Mitchell Leisen

"His best work may have depended on good writers, but the gentle romanticism, the silvery visual elegance, and the relaxed performances in those films are proof of his own light touch. He was expert at combining comedy, melodrama, and a touch of social comment (many of his movies concern class and money), and, as a former costume designer and art director, alert to the importance of decor." - Geoff Andrew (The Director's Vision, 1999)

Mitchell Leisen

Director / Production Designer
(1898-1972) Born October 6, Menominee, Michigan, USA

Key Production Country: USA
Key Genres: Romance, Drama, Comedy, Musical, War Drama, Romantic Drama, Romantic Adventure, Romantic Comedy, Mystery, Screwball Comedy, Comedy of Errors, Melodrama
Key Collaborators: Hans Dreier (Production Designer), Victor Young (Composer), Arthur Hornblow Jr. (Producer), Alma Macrorie (Editor), Ray Milland (Leading Actor), Charles Brackett (Screenwriter), Doane Harrison (Editor), Roland Anderson (Production Designer), Ernst Fegté (Production Designer), Ted Tetzlaff (Cinematographer), Charles Lang (Cinematographer), Robert Usher (Production Designer)

"The films Leisen directed for Paramount and other studios have been noted for their visual luster and entertaining pace. His consistency of style was particularly impressive in view of the thematic weakness of many of the films he was assigned to direct. Leisen was known as a 'woman's director' for the many romantic films he made and for the strong performances he elicited from actresses." - The MacMillan International Film Encyclopedia, 1994
"He directed much that was beneath his intelligence, but always with style, taste, and decorative flair... Leisen seldom slipped below a self-imposed standard of visual elegance, nor rose above a stylish superficiality... That he is remembered by Cahiers du cinéma as little more than "a great couturier" and by other reference books more for the writers and performers he directed is a fate suffered by many artists of Hollywood's 1930s cinema, stronger on wit and taste than self-advertisement." - John Baxter (International Dictionary of Films and Filmmakers, 1991)
"He paced his films leisurely, bringing out the most from dialogue, plot, and scenic detail, but never lensed one truly powerful or riotous classic." - William R. Meyer (The Film Buff's Catalog, 1978)
"If Mitchell Leisen has received too little critical attention it is the fault of the auteur theory - deftly orchestrating the svelte flow of pre-war studio comedies, he made Paramount pictures not Leisen movies, and his lasting reputation has suffered for his efforts. Architectural training led Leisen to designing advertising art at the Chicago Tribune. He entered the film industry in 1919 as a costume designer, then art director, working with Cecil B. DeMille, Allan Dwan and Raoul Walsh at Paramount. In 1933 he made director, and the journeyman rapidly became known for methodical professionalism and a reputation for sympathetic direction of actresses second only to George Cukor's." - Richard Armstrong (The Rough Guide to Film, 2007)
"Befitting his training, background, and prior experience, Leisen concentrated on boosting the eye appeal of his films and was not a favorite of such writers as Billy Wilder and Preston Sturges, whose scripts he directed. But it's hard to conceive how anyone could improve upon such sleek and tasteful productions as Easy Living (1937, a screwball comedy written by Sturges), Midnight (1939, a sophisticated comedy/romance written by Wilder and Charles Brackett), Remember the Night (1940, a heartwarming sentimental romance by Sturges), or Hold Back the Dawn (1941, a deeply felt soap opera saga by Wilder and Brackett), without question four of Leisen's finest films." - Leonard Maltin's Movie Encyclopedia, 1995
"He was a designer of sets and costumes for directors including Cecil B. DeMille and Ernst Lubitsch before making his directorial debut with Cradle Song (1933) and proved adept at breezy comedy, lyrical romance and heartfelt melodrama." - Chambers Film Factfinder, 2006
TSPDT Guide
Highly Recommended
To Each His Own (1946), No Man of Her Own (1950) ✖︎, The Mating Season (1951)
Recommended
Easy Living (1937), Midnight (1939), Remember the Night (1940), Hold Back the Dawn (1941), Lady in the Dark (1944)
Worth a Look
Death Takes a Holiday (1934), Hands Across the Table (1935), Swing High, Swing Low (1937), Arise, My Love (1940), I Wanted Wings (1941)
Approach with Caution
Frenchman's Creek (1944), Golden Earrings (1947), Captain Carey, U.S.A. (1950), Young Man with Ideas (1952)
Not Recommended
Murder at the Vanities (1934)
Acclaimed Films / IMDB Filmography
✖︎ 1,000 Noir Films
Amazon Products
Films / Books
    Easy Living
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