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W.S. Van Dyke

IMDb

Date of Birth:
21 March 1889San Diego, California, USA

Date of Death:
5 February 1943Brentwood, California, USA  (suicide)

Birth Name:
Woodbridge Strong Van Dyke II

Nicknames:
Woody
"One-Take Woody"

Short Biography:
For the better part of his career, Woodbridge Strong Van Dyke lived up to his sobriquet "One-Take Woody" by steadfastly adhering to his credo of shooting each scene as quickly and efficiently as possible. Over his 25-year career, he economically directed over 90 diverse entertainments, which not only saved the studios vast amounts of money but turned out to be some of the most interesting motion pictures created during this period.

Van Dyke's father, a lawyer, died within days of his birth. By the time he was three Woody and his mother were forced to tread the boards of repertory theatre to make a living. When he hit his teens he had a succession of outdoor jobs, including lumberjack, gold prospector, railroad man and even mercenary. In 1916 he was hired by the legendary D.W. Griffith as one of a group of "assistants" (others included Erich von Stroheim and Tod Browning) to work on the picture Intolerance: Love's Struggle Throughout the Ages (1916). After that, his rise was truly meteoric. Within a year Woody was directing his own films, beginning with The Land of Long Shadows (1917). A later western, The Lady of the Dugout (1918), featured a 'genuine' former Wild West outlaw, the self-promoting teller of tall tales, Al J. Jennings. After enlistment in World War I, Woody returned to Hollywood in the 1920s to direct further westerns, beginning with some Gilbert M. 'Broncho Billy' Anderson features at Essanay and later Tim McCoy programmers (once, in 1926, he directed two features simultaneously). Woody was perhaps the first filmmaker to make westerns that strayed from the stereotypical jaundiced pro-white man view in favor of a more sympathetic portrayal of the American Indian on screen.

Woody's "One-Take" nickname came about as a result of filming world heavyweight boxing champion Jack Dempsey in Daredevil Jack (1920). Dempsey invariably flattened his opponents with the first punch, so it became imperative to have the scene "in the can" on the first take. As a result, Woody was much in demand throughout the decade for "quota quickie" westerns and serials. Under contract to MGM in 1928, he accompanied documentary filmmaker Robert J. Flaherty to Polynesia to collaborate on the feature White Shadows in the South Seas (1928), taking over direction entirely when Flaherty fell ill. The success of the picture led to the thematically similar The Pagan (1929), shot in Tahiti with Ramon Novarro. This was in turn followed by the epic Trader Horn (1931), filmed on location in remote parts of Kenya and Tanganyika. Driven to the point of physical exhaustion by the swashbuckling director, the 200-strong crew virtually transformed the wilderness, creating, as it were, a live set, replete with exotic animals and plant life to capture unprecedented footage. In fact, there was so much excess footage after release of "Trader Horn" that much of it was incorporated into Woody's next project, the seminal Tarzan the Ape Man (1932), which set the bar for later entries into the Edgar Rice Burroughs cycle. After another flirt with danger, filming Eskimo (1933) in the remote Bering Strait, Woody settled down to less life-threatening assignments.

During the next few years, Woody Van Dyke showed his remarkable flair and versatility. After being Oscar-nominated for The Prizefighter and the Lady (1933), he directed William Powell and Myrna Loy in their first outing together in Manhattan Melodrama (1934) (most famous as the film seen by infamous bank robber and killer John Dillinger just before he was shot to death by the FBIl). He followed this with the stylish and witty thriller The Thin Man (1934) (filmed in true Woody-style in 16 days) and its three sequels, teaming Powell and Loy in one of Hollywood's most successful partnerships. After these hugely popular movies, Woody proved to be equally adept at musicals, directing yet another dynamic duo, Jeanette MacDonald and Nelson Eddy, in the operettas Rose-Marie (1936), Sweethearts (1938) and Naughty Marietta (1935). Never turning down an assignment, he also handled family fare (Andy Hardy, Dr.Kildare), social (The Devil Is a Sissy (1936)) and historical dramas (the lavish Marie Antoinette (1938) with Norma Shearer).

Unquestionably, one of the highlights of Van Dyke's career as a director was the first true "disaster movie", San Francisco (1936), for which he elicited rich, natural characterizations from his cast for 97 minutes. He then re-created the 1906 earthquake in the remaining 20-minute finale, achieving a realism that has rarely been matched and never surpassed. He was nominated for Academy Awards for both "The Thin Man" and "San Francisco", but lost out on both occasions.

A colorful, larger-than-life character, his "shoot-from-the-hip" camera style was at times criticized by his peers. Conversely, he was much respected by actors, frequently giving breaks to unemployed performers by using them in his films, and appreciated by the studios by consistently coming in on or under budget. In addition, he was known as a "film doctor", who would be called upon to re-shoot individual scenes with which the studio was dissatisfied (a noted example being for The Prisoner of Zenda (1937)), or, alternatively, to shoot additional scenes that were deemed necessary for continuity.

