Mervyn LeRoy

Mervyn LeRoy

LeRoy in 1958
Born (1900-10-15)October 15, 1900
San Francisco, California
Died September 13, 1987(1987-09-13) (aged 86)
Beverly Hills, California
Resting place Forest Lawn Memorial Park (Glendale)
Occupation Film director
Years active 1927–1968
Spouse(s) Elizabeth Edna Murphy
(1927–1933; divorced)
Doris Warner
(1934–1942; divorced)
Katherine "Kitty" Spiegel
(1946–1987; his death)
Children Warner LeRoy (1935–2001)

Mervyn LeRoy (October 15, 1900 – September 13, 1987) was an American film director, film producer and occasional actor.

Early life

LeRoy was born in San Francisco, to Jewish parents[1] Edna (née Armer) and Harry LeRoy.[2][3] 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."[4] Leroy also credits DeMille for teaching him the directing techniques required to make his own films.[4]

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. He directed two key films which launched Edward G. Robinson into major stardom, the Oscar-nominated critique of tabloid journalism Five Star Final (1931), and the classic gangster film Little Caesar (1931). 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.

Personal life

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.

Later life

LeRoy retired in 1965 and wrote his autobiography, Take One, in 1974. He died[5] from Alzheimer's disease in Beverly Hills, California at age 86. He was interred in the Forest Lawn Memorial Park Cemetery in Glendale, California.[6] On February 8, 1960, he received a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame at 1560 Vine Street, for his contributions to the motion pictures industry.[7] [8]

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 1987.[9] 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 restaurateur.

Partial filmography

Academy Awards in Mervyn LeRoy films

Year Film Academy Award
Academy Award
1930–31 Little Caesar 1 0
1931–32 Five Star Final BP 1 0
1932–33 I Am a Fugitive from a Chain Gang BP BA 3 0
Gold Diggers of 1933 1 0
1936 Anthony Adverse BP BSA 7 4
1940 Waterloo Bridge 2 0
1941 Blossoms in the Dust BP BA 4 1
1942 Johnny Eager BSA 1 1
Random Harvest BP, BD, BA, BSA 7 0
1943 Madame Curie BP BA BA 7 0
1944 Thirty Seconds Over Tokyo 2 1
1945 The House I Live In 1 1
1949 Little Women 2 1
1951 Quo Vadis BP, BSA BSA 8 0
1952 Million Dollar Mermaid 1 0
1955 Mister Roberts BP, BSA 3 1
1956 The Bad Seed 4 0
1961 A Majority of One 1 0
1962 Gypsy 3 0


  1. Mervyn LeRoy – Biography, Bruce Eder, Allmovie
  2. Peter B. Flint (1987-09-14). "Mervyn LeRoy, 86, Dies - Director and Producer". Retrieved 2015-09-20.
  3. "Whither Quo Vadis: Sienkiewicz's Novel in Film and Television - Ruth Scodel, Anja Bettenworth - Google Books". p. 215. Retrieved 2015-09-20.
  4. 1 2 Tibbetts, John C. ed. American Classic Screen Profiles, Scarecrow Press (2010) p. 175
  5. "Producer Mervyn LeRoy dies". Retrieved October 5, 2014.
  6. Mervyn LeRoy at Find a Grave
  7. "Mervyn LeRoy | Hollywood Walk of Fame". Retrieved 2016-06-21.
  8. "Mervyn LeRoy". Retrieved 2016-06-21.
  9. Archived February 18, 2009, at the Wayback Machine.
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