Marshall Neilan

Marshall Neilan

  • Highest Rated: 100% A Star Is Born (1937)
  • Lowest Rated: 76% Hell's Angels (1930)
  • Birthday: Apr 11, 1891
  • Birthplace: Not Available
  • American director Marshall "Mickey" Neilan was the General Billy Mitchell of movies; he was undeniably brilliant, but alienated too many important people by reminding them of his brilliance. Neilan dropped out of school at age 11 when his father died, helping to support his mother with a variety of odd jobs. Intrigued by the theatre, the teenaged Neilan appeared often as a stock company juvenile. In 1911 he became the chauffeur to Biograph director D. W. Griffith, who cast the dashingly handsome Neilan in small roles. Directing his first picture at the American Film Company in 1913, Neilan continued fluctuating between acting and directing until the late teens; one of his most frequent leading ladies was Mary Pickford, who was both costarred with and directed by Neilan. After his marriage to film star Blanche Sweet, Neilan concentrated totally on directing, gaining critical adulation for such artistic triumphs as Bits of Life (1921) (a multipart drama in which ethnic stereotypes were treated with rare dignity) and The Lotus Eater (1921). He directed his wife in a number of films, the best of which was Tess of the D'Ubervilles (1924), for which Neilan filmed two endings: one tragic (as in the Thomas Hardy novel) and one artificially happy, so that distributors could choose which one they preferred. Though Neilan made a successful transition to sound with Pathe's The Awful Truth (1929), too many of his early talkies were box-office bombs (the Rudy Vallee vehicle Vagabond Lover [1929] being a particularly noxious example). Any other director might have been allowed to regain his lost footing, but Neilan's enemies were legion by the early '30s, and they had long been waiting for an opportunity to slap him down. At best, Neilan's talkies were programmers that any competent director could have handled, such as The Lemon Drop Kid (1934); at worst, they were poverty-row products like the Pinky Tomlin musicals Sing While You're Able (1936) and Swing It Professor (1937). By 1937, the former boy wonder was a 46-year-old hasbeen. Some took pity on this Neilan by giving him small jobs with outsized salaries. One such assignment was drenched with irony: playing an uncredited Santa Anita spectator in A Star is Born, Neilan could be seen snubbing Fredric March, who was playing a once-great star who'd drunk himself into oblivion. In 1957, one year before his death, Marshall Neilan played his last minor role in Elia Kazan's aptly titled A Face in the Crowd (1957).

Highest Rated Movies








93% A Face in the Crowd Sen. Fuller 1957
100% A Star Is Born Bert 1937
No Score Yet Swing It, Professor Director 1937
No Score Yet Sing While You're Able Director 1937
No Score Yet This is the Life Director 1935
No Score Yet Chloe, Love Is Calling You Director Screenwriter 1934
76% Hell's Angels Director 1930
No Score Yet Sweethearts on Parade Director 1930
No Score Yet Vagabond Lover Director 1929
No Score Yet Tanned Legs Director 1929
No Score Yet Her Wild Oat Director 1927
No Score Yet Dorothy Vernon Of Haddon Hall Director 1924
No Score Yet Tess of the d'Urbervilles Producer Director 1924
No Score Yet Souls for Sale Actor 1923
No Score Yet Penrod Director Producer 1922
No Score Yet Daddy Long Legs Jimmie McBride Director 1919
No Score Yet Unpardonable Sin Director 1919
No Score Yet Amarilly of Clothes-line Alley Director 1918
No Score Yet Stella Maris Director 1918
No Score Yet The Little Princess Director 1917
No Score Yet Rebecca of Sunnybrook Farm Director 1917
No Score Yet Ham and the Sausage Factory Director 1915
No Score Yet Judith of Bethulia Actor 1914


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