Best Directors from the begin of the talkies until WW II /rating order/

by georginikov | created - 16 Feb 2014 | updated - 16 Feb 2014 | Public

1. Frank Lloyd

Director | Mutiny on the Bounty

Frank Lloyd was an unpretentious, technically skilled director, who crafted several enduring Hollywood classics during the 1930's. He started out as a stage actor and singer in early 1900's London and was well-known as an imitator of Harry Lauder. After several years in music hall and with touring ...

2. Frank Capra

Director | It's a Wonderful Life

One of seven children, Frank Capra was born on May 18, 1897, in Bisacquino, Sicily. On May 10, 1903, his family left for America aboard the ship Germania, arriving in New York on May 23rd. "There's no ventilation, and it stinks like hell. They're all miserable. It's the most degrading place you ...

3. Lewis Milestone

Director | All Quiet on the Western Front

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 ...

4. Frank Borzage

Director | No Greater Glory

Frank Borzage was born on April 23, 1894 in Salt Lake City, Utah, USA. He was an actor and director, known for No Greater Glory (1934), 7th Heaven (1927) and Bad Girl (1931). He was married to Juanita Scott, Edna Skelton and Rena Rogers. He died on June 19, 1962 in Hollywood, Los Angeles, ...

5. Robert Z. Leonard

Director | The Great Ziegfeld

Chicago-born Robert Z. Leonard studied law at the University of Colorado, but the legal profession proved not to be his forte and he dropped out in favor of a career in the theatre. When his family moved to Hollywood in 1907 Leonard sought work in the fledgling film industry, starting as an actor ...

6. John Ford

Director | The Quiet Man

John Ford came to Hollywood following one of his brothers, an actor. Asked what brought him to Hollywood, he replied "The train". He became one of the most respected directors in the business, in spite of being known for his westerns, which were not considered "serious" film. He won six Oscars, ...

7. William Dieterle

Director | Portrait of Jennie

Born in Ludwigshafen, Germany, Wilhelm Dieterle was the youngest of nine children of parents Jacob and Berthe Dieterle. They lived in poverty, and when he was old enough to work, young Wilhelm earned money as a carpenter and a scrap dealer. He dreamed of better things, though, and theater caught ...

8. Norman Taurog

Director | The Adventures of Tom Sawyer

A successful child actor (on stage from 1907) and rather less successful romantic lead, baby-faced Norman Taurog found being behind the camera a more rewarding experience. Before becoming a director, he paid his dues as a prop man and editor. By 1919, he was put in charge of two-reel comedies, ...

9. Leo McCarey

Director | Going My Way

Leo McCarey was born on October 3, 1896 in Los Angeles, California, USA as Thomas Leo McCarey. He was a director and writer, known for Going My Way (1944), An Affair to Remember (1957) and Love Affair (1939). He was married to Stella Martin. He died on July 5, 1969 in Santa Monica, California.

10. F.W. Murnau

Director | Sunrise: A Song of Two Humans

F.W. Murnau was a German film director. He was greatly influenced by Schopenhauer, Nietzsche, Shakespeare and Ibsen plays he had seen at the age of 12, and became a friend of director Max Reinhardt. During World War I he served as a company commander at the eastern front and was in the German air ...

11. Alfred E. Green

Director | The Jolson Story

One of the more prolific American directors, Alfred E. Green entered films in 1912 as an actor for the Selig Polyscope Co. He became an assistant to director Colin Campbell and started directing two-reelers, turning to features in 1917. His career lasted into the mid-1950s but his output was mostly...

12. Victor Fleming

Director | Gone with the Wind

Victor Fleming entered the film business as a stuntman in 1910, mainly doing stunt driving - which came easy to him, as he had been a mechanic and professional race-car driver. He became interested in working on the other side of the camera, and eventually got a job as a cameraman on many of the ...

13. Harry Beaumont

Director | The Broadway Melody

Born in Abilene, KS, in 1888, Harry Beaumont started his show-business career early--he quit school to become an actor in a traveling stock company, and eventually made his way to the New York stage. In 1912 he began working as a film actor for Edison studios--which was headquartered across the ...

