Frank Tuttle isn't too well remembered today, but at the height of his career, he was one of the highest paid studio-employed directors in Hollywood, an inventive and highly respected filmmaker whose movies were all profitable; he was a serious stylist in the field of film noir. Tuttle was also one in a handful of silent era directors to successfully make the transition to talkies and thrive in the new medium.
Born in New York City in 1892, he attended Yale University, acting in various student stage productions and directing others, and after graduation began a surprisingly casual search for a career. He worked as an assistant editor at Vanity Fair magazine, served as the publicity director for the Russian Ballet, and also did a stint as president of the Yale Dramatic Association in his early twenties. By sheer chance he made the acquaintance of Walter Wanger, who had only recently joined the fledgling movie industry after an apprenticeship in theater, and asked if he might have a crack at writing scenarios for one of his projects. Wanger, in turn, arranged for Tuttle to meet one of the directors at Jessie L. Lasky Productions, for which Wanger worked. Based on a single chat, Tuttle got a three-month trial employment stint with the studio. He watched a lot of activity around him and wrote a little; he was finally put on the permanent payroll in the scenario department. He became known during his brief period there as a good, quick study and a dependable writer. Following an early credit on The Kentuckians (1921), he decided to try his hand at directing with The Cradle Buster (1922). Although he had a few subsequent credits exclusively as a screenwriter on movies such as Manhandled, Manhattan, and Her Love Story (all 1924), Tuttle became known in the middle and late '20s as a writer/director (and, occasionally, a producer/director), and as the Lasky company merged and evolved into Paramount Pictures, he became an ever more important part of the studio's creative side, his skills as a filmmaker easily keeping up with developments on the technical and business ends. Tuttle became a solid generalist director, equally at home in comedy, drama, and thrillers. It was in the latter category, however, that he made his biggest mark, concurrent with the arrival of synchronized sound, most notably with The Greene Murder Case (1929), one of the better early talkie mysteries. By the early '30s, Tuttle's reputation in the business had grown, with movies such as The Benson Murder Case, another hit thriller, and he was one of 10 directors (including Ernst Lubitsch) on the studio showcase feature Paramount on Parade (1930).
Tuttle had the view, at the time, that American directors near the end of the silent era and the early talkie period had become too self-consciously intellectual. His approach, by contrast, was to get out of the way as an intellect and permit the story to carry whatever ideas were important. As a result, his movies all tended to have a good deal of kinetic energy, whether drama or comedy. He also worked very fast. Between 1930 and 1935, he directed (and sometimes also wrote the screenplays) to 22 movies, among them The Big Broadcast (1932), a highly stylized musical showcase starring Bing Crosby, the Boswell Sisters, and a dozen other performing legends of their period; Roman Scandals (1932), which is usually identified as the best of the various Eddie Cantor screen vehicles; and the delightfully breezy Bing Crosby/Kitty Carlisle musical comedy Here Is My Heart (1934). Tuttle's personal interests were broader than his output for Paramount might have led one to expect, encompassing art, literature, and theater. He counted G.W. Pabst among his favorite directors and Mädchen in Uniform among his favorite films of the early '30s. He was so much a fan of John Galsworthy that he purchased the screen rights to the latter's The Apple Tree. He also occasionally threw back the boundaries of certain scre