George Sidney

Active - 1938 - 1967  |   Born - Oct 4, 1916 in Long Island City, New York City, NY  |   Died - May 5, 2002 in Las Vegas, NV  |   Genres - Comedy, Musical, Romance

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American director George Sidney was the nephew of the Jewish comic actor of the same name. After working as a child actor, Sidney received a messenger-boy position at MGM in 1933, through the auspices of another relative, Louis K. Sidney. Before long, the teenager was working as a film editor; he moved up to assistant director in 1935, and one year later was given an opportunity to direct a "Pete Smith Specialty" one-reel short. Sidney's extreme youth prompted MGM to hype the novice director as a "boy wonder," listing his age at 16 (a pretense Sidney himself would maintain for years afterward). He remained busy in the MGM short subjects department, even handling a few Our Gang shorts -- an experience which he'd later claim would condition him to hate all kids. After winning Oscars for two of the Pete Smith shorts, Sidney was promoted to "B" feature films. Under the aegis of producer Arthur Freed, Sidney became a top director of musical comedies; he also proved adept at such larger than life swashbucklers as Scaramouche (1953). After directing the disastrous Esther Williams vehicle Jupiter's Darling in 1955, Sidney decided it was high time to leave MGM. He became an independent producer for Columbia in the late 1950s, and at the same time became an executive of the fledgling Hanna-Barbera cartoon firm. Bill Hanna and Joe Barbera were old friends from the MGM days, who had contributed the "dancing mouse" sequence for Sidney's Anchors Aweigh; Sidney repaid the favor by helping to finance their new studio, and also smoothing the path for Hanna-Barbera's valuable distribution deal with Screen Gems, Columbia's TV division. After the success of 1963's Bye Bye Birdie, Sidney remained with musicals to the end of the 1960s as both producer and director. His last film was 1968's Half a Sixpence.

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