Schary, Dore

Schary, Dore
   Legendary writer, producer, director, and production chief Dore Schary came very close to playing a major role in STANLEY KUBRICK’s career during Kubrick’s rise to prominence in the late 1950s. As VINCENT LOBRUTTO explains, Schary had seen and admired THE KILLING (1956), which at the time was in “distribution limbo. ” Schary tried unsuccessfully to buy the film from United Artists; but he was able to attract the producing-directing team of JAMES B. HARRIS and Kubrick to come and work under his tutelage at Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer (MGM).
   Under contract with Schary and MGM, Harris-Kubrick pitched PATHS OF GLORY as their first project, but Schary balked. Instead, he suggested that they adapt one of the hundreds of novels already owned by the studio, and Kubrick settled on Stefan Zweig’s novel The Burning Secret. While that project was in development, with CALDER WILLINGHAM on board as screenwriter, the top brass at MGM suddenly fired Schary. Variety suggests the move was the result of a personal vendetta against Schary on the part of Joseph Vogel, then the new president of Loews. With Schary’s departure as head of the studio, MGM terminated its contract with Harris-Kubrick. Had Schary not been fired from MGM, the course of Kubrick’s life and career might have turned out quite differently; Schary was well known for producing daring, controversial, leading-edge films such as Crossfire (1947) and Nazi Agent (1942), by such maverick, young filmmakers as Edward Dmytryk, Nicholas Ray, and Joseph Losey. He and Kubrick would have made a formidable team indeed; and one can easily imagine that, had Kubrick made that first film with Schary, he might well have had a long and productive term in Hollywood. But of course this was not to be.
   Dore Schary got his professional start as a newspaper reporter and columnist. He soon became involved in local stock theater productions, as an actor, director, and writer. Schary’s talent got noticed by producer Walter Wanger, who put him under contract with Columbia as a writer, for $100 a week, in 1932. Five years later, then with MGM, Schary finally achieved prominence as a screenwriter with Boys Town (1937), for which he won an Oscar, with cowriter Eleanore Griffin. After a number of other successful screenplays, Schary was emboldened to ask for a substantial raise; instead, Louis B. Mayer made Schary the head of the studio’s faltering B-unit. During the early 1940s, Schary oversaw a number of fine, low-budget B pictures for the studio, working with such promising, young directors as Jules Dassin and Fred Zinneman.
   After a falling-out between Schary and studio executives, David O. Selznick offered him control of Selznick’s new Vanguard Pictures. There, from 1943 to 1946, Schary supervised such minor classics as Robert Siodmak’s The Spiral Staircase (1946), I’ll Be Seeing You (1944), and The Bachelor and the Bobby Soxer (1947).
   But Schary arguably did his most impressive film work as production head at RKO, from 1947 to 1948, and at MGM from 1948 to 1956. At RKO, with directors Ray, Losey, Jacques Tourneur, Robert Wise, and others, Schary turned out such unforgettable pictures as Out of the Past (1947), Fort Apache (1948), They Live By Night (1949), and I Remember Mama (1948). Schary resigned from RKO when it became clear to him that tycoon Howard Hughes, who owned a controlling interest in the studio, could not resist becoming personally involved in all the productions there.
   Shortly afterward, Schary’s old boss, Louis B. Mayer, offered him essentially the same position that the late Irving Thalberg had held at MGM, with the implicit understanding that Schary would take over entirely when Mayer was ready to retire. During his tenure at MGM, Schary oversaw production on some 272 films, including some of the studio’s most enduring classics: On the Town (1949), Adam’s Rib (1949), Annie Get Your Gun (1950), Father of the Bride (1950), The Asphalt Jungle (1950), An American in Paris (1951), Singin’ in the Rain (1952), The Bad and the Beautiful (1952), The Band Wagon (1953), and Mogambo (1953). Despite this impressive track record, Schary was dismissed by Loews president Joseph Vogel in November 1956.
   Schary devoted much of the following year to his old passion, playwriting. The resulting play, Sunrise at Campobello, is the story of the young Franklin D. Roosevelt’s struggle with infantile paralysis and his return to politics in 1924. It opened in January 1958, with Ralph Bellamy in the lead, and became a major Broadway hit. Schary produced the film version two years later, at WARNER BROS.
   Schary was an anomaly among studio chiefs, in his social consciousness, cultural ambition, and sense of civic responsibility. In 1948 he announced that one of MGM’s principal aims would be “to maintain a balance between being a picture maker, a citizen, and a creative artist. ” Despite his liberal politics, however, Schary was one of the authors of the Waldorf Conference Statement, something he later regretted. In the statement, most of the studio heads agreed not to employ any of the “Hollywood Ten” (some of whom had done some of their best work with Schary) unless they essentially “named names” in cooperation with the House Committee on Un-American Activities. Dore Schary’s last big stage hit was The Unsinkable Molly Brown (1960), which he produced and directed. Schary spent the rest of his career developing plays and films independently, with progressively diminishing success. His last play, Herzl (1976), about the founder of the Zionist movement, closed after just eight performances.
   ■ “Dore Schary,” Internet Movie Database,;
   ■ LoBrutto,Vincent, Stanley Kubrick:A Biography (New York: Da Capo, 1999);
   ■ McCarthy, Todd, “Schary, Former Studio Chief, Dies At Home In New York,” Variety, July 9, 1980.

The Encyclopedia of Stanley Kubrick. . 2002.

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