Lewis Milestone , a clothing manufacturer's son, was born in Bessarabia (now Moldova), raised in Odessa (Ukraine) and educated in Belgium and Berlin (where he studied engineering). He was fluent in both German and Russian and an avid reader. Milestone had an affinity for the theatre from an early age, starting as a prop man and background artist before travelling to the United States in 1914 with six dollars in his pocket. After a succession of odd jobs, he joined the Army Signal Corps and made educational short films for soldiers. Following World War I., Milestone went to Hollywood where he met the director William A. Seiter at Ince Studios, who started him off as an assistant cutter. He quickly worked his way up the ranks to become editor, assistant director and screenwriter on many of Seiter's projects in the early 1920's, multi-faceted experiences which would greatly influence his directing style in years to come.
Lewis Milestone directed his first film, Seven Sinners (1925) for Howard Hughes and just two years later won the first of two Academy Awards for the comedy Two Arabian Knights (1927). He received his second Oscar for what most regard as his finest achievement, the anti-war film All Quiet on the Western Front (1930), based on a novel by Erich Maria Remarque. The film, universally praised by reviewers for its eloquence and integrity, also won the Best Picture Academy Award that year. A noted Milestone innovation was the use of cameras mounted on wooden tracks, giving his films a more realistic and fluid, rather than static look. Other trademarks associated with his pictures were taut editing, snappy dialogue and clever visual touches, good examples being the screwball comedy The Front Page (1931), the melodrama Rain (1932), based on a play by W. Somerset Maugham, and an adaptation of Steinbeck's Of Mice and Men (1939). When asked in 1979 about the secret behind his success, he simply declared "Arrogance, chutzpah - in the old Hollywood at least that's the thing that gave everybody pause" (New York Times, September 27 1980). Milestone had a history of being 'difficult', having clashed with Howard Hughes, Warner Brothers and a host of studio executives over various contractual and artistic issues. Nonetheless, he remained constantly employed and worked for most of the major studios at one time or another. His output was less consistent in the 1950's and his career finished on a low with the remake of Mutiny on the Bounty (1962)and its incongruously cast, equally headstrong star.
Milestone, it must be said, has also to be credited with a quirky sense of humour: When the producer of 'All Quiet on the Western Front', Carl Laemmle Jr., demanded a 'happy ending' for the picture, Milestone telephoned "I've got your happy ending. We'll let the Germans win the war". Lewis Milestone died September 25 1980 at the University of California Medical Centre in Los Angeles.
|Kendall Lee||(1936 - 30 July 1978) (her death)|
Won the only ever Best Comedy Director Oscar (for Two Arabian Knights (1927)) at the first Academy Awards ceremony in 1929.
Replaced Carol Reed as director of Mutiny on the Bounty (1962) after Reed quit due to not being able to cope with the massive ego of the film's star Marlon Brando. Milestone didn't find Brando any easier to work with and in the end let Brando do as he pleased (when asked by the cameraman why he wasn't watching the filming Milestone replied, "I hate to see movies in pieces, so you let him do this and when it's all finished and cut, for ten cents I can walk into the theatre and see the whole thing at once. Why should I bother to look at it now.")
Biography in: John Wakeman, editor. "World Film Directors, Volume One, 1890-1945". Pages 770-778. New York: The H.W. Wilson Company, 1987.
Born in Russia, Milestone emigrated to the US in 1917 in order to escape being drafted into the Russian army during World War I, but upon his arrival in the US immediately enlisted in the US Army and was sent to France, where he fought until the war's end.
A favorite device Milestone uses in most of his war films--i.e. All Quiet on the Western Front (1930), Edge of Darkness (1943), A Walk in the Sun (1945) and Pork Chop Hill (1959) is the dolly shot which moves across infantry attacking toward the camera in echelon and being felled one at a time by machine gun fire.
Cousin of virtuoso violinist Nathan Milstein.
A founding member of the Directors Guild.
His career was badly affected by McCarthyism. To avoid being humiliated by the House Un-American Activities Committee, he began making films abroad, in both Britain and Italy, but these films were not successful. His last three films were Hollywood films with large budgets, but Milestone had a bad time on all of them - Gregory Peck re-edited "Pork Chop Hill" (which he co-produced); Frank Sinatra and his "Rat Pack" seem to have largely ignored him on the set of "Ocean's Eleven"; and he had the worst experience of his career trying to direct Marlon Brando on the "Mutiny On The Bounty" remake. This last was also a hugely expensive box-office failure. Milestone was then scheduled to direct "PT 109", a film about President Kennedy's wartime adventures, but was replaced by a minor TV director, Leslie H. Martinson. After that, Milestone seems to have given up on the cinema, although he directed a few television episodes, an experience he did not enjoy.
[on taking over the direction of Mutiny on the Bounty (1962)] "I thought, this is one way of getting rich quick - I get the salary and, at most, it couldn't take two or three months. After I'd signed the contract, I found out that in the previous year all they'd had on screen was about seven minutes of film. I spent a year on it."
[on directing Marlon Brando in Mutiny on the Bounty (1962)] "Everything went off fine for a couple of weeks, and then suddenly we were doing a scene and Marlon spoke to the cameraman, right past me. He said: 'Look, I'll tell you, when I go like this, it means roll it, and this gesture means you stop the camera. You don't stop the camera until I give you the signal'. Well, I was amazed, but I didn't say anything about it."
[on Errol Flynn] His faults harmed no one but himself.
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