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George Stevens, a Life on Film

Marilyn Ann Moss

Publication Year: 2004

    Marilyn Moss’s Giant examines the life of one of the most influential directors to work in Hollywood from the 1930s to the 1960s. George Stevens directed such popular and significant films as Shane, Giant, A Place in the Sun, and The Diary of Anne Frank. He was the first to pair Katharine Hepburn and Spencer Tracy on film in Woman of the Year. Through the study of Stevens’s life and his production history, Moss also presents a glimpse of the workings of the classic Hollywood studio system in its glory days.
    Moss documents Stevens’s role as a powerful director who often had to battle the heads of major studios to get his films made his way. She traces the four decades Stevens was a major Hollywood player and icon, from his earliest days at the Hal Roach Studios—where he learned to be a cameraman, writer, and director for Laurel and Hardy features—up to his later career when his films made millions at the box office and were graced by actors such as Elizabeth Taylor, James Dean, Alan Ladd, and Montgomery Clift.

Published by: University of Wisconsin Press


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pp. ix

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pp. xi-xii

The George Stevens Collection at the Margaret Herrick Library of the Academy Motion Picture Arts and Sciences comprises one of the library’s largest holdings—an appropriate distinction for the man who directed some of Hollywood’s largest films just as the studio system was coming to an end—including A Place in the Sun, Shane, Giant...

Part 1 The Early Years

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1 George and Rex, Stan and Ollie

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pp. 3-26

Soft-spoken, intensely private, and undaunted on a movie set, George Stevens dominated the Hollywood studio system in a way that only a handful of directors have. For close to four decades, beginning in 1935 at age thirty-one, with his first important feature at RKO, Alice Adams, Stevens was one of the American cinema’s preeminent storytellers and...

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2 The RKO Years

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pp. 27-67

For Stevens in the first years of the Depression, work was as hard to find as were scripts not pinned almost entirely on visual gags and one-liners. But he kept working, and trying to get serious. When he landed at Universal in 1932 making two-reeler such as Yoo Hoo (1932) and Should Crooners Marry? (1933) under the Warren Doane comedy series banner,...

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3 The Women: The Early Forties

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pp. 68-100

At the USA Film Festival in 1971 Stevens was asked to comment on his prewar reputation as a “woman’s director,” working in the 1930s and 1940s with Katharine Hepburn, Barbara Stanwyck, Ginger Rogers, and Jean Arthur. “I didn’t come by that activity by training,” he said. “My interests had been in other areas—outdoor films and outside stuff where...

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4 Toluca Ville: The War Years [Includes Image Plates]

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pp. 101-137

Stevens left Los Angeles the second week of February 1943 to serve as a major in the U.S. Army Signal Corps, which was responsible for photographing Allied activity during the war. He first covered combat cleanup in the North Africa campaign, then, headquartered in London, he shot footage while in the European theatre and photographed some of the...

Part 2 The Postwar Films

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5 I See America Kissing: A Place in the Sun

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pp. 141-176

I Remember Mama gave little indication of how deeply the war affected Stevens. That would be the province of his very next film. A Place in the Sun, based on Theodore Drieser’s novel, An American Tragedy, is the first of Stevens’s postwar films to reflect the personal transformation he underwent during World War II. It is his darkest, most personal and...

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6 The Art of Gun Slinging: Shane

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pp. 177-200

Stevens’s troubles with Paramount were by no means limited to getting A Place in the Sun green lighted. As he edited that picture and began preparing Something to Live For (originally titled Mr. and Mrs. Anonymous), he could still not get the studio to commit to projects he suggested or start dates he proposed on projects they did okay; this tension went on...

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7 Our Town: Giant

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pp. 201-229

In Shane Stevens reached back to America’s past to express a social conscience that could only have been the result of reevaluating his war experiences and their impact on him as an artist. For the first time he began to think of America as an idea, as a canvas expansive enough to contain art and intellect expressed through archetype and myth. In revisiting...

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8 The One Who Cannot Be Left Behind: The Diary of Anne Frank [Includes Image Plates]

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pp. 230-265

After directing two successful films situated in the American west, Stevens turned his attention back to Europe to direct what appeared to be a more intimate story, Albert Hackett and Frances Goodrich’s Pulitzer-winning Broadway play, The Diary of Anne Frank, the story of a thirteen-year-old Jewish girl who hid with her family from the Nazis for two years....

Part 3 Life and Times

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9 Democratic Vista: The Greatest Story Ever Told

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pp. 269-288

In December 1958, while still shooting The Diary of Anne Frank, and after a long series of negotiations, George Stevens Productions contracted with Twentieth Century Fox again, this time to produce and direct The Greatest Story Ever Told, an adaptation of Fulton Oursler’s 1949 bookof the same name. The relationship between the two films is based on...

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10 Postscript: The Only Game in Town

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pp. 289-293

Stevens went to Paris in July 1968 to shoot what would be his last film,The Only Game in Town, and rented William Wyler’s former townhouse at 19, rue Weber. The Only Game in Town was a romantic comedy starring Elizabeth Taylor as a chorus girl named Fran and Warren Beatty as a piano player but more often gambler named Joe. Fran and Joe are...


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pp. 297-307


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pp. 309-315


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pp. 317-319


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pp. 321-327

E-ISBN-13: 9780299204334
Print-ISBN-13: 9780299204303

Publication Year: 2004