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Biography

Jump to: Overview (4) | Mini Bio (1) | Spouse (1) | Trivia (8) | Personal Quotes (2)

Overview (4)

Date of Birth 10 July 1883Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, USA
Date of Death 22 September 1949Hollywood, Los Angeles, California, USA  (heart attack)
Birth NameSamuel Grosvenor Wood
Height 6' (1.83 m)

Mini Bio (1)

After a two-year apprenticeship under Cecil B. DeMille as assistant director, Samuel Grosvenor Wood had the good fortune to have assigned to him two of the biggest stars at Paramount during their heyday: Wallace Reid, between 1919 and 1920; and Gloria Swanson, from 1921 to 1923. By the time his seven-year contract with Paramount expired, the former real estate dealer had established himself as one of Hollywood's most reliable (if not individualistic) feature directors. Not bad for a former real estate broker and small-time theatrical thesp. In 1927, Wood joined MGM and remained under contract there until 1939, very much in sync with the studio's prevalent style of production. He reliabbly turned out between two and three films a year, of which the majority were routine productions.

Most of his films in the 1920's were routine fare, and it was not until he directed two gems of The Marx Brothers, A Night at the Opera (1935) and A Day at the Races (1937) that his career picked up again. Looking at the finished product, it is hard to reconcile this to Groucho Marx finding Wood "rigid and humourless" (see p. 131. "The Groucho Phile",1977). However, Wood was vociferously right-wing in his personal views and this would not have sat well with the famous comedian. His testimonies in 1947 before the House Un-American Activities Committee almost certainly gained Wood fewer friends than enemies within the industry.

Regardless of his personality, or his habitually shooting scenes twenty times over, Wood turned out some very powerful dramatic films during the last ten years of his life, beginning with Goodbye, Mr. Chips (1939). This popular melodrama earned him his first Academy Award nomination. At RKO, he coaxed an Oscar-winning performance out of Ginger Rogers (and was again nominated himself) for Kitty Foyle (1940). Ronald Reagan gave, arguably, his best performance in Kings Row (1942) under Wood's direction. His most expensive (and longest, at 170 minutes) assignment took him back to Paramount. This was Ernest Hemingway's Spanish Civil War drama For Whom the Bell Tolls (1943), bought for $150,000, with De Mille originally slated as director. In spite of editorial incongruities and the relatively uneven pace of the picture, it turned out to be the biggest (and last) hit of Wood's career. Wood has a star on the Walk of Fame on Hollywood Boulevard.

- IMDb Mini Biography By: I.S.Mowis

Spouse (1)

Clara Louise Roush (21 August 1908 - 22 September 1949) (his death) (2 children)

Trivia (8)

Before becoming a director, Wood had worked on pipelines for an oil company.
Former real estate broker.
Appeared as actor in the early part of the century under the name Chad Applegate.
Late in his life, he served as the President of the Motion Picture Alliance for the Preservation of American Ideals, a right-wing political organization whose aim was to ferret out "subversives" in Hollywood. In this capacity, he provided key testimony before the House Un-American Activities Committee in 1947, helping to fan fears of Communist influence in the U.S. film industry.
Father of actresses K.T. Stevens and Jeane Wood.
Ex-father-in-law of Hugh Marlowe and Joe Sawyer.
Directed 11 actors in Oscar-nominated performances: Robert Donat, Greer Garson, Martha Scott, Ginger Rogers, Charles Coburn, Gary Cooper, Teresa Wright, Katina Paxinou, Akim Tamiroff, Ingrid Bergman and Flora Robson. Donat, Paxinou and Rogers won Oscars for their performances in one of Wood's movies.
The Wood sisters Natalie Wood, Lana Wood, and Olga Wood were named after him.

Personal Quotes (2)

[on working with Gary Cooper in The Pride of the Yankees (1942)] You're positive he's going to ruin your picture. I froze in my tracks the first time I directed him. I thought something was wrong with him, saw a million-dollar production go glimmering. I was amazed at the result on the screen. What I thought was underplaying turned out to be just the right approach. On the screen he's perfect, yet on the set you'd swear it's the worst job of acting in the history of motion pictures.
There is as much need for relief from comedy as from the starkest tragedy. Audiences may think that they'd like to laugh every minute, but they wouldn't. The emotional demands are just too great. That's why, in A Day at the Races (1937), the romance and music are included as interludes.

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