14. Wesley Ruggles

Producer | Cimarron

The younger brother of Hollywood character player Charles Ruggles, Wesley Ruggles spent most of his early years in San Francisco. He attended university there, began a lengthy apprenticeship in stock and musical comedy and then joined Keystone in Hollywood as an actor in 1914 working alongside Syd ...

15. Edmund Goulding

Director | Grand Hotel

London-born Edmund Goulding was an actor/playwright/director on the London stage, and entered the British army when WWI broke out. Mustered out of the service because of wounds suffered in battle, he emigrated to the U.S. in 1921. He obtained assignments as a screenwriter in Hollywood, wrote a ...

16. William A. Wellman

Director | A Star Is Born

William Wellman, the Oscar-winning screenwriter-director of the original A Star Is Born (1937), was called "Wild Bill" during his World War I service as an aviator, a nickname that persisted in Hollywood due to his larger-than-life personality and lifestyle.

A leap-year baby born in 1896 on the 29th...

17. Irving Cummings

Director | Curly Top

New York-born Irving Cummings began his career as an actor on the Broadway stage in his late teens, and appeared with the legendary Lillian Russell's company. He entered films in 1909 as an actor, and became a very popular leading man in the early 1920s. He began directing at around that time, ...

18. Sam Wood

Director | Ivy

Following 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 ...

19. Clarence Brown

Director | Anna Karenina

Clarence Leon Brown was the son of Larkin Harry and Catherine Ann (Gaw) Brown of Clinton, Massachusetts. His family moved to Knoxville, Tennessee, when he was 12 years old. He graduated from Knoxville High School in 1905 and from the University of Tennessee with a B.A. in mechanical and electrical ...

20. George W. Hill

Director | The Midnight Express

Beginning his career at age 13 as a stagehand for D.W. Griffith, George W. Hill worked his way up through cinematography and screenwriting to finally begin directing films in the early 1920s. His later films took on a stark, brutally realistic atmosphere and were renowned for their effective use of...

21. Edgar Selwyn

Director | The Sin of Madelon Claudet

What a life! Edgar Selwyn was born Edgar Simon on October 20, 1875, in Cincinnati, OH. As a child he and his family lived in Toronto, Canada, before moving to Selma, AL, where his parents died. He moved to Chicago at the age of 17 to seek his fortune, but Fortune would not let the young man take ...

22. Alexander Korda

Director | The Private Life of Don Juan

One of a large group of Hungarian refugees who found refuge in England in the 1930s, Sir Alexander Korda was the first British film producer to receive a knighthood. He was a major, if controversial, figure and acted as a guiding force behind the British film industry of the 1930s and continued to ...

23. Lowell Sherman

Actor | Bachelor Apartment

Lowell Sherman was one of the early cinema's first major stars who successfully made the transition from actor to director. Born in either 1885 or 1888, his parents were John Wm. Sherman, a theatrical producer (1855-1924), and Julia Gray Sherman, an actress and daughter of actress Kate Gray.

In 1905...

24. Sidney Franklin

Director | The Good Earth

Sidney Franklin was involved in amateur filmmaking while still at school. With his brother Chester M. Franklin, he wrote, directed and edited a short film, The Baby (1915), at a cost of $400. Somehow it attracted the interest of D.W. Griffith, who decided to put the brothers to work making ...

25. King Vidor

Director | Hallelujah

King Vidor was born on February 8, 1894 in Galveston, Texas, USA as King Wallis Vidor. He was a director and writer, known for Hallelujah (1929), The Crowd (1928) and Show People (1928). He was married to Vidor, Elizabeth Hill, Eleanor Boardman and Florence Vidor. He died on November 1, 1982 in ...

26. Rouben Mamoulian

Director | Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde

Rouben Mamoulian was born on October 8, 1897 in Tiflis, Russian Empire as Rouben Zachary Mamoulian. He was a director and writer, known for Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde (1931), Applause (1929) and The Gay Desperado (1936). He was married to Azadia Newman. He died on December 4, 1987 in Woodland Hills, ...

27. Josef von Sternberg

Director | The Devil Is a Woman

Josef von Sternberg split his childhood between Vienna and New York City. His father, a former soldier in the Austro-Hungarian army, could not support his family in either city; Sternberg remembered him only as "an enormously strong man who often used his strength on me." Forced by poverty to drop ...



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