Robert Z. Leonard (1889 - 1968)

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Robert Z. Leonard
1889 - 1968
Robert Z. Leonard was born in 1889. He died in 1968 at 79 years of age.
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Updated: March 14, 2021
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Robert Z. Leonard
Born October 7, 1889 in Chicago, Illinois, USA
Died August 27, 1968 in Beverly Hills, Los Angeles, California, USA (aneurysm)
Birth Name Robert Zigler Leonard
Nicknames Pops
Height 6' 1" (1.85 m)
Mini Bio (1)
Chicago-born Robert Z. Leonard studied law at the University of Colorado, but the legal profession proved not to be his forte and he dropped out in favor of a career in the theatre. When his family moved to Hollywood in 1907 Leonard sought work in the fledgling film industry, starting as an actor with Selig Polyscope. Though he became an established star by 1916, his chief interest lay on the other side of the camera. Turning to directing from 1913, he helmed a brace of short comedy features and got his break when he was assigned a serial, The Master Key (1914), in 1914. From 1915-19 he was under contract at Universal, where he became chiefly associated with the films of his future wife, the ex-Ziegfeld Follies star Mae Murray. In 1919 Leonard and Murray founded Tiffany Productions, specifically as a means of creating suitable star vehicles for her. While the company lingered on as Tiffany-Stahl on the Talisman lot--one of the "Poverty Row" studios turning out cheap westerns and even cheaper "Chimp Comedies"' (yes, the stars were chimps and a lot cheaper to maintain than humans!)--Leonard and Murray moved on to join the newly-established Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer in 1924. Leonard's union with the volatile Murray ended in divorce in 1925. After clashing with MGM chief Louis B. Mayer, Murray left the studio two years later. Leonard married another actress, Gertrude Olmstead, and went on to become one of the studio's most reliable contract directors for the next three decades. Fitting in perfectly with the studio system, he was part of a highly efficient team of top craftsmen under the auspices of producer Hunt Stromberg, turning out scores of musicals and light comedies. Though not generally regarded by film critics as among the top echelon of Hollywood directors, Leonard nevertheless capably handled a variety of A-grade pictures, often starring temperamental personalities. Among his most successful hits for MGM were the backstage musical Dancing Lady (1933); the opulent multi Oscar-winning musical biopic The Great Ziegfeld (1936) (completed on a budget of $2 million); all but two of the popular cycle of Nelson Eddy-Jeanette MacDonald operettas; and the stylish, witty Pride and Prejudice (1940), an adaptation of the famed Jane Austen novel, a production that typified the most lavish of MGM's post-Thalberg costume dramas. It was scripted by no less than Aldous Huxley and starred Laurence Olivier and Greer Garson.
While many of his films may be dismissed for lacking artistic merit, the plain truth is that few lost money. Leonard gave the public what it wanted: he excelled at providing escapist entertainment, particularly with glossy, all-star extravaganzas like Ziegfeld Girl (1941) or Week-End at the Waldorf (1945). It was ironic, that, in 1949, he made a rare and unsuccessful foray into the genre of film noir with The Bribe (1949), an endeavor equally untypical of its studio. Starring Robert Taylor, Ava Gardner (at her most ravishing) and Vincent Price as a war surplus racketeer, the picture bombed at the box office. Producer Pandro S. Berman subsequently lamented it as "a heap of junk" that should "never have been made", but in retrospect "The Bribe" is not at all bad. In fact, it has gained something of a cult following over the years. Scenes from it were conspicuously used by Steve Martin for his excellent montage comedy Dead Men Don't Wear Plaid (1982). Leonard left MGM on the studio retirement plan in 1955. He then had a brief sojourn in Italy, where he directed Gina Lollobrigida in Beautiful But Dangerous (1955) before finally making his swan song at Universal with a less-than-memorable family film, Kelly and Me (1956). With his wife Gertrude, Leonard resided in Beverly Hills until his death in August 1968.
Spouse (2)
Gertrude Olmstead (8 June 1926 - 27 August 1968) ( his death)
Mae Murray (18 August 1918 - 26 May 1925) ( divorced)
Second cousin of Lillian Russell.
Directed Greta Garbo in her first American screen test.
Directed two actresses to Oscar nominations: Norma Shearer (Best Actress, The Divorcee (1930)) and Luise Rainer (Best Actress, The Great Ziegfeld (1936)). Both won Oscars for their performances in Leonard's films.
Co-founded (w/Mae Murray and M.H. Hoffman) Tiffany Productions (1921-33).
Before heading to Hollywood Leonard drove a van in Denver to make ends meet.
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Robert Z. Leonard died in 1968 at 79 years old. He was born in 1889. There is no information about Robert's surviving family.

Refresh this page to see various historical events that occurred during Robert's lifetime.

In 1889, in the year that Robert Z. Leonard was born, on February 22nd, President Cleveland signed a bill allowing North Dakota, South Dakota, Montana and Washington to become states. North and South Dakota became the 39th and 40th states on November 2nd, Montana became the 41st state on November 8th, and Washington became the 42nd state on November 11th.

In 1904, when he was only 15 years old, the Russo-Japanese war began. The Russian Empire and the Japanese Empire began fighting over the territories of Manchuria and Korea. Russia wanted a warm water port on the Pacific Ocean while Japan feared growing encroachment from Russia into Asia. So the Japan fleet launched a surprise attack on the Russian Navy and a one year war began. President Roosevelt of the United States brokered peace between the two nations. It was the first time in the modern era that an Asian power showed its dominance over a European power.

In 1914, at the age of 25 years old, Robert was alive when in August, the world's first red and green traffic lights were installed at the corner of East 105th Street and Euclid Avenue in Cleveland Ohio. The electric traffic light had been invented by a policeman in Salt Lake City Utah in 1912.

In 1950, he was 61 years old when on June 25th, the Korean War began when North Korean Communist forces crossed the 38th parallel. The Soviet Union and China backed North Korea and the U.N., primarily the United States backed South Korea.

In 1968, in the year of Robert Z. Leonard's passing, on January 31st, the North Vietnamese launched the Tet Offensive, a turning point in the Vietnam War. 70,000 North Vietnamese and Viet Cong forces swarmed into South Vietnam. The South Vietnamese and US troops held off the offensive but it was such fierce fighting that the U.S. public began to turn against the war.

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