W.S. Van Dyke

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W.S. Van Dyke Wiki


Real Name: Woodbridge Strong Van Dyke II
Birth Place: San Diego, California, USA
Birth Date: March 21, 1889
Occupation: Director, Writer, Producer

W.S. Van Dyke 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. During a period of 25 years, he economically directed over 90 diverse entertainments, which not only saved the studios vast amounts of money, but also turned out to be some of the most interesting motion pictures created during this period.W.S.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. From his teens onward followed a succession of outdoor jobs as 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, Al J. Jennings. After enlistment in World War I, he returned to Hollywood in the 1920's to direct further westerns, at first Broncho Billy features at Essanay, and, later, Tim McCoy programmers (once, in 1926, he directed two features simultaneously). Woody was perhaps the first filmmaker to stray from the stereotypically jaundiced pro-white man view, in favour 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 floored his fight opponents with the first punch, so it became imperative to have the scene 'in the can' at 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 the documentary film-maker 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 resulting 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 to suit, creating , as it were, a live set, replete with exotic wildlife and nature to be made into 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 fairly set the bar for later entries into the Edgar Rice Burroughs cycle. After another flirt with danger, filming Eskimo (1933) in remote Bering Strait, Woody settled down to less hazardous assignments.During the next few years, Woody Van Dyke truly 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), famously, the last film ever seen by infamous bank-robber John Dillinger. He followed this with the stylish and witty thriller The Thin Man (1934) (filmed in true Woody-style within 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', 'Sweethearts' and 'Naughty Marietta'. Never turning down an assignment, he also handled family fare (Andy Hardy, Dr.Kildare), social (The Devil Is a Sissy (1936)) and historical drama (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 characterisations from his cast for 97 minutes, 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 colourful, larger-than-life character, his 'shoot-from-the-hip camera style was at times criticised 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 budget, and, when the occasion demanded, repairing damage done by other directors on their films, case in point The Prisoner of Zenda (1937). Like some of his peers in the profession, he was also an autocrat who rarely brooked arguments and was known to greet the mighty Louis B. Mayer himself with 'Hi,Kid'. Woody became ill during the filming of Dragon Seed (1944). Diagnosed with heart disease and cancer, he committed suicide in February 1943.

W.S. Van Dyke Movies / TV-Shows


Journey for Margaret (1942)
Shadow of the Thin Man (1941)
Rage in Heaven (1941)
I Love You Again (1940)
New Moon (1940)
I Take This Woman (1940)
Northwest Passage (1940)
Another Thin Man (1939)
Stand Up and Fight (1939)
Sweethearts (1938)
Personal Property (1937)
The Prisoner of Zenda (1937)
Rosalie (1937)
The Devil Is a Sissy (1936)
San Francisco (1936)
After the Thin Man (1936)
Broadway Melody of 1936 (1935)
Naughty Marietta (1935)
The Thin Man (1934)
Forsaking All Others (1934)
Manhattan Melodrama (1934)
Eskimo (1933)
Tarzan the Ape Man (1932)
Intolerance: Love's Struggle Throughout the Ages (1916)
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