Mitchell Leisen Poster


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Overview (3)

Born in Menominee, Michigan, USA
Died in Woodland Hills, Los Angeles, California, USA  (coronary problems)
Birth NameJames Leisen

Mini Bio (1)

Director noted for his romantic films.

- IMDb Mini Biography By: Anonymous

Spouse (1)

Sandra Gahle (? - ?)

Trivia (8)

Biography in: John Wakeman, editor. "World Film Directors, Volume One, 1890-1945". Pages 642-649. New York: The H.W. Wilson Company, 1987.
Directed 2 actresses to Oscar nominations: Olivia de Havilland (Best Actress,Hold Back the Dawn (1941) & To Each His Own (1946)) and Thelma Ritter (Best Supporting Actress, The Mating Season (1951)). De Havilland won an Oscar for her performance in the 1946 film, continually citing Leisen as the favorite among her directors.
Was noted for his urbane manner and quirky sense of humour.
In 1951, Leisen left Paramount to freelance, believing that the studio was giving him inferior scripts to force him to relinquish his remunerative contract.
Worked in the dual capacity of costume designer and art director at MGM (1929-31) and at Paramount (1932-33). Became Paramount's most reliable contract director (1933-51), noted for visual elegance and for his ability to direct actresses. His forte were comedies and romances. His best films often starred Fred MacMurray or Ray Milland and were scripted by Preston Sturges or Billy Wilder. When Sturges and Wilder turned to directing their own films, from the early 1940s, Leisen's own career began to decline.
Pioneer pilot, sculptor and qualified home decorator. Studied architecture at Washington University in St. Louis. Moved to Chicago to work in the advertising section of the art department for the Chicago Tribune. Held a second job with the architectural firm Marshall & Fox, while acting in his spare time. Eventually moved to Hollywod. Failed as an actor, but was noted for the sets he created for the Hollywood Community Theatre. Brought to the attention of Cecil B. DeMille, who signed him on as a costume designer, despite Leisen's lack of previous experience in this area. Worked for DeMille until 1922, then moved on to design costumes for Douglas Fairbanks at United Artists. Continued to design costumes for many of his cast members well into his later directing career.
His father was a partner in a brewery company.
Film costume designer Edith Head is credited for Ginger Rogers' modern day dress in the Paramount Pictures feature film-musical Lady in the Dark (1944). Broadway-film couturier/set designer Raoul Pene Du Bois is credited in the feature film as the costume/set designer in the circus dream-musical dance sequences. Paramount film studio art department supervisor Hans Dreier was the Paramount feature film's Production Designer. The film's director Mitchell Leisen, (formerly a set and costume designer), supervised and contributed his creative imaginative set and costume ideas, suggestions, in the creation of the film's scenery and costume applications. Leisen was instrumental in creating the mink-fur skirted gown lined in jewels for Ginger Rogers' musical circus sequence. Raoul Pene du Bois designed this costume which has usually been attributed to the films lead costumer Edith Head. The first mink gown was created, and during fittings and rehearsals, the costume's fur lined jeweled weight was just too heavy for Rogers to walk, nor to stand (up) during long filming sequences, nor to dance or perform in a choreographed production number. The first original gown, lined with matched paste-glass rubies and emeralds, cost $35,000 (in 1944 dollars) to manufacture. Brief shots of Rogers in the fur skirted paste-jeweled gown were photographed. The New York costume wizard Barbara Karinska was at the cross town - Culver City MGM studio collaborating with the costume designer Irene on the filming of Kismet (1944). Raoul Pene du Bois, who had collaborated with Barbara Karinska in New York City's Broadway theatricals, begged, imploring Madam Karinska to remake the fur skirt to enable Ginger Rogers to perform and dance in the musical production number. Karinska made a second version of the mink dress, lined with sequins, which, less bulky - weighed less, was lighter for Rogers's choreographed dream-circus-dance production number. Studio costume departments maintained a fur vault providing fur pelts for coats and costume trimming. The floor length mink skirt for Rogers used mink pelts from this vault. The original show-piece mink skirt, too heavy to wear, was rebuilt as a new costume. Karinska built a wire hoop covered with a fine netting, hanging and spacing the mink pelts apart from each other; supported by net, reducing the number of mink pelts on the skirt's total weight, allowing the skirt's flexibility on the actress' body during the dance sequence. Both gowns are shown in the movie. The original fur-skirted gown with the paste-glass jewels was donated to the Smithsonian Institution. The second fur skirted gown was DE-constructed, with the fur pelts returned to the studio's fur vault. Karinska was never credited for building this particular Ginger Rogers dance-costume.

Personal Quotes (2)

The camera never moves arbitrarily in any of my films. It follows somebody across the room or some kind of action; therefore you are not particularly conscious of the camera moving. Unnecessary camera movement destroys the concentration of the audience.
[on Carole Lombard] She was really a sweet, even tempered girl. Strong but sweet - not even her colorful syntax made her less sweet. She had tolerance, and her patience was just incredible and rare. She didn't fly into rage very often, but she'd let it all come out and then feel cleansed. She was so very fair, and fairness was really all she asked of others. When she became really angry, it was always over someone's dishonesty. She just didn't like to be crossed.

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