Mervyn LeRoy (October 15, 1900 – September 13, 1987) was an American film director, film producer and occasional actor.
LeRoy was born in San Francisco, to Jewish parents Edna (née Armer) and Harry LeRoy. His family was financially ruined by the 1906 earthquake. (His paternal grandfather owned a successful San Francisco department store that was destroyed in the quake; the store was heavily insured, but the insurance company went bankrupt in the aftermath of the earthquake.) To make money, young Mervyn sold newspapers and entered talent shows as a singer. Through this he worked his way into vaudeville. When his act broke up, he and his cousin, Jesse Lasky, went to Hollywood.
LeRoy worked in costumes, processing labs and as a camera assistant until he became a gag writer and actor in silent films, including The Ten Commandments in 1923. LeRoy credits Ten Commandments director, Cecil B. DeMille, for inspiring him to become a director: "As the top director of the era, DeMille had been the magnet that had drawn me to his set as often as I could go." Leroy also credits DeMille for teaching him the directing techniques required to make his own films.
His first directing job was in 1927's No Place to Go. When his movies made lots of money without costing too much, he became well received in the movie business. In 1931 he directed two key films which launched Edward G. Robinson into major stardom, the Oscar-nominated critique of tabloid journalism Five Star Final, and the classic gangster epic Little Caesar. From that point forward, LeRoy would be responsible for a diverse variety of films as a director and producer. In 1938 he was chosen as head of production at MGM, where he was responsible for the decision to make The Wizard of Oz. He was responsible for discovering Clark Gable, Loretta Young, Robert Mitchum and Lana Turner.
In the 1950s LeRoy directed such musicals as Lovely to Look At, Million Dollar Mermaid, Latin Lovers and Rose Marie. He moved to Warner Brothers, where he was responsible for such famous films as Mister Roberts, The Bad Seed, No Time for Sergeants, The FBI Story and Gypsy.
He was nominated in 1943 for Best Director for Random Harvest, and also in 1940 as the producer of The Wizard of Oz. In addition, he received an honorary Oscar in 1946 for The House I Live In, "for tolerance short subject," and the Irving G. Thalberg Memorial Award in 1976.
A total of eight movies Mervyn LeRoy directed or co-directed were nominated for Best Picture at the Oscars, one of the highest numbers among all directors.
LeRoy married three times and had many relationships with Hollywood actresses. He was first married to Elizabeth Edna Murphy in 1927, which ended in divorce in 1933. During their separation, LeRoy dated Ginger Rogers, but they ended the relationship and stayed lifelong friends. In 1934, he married Doris Warner, the daughter of Warner Bros. founder, Harry Warner. The couple had one son, Warner LeRoy and one daughter (Linda LeRoy Janklow). The marriage ended in divorce in 1942. In 1946, he married Katherine Spiegel, who was his wife until his death.
LeRoy retired in 1965 and wrote his autobiography, Take One, in 1974. He died from Alzheimer's disease in Beverly Hills, California at age 86. He was interred in the Forest Lawn Memorial Park Cemetery in Glendale, California. He has a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame at 1560 Vine Street.
A fan of thoroughbred horse racing, Mervyn LeRoy was a founding investor in Hollywood Park Racetrack and a member of the track's board of directors from 1941 until his death in 1986. In partnership with father-in-law, Harry Warner, he operated a racing stable, W-L Ranch Co., during the 1940s/50s.
His son, Warner LeRoy, became a well-known restaurateur.
1. Mervyn LeRoy – Biography, Bruce Eder, Allmovie
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4. Tibbetts, John C. ed. American Classic Screen Profiles, Scarecrow Press (2010) p. 175
5. "Producer Mervyn LeRoy dies".
6. Mervyn LeRoy at Find a Grave
7. Hollywood Park History