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Gordon Douglas  

 


Gordon Douglas (December 15, 1907 – September 29, 1993) was an American film director, who directed many different genres of films over the course of a five-decade career in motion pictures. He was a native of New York City.

Born Gordon Douglas Brickner, he began his career as a child actor. As a teenager he got a job at the Hal Roach Studios, working in the office and appearing in bit parts in various Hal Roach films. He made walk-on appearances in at least three Our Gang shorts: Teacher’s Pet, Big Ears and Birthday Blues. By 1934 Douglas was assistant to director Gus Meins and served as assistant director on Stan Laurel and Oliver Hardy’s 1934 film Babes in Toyland and on the Our Gang comedies made between 1934 and mid-1936.

Beginning with Bored of Education in 1936, Our Gang moved from two-reel (20-minute) comedies to one-reel (10-minute) comedies, and Douglas became the senior director of the series. Bored of Education won the 1936 Academy Award for Live Action Short Film, and was the only Our Gang entry ever honoured with the award. Douglas remained with the series as director for two years. His Our Gang shorts, featuring Spanky, Alfalfa, Darla, Porky, Buckwheat, Waldo, Butch and Woim, are the most familiar in the series’ 22-year canon.

Roach sold the Our Gang unit to Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer in May 1938. Douglas directed two MGM Our Gangs on loan from Roach before deciding that he could not get used to the more industrialized atmosphere at the larger studio. Returning to his home studio, Douglas directed Zenobia with Oliver Hardy and Harry Langdon, Saps at Sea with Laurel and Hardy, and All-American Co-Ed with former Our Gang member Johnny Downs.

Douglas' last picture for Roach was the Nazi satire The Devil with Hitler (1942). He might have stayed with Roach indefinitely, but Roach turned his studio over to the U.S. Army for the production of wartime training films. Douglas moved on to RKO Radio Pictures, where he directed low-budget entries in the studio's series featuring The Great Gildersleeve, Brown and Carney, The Falcon and Dick Tracy. He was sometimes billed as Gordon M. Douglas.

He migrated from RKO to Columbia Pictures in 1948, and then to Warner Bros. in 1950. At Warners, Douglas directed a number of notable films, including the studio's contribution to the anti-Communist campaign, I Was a Communist for the FBI (1951), the 3-D western The Charge at Feather River (1953), Liberace's box-office failure Sincerely Yours (1955) and the 1954 sci-fi classic Them!. His three low-budget westerns starring Clint Walker--Fort Dobbs (1958), Yellowstone Kelly (1959) and Gold of the Seven Saints (1961, from a screenplay by Leigh Brackett originally commissioned by Howard Hawks)--have been compared to Budd Boetticher's contemporary minimalist westerns with Randolph Scott.[2] Later films for other studios included Bob Hope's Call Me Bwana, Frank Sinatra's The Detective, Sidney Poitier's They Call Me Mister Tibbs! and Elvis Presley's Follow That Dream. Douglas returned to Warner Bros. for his final film, 1977's Viva Knievel!, in which the stuntman Evel Knievel played himself in a fanciful biography.

Reportedly, Douglas was the only person to ever direct both Elvis and Sinatra on film.

Attempting to explain his prodigious directorial output, Douglas told Bertrand Tavernier:
I have a large family to feed, and it's only occasionally that I find a story that interests me."

Gordon Douglas died of cancer on September 29, 1993 in Los Angeles, California, at the age of 85. He was survived by his wife Julia Mack Douglas, son Gary Douglas, daughter Cathie Graham, and a grandson.

 

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Last modified: Saturday, 18 March 2017