Like some of his peers, Woody could be an autocrat who rarely brooked arguments and was known to greet the mighty Louis B. Mayer himself with "Hi, kid". He became ill during the filming of Dragon Seed (1944). Diagnosed with heart disease and cancer, he committed suicide in February 1943.

Shadow of the Thin Man (1941)

# 06675 IMDb

Shadow of the Thin Man (1941)

TaglineHey everybody, my folks are back on the trail of the dog-gondest mystery you ever saw! They're Wackier Than Ever!

By W.S. Van Dyke (as Maj. W.S. Van Dyke II)

Comedy, Romance, Drama, Mystery, Crime (1h 37min)

USA USA

Fine! Rated 7.3 after 4,624 votes on 30-Sep-18.

Nick and Nora Charles are looking forward to a day of leisure, but when they make a trip to the race track, they learn that a jockey, who was recently accused of throwing a race, has just been found shot to death. With his friend Lieutenant Abrams in charge of the case, Nick has difficulty keeping from getting involved. Then a special state deputy, in charge of investigating gambling scandals, (...)

'Northwest Passage' (Book I -- Rogers' Rangers) (1940)

# 06651 IMDb

'Northwest Passage' (Book I -- Rogers' Rangers) (1940)

TaglineThe Big Picture that was made in our own Pacific Northwest

By King Vidor, Jack Conway (director: additional scenes) (uncredited), W.S. Van Dyke (background shots) (uncredited)

Adventure, Drama, History, Western (2h 06min)

USA USA

Fine! Rated 7.1 after 2,822 votes on 24-Aug-18.

Nominated for Oscar

After being expelled from Harvard for criticising the food there, being jilted by his sweetheart's family, Langdon Towne gets drunk at the tavern and says some disrespectful things about the English in his old colonial hometown in New England, which is overheard and almost puts him in jail. So they decide to leave for the west. When they meet Ranger Major Rogers, he offers them a trip west with (...)

Another Thin Man (1939)

# 06585 IMDb

Another Thin Man (1939)

TaglineIt's a blessed event

By W.S. Van Dyke (as W.S. Van Dyke II)

Comedy, Mystery, Drama, Crime, Romance (1h 43min)

USA USA

Fine! Rated 7.5 after 5,562 votes on 08-Oct-18.

The Charles' are back in New York with Asta and a new arrival: Nicky Jr. They are invited by Colonel MacFey to spend the weekend at his house in Long Island as he desperately wants Charles to help him out. It seems he has been receiving threats from Phil Church, a very shady character. When McFey is killed Church seems to be the obvious suspect but Nick suspects there is something far more (...)

Marie Antoinette (1938)

# 14775 IMDb Passed | Approved 

Marie Antoinette (1938)

By W.S. Van Dyke (as W.S. Van Dyke II), Julien Duvivier (uncredited)

Biography, Drama, History, Romance (2h 29min)

USA USA

Fine! Rated 7.6 after 2,384 votes on 05-Oct-18.

Nominated for 4 Oscars. Another 2 wins & 1 nomination

The life of Marie Antoinette (1755-1793) from betrothal and marriage in 1770 to her beheading. At first, she's a Hapsburg teenager isolated in France, living a virgin's life in the household of the Dauphin, a shy solitary man who would like to be a locksmith. Marie discovers high society, with the help of Orleans and her brothers-in-law. Her foolishness is at its height when she meets a Swedish (...)

Personal Property (1937)

# 06565 IMDb

Personal Property (1937)

By W.S. Van Dyke (as W.S. Van Dyke II)

Comedy, Romance (1h 24min)

USA USA

Rated 6.5 after 572 votes on 20-Sep-16.

Robert Dabney returns to his family after trouble with the law. The sheriff gets him a job watching the house and furniture of widow Crystal Wetherby.

The Prisoner of Zenda (1937)

# 06533 IMDb

The Prisoner of Zenda (1937)

TaglineThe most thrilling swordfight ever filmed...

By John Cromwell, W.S. Van Dyke (reshoots) (uncredited)

Adventure, Drama, Romance (1h 41min)

USA USA

Fine! Rated 7.7 after 3,729 votes on 06-Oct-18.

Nominated for 2 Oscars. Another 1 nomination

This is a classic swashbuckler. Rudolph Rassendyll, Rudolf V's identical distant cousin, is asked to risk his life and impersonate the would-be king when his relative is kidnapped before his impending coronation. If Rudolf V isn't present at the ceremony, he will forfeit the crown to his younger brother. Complications ensue when Princess Flavia, the cousin's betrothed, begins to notice a (...)

After the Thin Man (1936)

# 06489 IMDb

After the Thin Man (1936)

TaglineContinuing the fun in their NEW hit!

