton's own preference to portray the pitcher." And "Stewart's preparation for his role was painstaking...He spent three months consulting with Stratton, and put in five hours a day with various big leaguers perfecting his form...he is utterly credible on the mound and at the plate [and] the actor donned a steel harness which forced a limp."
  122. ^ Steinberg, TMC
  123. ^ Thomas, 1984 p. 172
  124. ^ a b Thomas, 1974 p. 172-173
  125. ^ a b Friedrich, Otto, City of Nets, Harper & Row, 1986, pg. 167-168
  126. ^ Barson, 2014: "Wood, a committed anticommunist, helped found the watchdog Motion Picture Alliance for the Preservation of American Ideals in 1944, and he served as its first president. In 1947 he testified against many figures in Hollywood before the House Un-American Activities Committee. His will specified that his heirs (except his wife) had to sign a loyalty oath to the United States before receiving their inheritance."
  127. ^ "Sam Wood | Hollywood Walk of Fame". www.walkoffame.com. Retrieved July 11, 2016.
  128. ^ "Sam Wood". latimes.com. Retrieved July 11, 2016.
  129. ^ Thomas, 1974 p. 173

References

  • Barson, Michael. 2014. Sam Wood: American Director. Sam Wood | American director Retrieved 28 September 2020.
  • Baxter, John. 1970. Hollywood in the Thirties. International Film Guide Series. Paperback Library, New York. LOC Card Number 68-24003.
  • Baxter, John. 1976. King Vidor. Simon & Schuster, Inc. Monarch Film Studies. LOC Card Number 75-23544.
  • Durgnat, Raymond and Simmon, Scott. 1988. King Vidor, American. University of California Press, Berkeley. ISBN 0-520-05798-8
  • Feaster, Felicia. TMC. Kitty Foyle (1940) Turner Classic Movies. [1] Retrieved 20 September 2020.
  • Feaster, Felicia. TMC. Saratoga Truck (1946). Turner Classic Movies. [2] Retrieved 22 September 2020.
  • Fristoe, Roger. TMC. Our Town (1940). Turner Classic Movies. [3] Retrieved 20 September 2020.
  • Fristoe, Roger. TMC. Ivy (1947). Turner Classic Movies. [4] Retrieved 22 September 2020.
  • LoBianco, Lorraine. TMC. Way for a Sailor (1930). Turner Classic Movies. [5] Retrieved 20 September 2020.
  • LoBianco, Lorraine. TMC. JOAN CRAWFORD PROFILE. Turner Classic Movies. [6] Retrieved 21 September 2020.
  • Nixon, Rob. TMC. The Pride of the Yankees (1943). Turner Classic Movies. [7] Retrieved 22 September 2020.
  • Nixon, Rob. TMC. Ambush (1950). Turner Classic Movies. [8] Retrieved 23 September 2020.
  • Steffen, James. TMC. The Devil and Miss Jones (1941) Turner Classic Movies. [9] Retrieved 21 September 2020.
  • Steinberg, Jay. TMC. The Stratton Story (1949). Turner Classic Movies. [10] Retrieved 23 September 2020.
  • Swanson, Gloria. 1980. Swanson on Swanson. Random House, New York. ISBN 0-394-50662-6
  • Thomas, Tony. 1974. The Hollywood Professional Volume 2: Henry King, Lewis Milestone, Sam Wood. The Tanvity Press. ISBN 0-498-01394-4
  • Wood, Bret. TMC. Kings Row (1942). Turner Classic Movies. [11] Retrieved 20 September 2020.

External links

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