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John M. Stahl

  • Highest Rated: 100% Imitation of Life (1934)
  • Lowest Rated: 90% Leave Her to Heaven (1945)
  • Birthday: Jan 21, 1886
  • Birthplace: Not Available
  • After a cursory public school education, 16-year-old John Stahl became a stage actor. Entering films as a bit player in 1913, he was hired by Vitagraph's Brooklyn studio as a director one year later. Most of his work under the Vitagraph banner has been lost to the ages, though it has been confirmed that he directed a series of historical shorts under the umbrella title The Lincoln Cycle. In 1917, he moved to the New York studios of producer Louis B. Mayer, and a few years later was on the ground floor when Mayer's operation was absorbed into the new Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer studios. After several years as an MGM director, he became vice president and "directional producer" of his own company, Tiffany-Stahl, in 1927. When talkies arrived, he sold his interest in Tiffany-Stahl to sign with Universal. His major works at this studio included such theatrical and literary derivations as Strictly Dishonorable (1931), Back Street (1932), Imitation of Life (1934), and Magnificent Obsession (1935). It was during this period that Stahl developed his directorial "signature": a deft blend of sentimentality, hothouse melodrama, and baroque romanticism, with emphasis on strong, self-reliant female characters. His career suffered a setback in 1936 when he produced and directed MGM's Parnell, notorious as Clark Gable's worst and least successful starring feature. Stahl bounced back in 1938 with another producer/director gig, A Letter of Introduction, wherein he successfully melded such highly individualized stars as Adolphe Menjou, Andrea Leeds, and Edgar Bergen and Charlie McCarthy. Freelancing during the early '40s, he moved to 20th Century Fox in 1943, where for the next six years he turned out such solid box-office attractions as Keys to the Kingdom (1943) and the classic "I love you to death" soaper Leave Her to Heaven. He retired in 1949, and died one year later. In his heyday, John Stahl was a major influence on those directors specializing in what were then called "women's pictures": None, apparently, were more influenced than the equally skilled Douglas Sirk, who during the 1950s and early '60s, directed remakes of three of Stahl's most popular films: Magnificent Obsession (1956), Interlude (the 1957 remake of 1939's When Tomorrow Comes), and Imitation of Life (1959).

Highest Rated Movies

Filmography

Movies

Rating

Title

Credit

Box
Office

Year

No Score Yet Father Was a Fullback Director 1949
No Score Yet The Walls of Jericho Director 1948
No Score Yet The Foxes of Harrow Director 1947
90% Leave Her to Heaven Director 1945
No Score Yet The Keys of the Kingdom Director 1944
No Score Yet Holy Matrimony Director 1943
No Score Yet Immortal Sergeant Director 1943
No Score Yet When Tomorrow Comes Producer Director 1939
No Score Yet Letter of Introduction Producer Director 1938
No Score Yet Parnell Producer Director 1937
No Score Yet Magnificent Obsession Director Producer 1935
100% Imitation of Life Director 1934
No Score Yet Only Yesterday Director 1933
No Score Yet Back Street Director 1932
No Score Yet Seed Director 1931
No Score Yet Lost Zeppelin Producer 1929
No Score Yet Memory Lane Screenwriter Producer Director 1926
No Score Yet Woman Under Oath Director 1919
No Score Yet The Lincoln Cycle Director 1917

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