By W.S. Van Dyke

Comedy, Crime, Mystery, Romance (1h 52min)

USA USA

Fine! Rated 7.7 after 8,068 votes on 31-May-18.

Nominated for Oscar

Now back in San Francisco after their holiday in New York, Nick and Nora find themselves trying to solve another mystery. It's New Year's Eve and they are summoned to dinner at Nora's elderly, and very aristocratic, family. There they find that cousin Thelma's husband Charles has been missing for three days. Nick reluctantly agrees to look for him but the case takes a twist when Charles is shot (...)

Rose-Marie (1936)

# 06483 IMDb

Rose-Marie (1936)

TaglineAn opera star. A mountie. The Canadian Rockies.

By W.S. Van Dyke

Musical, Romance, Adventure, Drama, Western (1h 53min)

USA USA

Fine! Rated 7.1 after 1,032 votes on 05-Oct-18.

Opera singer (Marie de Flor) seeks out fugitive brother in the Canadian wilderness. During her trek, she meets a Canadian mountie (Sgt. Bruce) who is also searching for her brother. Romance ensues, resulting in several love duets between the two.

San Francisco (1936)

# 05312 IMDb

San Francisco (1936)

TaglineShe Fell In Love . . . with the toughest guy on the toughest street in the world !

By W.S. Van Dyke (uncredited)

Adventure, Drama, Musical, Romance (1h 55min)

USA USA

Fine! Rated 7.3 after 4,318 votes on 01-Aug-18.

Won Oscar. Another 1 win & 5 nominations

Mary Blake arrives at Blackie Norton's Paradise gambling hall and beer garden looking for work as a singer. Blackie embarrasses her by asking to see her legs, but does hire her. She faints from hunger. Nob Hill Socialite Jack Burley and Maestro Baldini of the Tivoli Opera House see her singing and offer her a chance to do opera, but Blackie has her under a two-year contract which she sorrowfully (...)

Naughty Marietta (1935)

# 14580 IMDb G | Passed | Approved | TV-G 

Naughty Marietta (1935)

TaglineVictor Herbert's Greatest Stage Success... Now The Big Screen Musical Of All Time!

By Robert Z. Leonard (uncredited), W.S. Van Dyke (uncredited)

Drama, Musical, Romance (1h 45min)

USA USA

Rated 7.0 after 925 votes on 31-May-18.

Won Oscar. Another 2 wins & 1 nomination

Princess Marie de Namours de la Bonfain is a beautiful, young, sophisticated French princess of 23, who finds more worth in true love than a title. On the eve of her arranged marriage, to a Spanish-grandee, whom she doesn't love, her maid, Marietta comes to her to say farewell. Marietta is to leave that night on a cargo ship bound for New Orleans where she is to make a new life and find a (...)

The Thin Man (1934)

# 10545 IMDb

The Thin Man (1934)

TaglineA laugh tops every thrilling moment!

By W.S. Van Dyke

Comedy, Crime, Mystery (1h 31min)

USA USA

Fine! Rated 8.1 after 23,342 votes on 09-Oct-18.

Nominated for 4 Oscars. Another 2 wins

After a four year absence, one time detective Nick Charles returns to New York with his new wife Nora and their dog, Asta. Nick re-connects with many of his old cronies, several of whom are eccentric characters, to say the least. He's also approached by Dorothy Wynant whose inventor father Clyde Wynant is suspected of murdering her step-mother. Her father had left on a planned trip some months (...)

Tarzan the Ape Man (1932)

# 04585 IMDb

Tarzan the Ape Man (1932)

TaglineMothered by an ape - He knew only the law of the jungle - to seize what he wanted!

By W.S. Van Dyke

Action, Adventure (1h 39min)

USA USA

Fine! Rated 7.2 after 6,231 votes on 07-Sep-18.

When Jane Parker unexpectedly arrives in Africa to visit her father, she also finds herself accompanying him and hunter Harry Holt on an expedition to a mysterious escarpment to find the legendary elephants graveyard and its treasure of ivory. Having reached the escarpment, they see a strange white man living in the trees like an ape. He promptly kidnaps Jane but means her no harm and he (...)

Intolerance: Love's Struggle Throughout the Ages (1916)

# 04344 IMDb

Intolerance: Love's Struggle Throughout the Ages (1916)

TaglineThe Cruel Hand of Intolerance

By D.W. Griffith

Drama, History, Romance (2h 43min)

USA USA

Fine! Rated 8.0 after 11,175 votes on 18-Feb-17.

1 nomination

Intolerance and its terrible effects are examined in four historical eras. In ancient Babylon, a mountain girl is caught up in the religious rivalry that leads to the city's downfall. In Judea, the hypocritical Pharisees condemn Jesus Christ. In 1572 Paris, unaware of the impending St. Bartholomew's Day Massacre, two young Huguenots prepare for marriage. Finally, in modern America, social (...)

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