Rouben Mamoulian was born on October 8, 1897. A tireless experimenter whose innate taste and intelligence enabled him to succeed where less talented directors had failed, Mamoulian directed only 16 movies but left an indelible mark on film history. he grew up in Russia and studied law at the University of Moscow, but indulged his passion for the theater by taking acting classes at night. Mamoulian became a director and staged well-received productions in London and New York, culminating in his gugely successful 1926 Broadway play Porgy, which featured an all-black cast. On the strength of that success, he was signed by Paramount to direct its backstage drama Applause (1929), filmed in its Astoria, Long Island studio.
Mamoulian chafed under the restrictive methods of early-sound filmmaking, and by a process of trial and error obtained adequate recordings with multiple microphones, thereby freeing his cameras and restoring the visual mobility cinematographers had achieved in the silent era. His subsequent films--City Streets (1931), Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde (1931) with Fredric March, and the incomparable Love Me Tonight (1932)--saw Mamoulian refining his cinematic technique while continuing to experiment with subjective camera work and the melding of picture and sound. His Becky Sharp (1935), the first feature film made with the newly perfected three-strip Technicolor process, utilized its bright hues for dramatic rather than merely pictorial effect.
A born maverick whose independence repeatedly clashed with major-studio assembly-line methods of operation, Mamoulian seldom got the opportunity to indulge his penchant for perfectionism, and was fired from nearly as many films as he made (including Laura, Porgy and Bess, and Cleopatra). Other Hollywood technicians caught up to him in the late 1930s and early 1940s, and Mamoulian seemed less an innovator in his later films. He returned frequently to the stage (achieving great success as the original director of Oklahoma!) and in later years turned to writing. But he maintained his passion for cinema, and right up until the time he died, in 1987, he was a frequent and outspoken commentator on the form.
--LEONARD MALTIN, from
Leonard Maltin's Movie Encyclopedia.
A selection of Rouben Mamoulian films.
Find Rouben Mamoulian on eBay.com
A selection of Rouben Mamoulian in books.
A History of Horror
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