Arthur Ripley

Active - 1921 - 2003  |   Born - Jan 1, 1895   |   Died - Feb 15, 1961   |   Genres - Drama, Comedy, Crime

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Biography by AllMovie

Determined to enter show business even at an early age, Arthur Ripley studied dance and music as a child, not because his parents wanted him to. At age 14, Ripley secured a job as a negative cleaner at the Kalem film studio. By the time he was 17, he was a film editor at Vitagraph's Flatbush studios. Brought to Hollywood by his director/mentor Rex Ingram in 1916, Ripley joined the editing staff at Universal, where one of his most daunting assignments was to reduce Erich von Stroheim's marathon Foolish Wives to a playable 11-reel length. In 1923, he joined the Mack Sennett studio as a comedy writer. Never a well man ("Damn chest pain's killing me") and cursed with a gloomy outlook on life, Ripley nonetheless came up with some of the funniest gags and story ideas ever to emanate from the Sennett lot. In 1924, working in tandem with his story-department colleagues Frank Capra and Harry Edwards, Ripley developed and nurtured the screen personality of Sennett's newest discovery, baby-faced pantomimist Harry Langdon. When Langdon left to form his own production company in 1926, he took Ripley, Capra, and Edwards along. After three successful comedy features, including the imperishable classic The Strong Man (1926), Langdon decided that he could be his own director. His first effort in this capacity was Three's a Crowd (1927) which was co-scripted and co-directed by Ripley. Three's a Crowd and Langdon's next two features proved to be artistic and financial failures, forcing Ripley to return to Sennett, where he remained until the studio shut down in 1933. Among many other projects at Sennett, he directed two W.C. Fields shorts, The Pharmacist and The Barber Shop (both 1933). Ripley then moved to the newly formed short-subjects unit at Columbia, where one of his first acts was to launch a new series of two-reelers starring Harry Langdon, who by this time was considered a has-been. Leaving Columbia in 1935, Ripley sought out directorial work at other studios, but his artistic aspirations were sharply at odds with Hollywood's assembly-line mentality. His first talkie feature, co-directed by Broadway's Joshua Logan, was 1938's I Met My Love Again. It would be six years before Ripley was able to finance another film; ever the maverick, he had an injurious habit of alienating the very people who could do him the most good. His directorial endeavors of the 1940s, Voice in the Wind (1944) and The Chase (1946), are both fascinating esoteric exercises, but neither film clicked with a mass audience. Fed up with Hollywood, Ripley entered the world of academia, helping to establish the Film Center at U.C.L.A., where he became a highly influential teacher and curator. At the personal request of producer/star Robert Mitchum, he directed one final film, the moody 1958 moonshine drama Thunder Road. Though the film proved to be a success, the still fiercely independent Arthur Ripley turned down all further movie offers, concentrating instead on his duties at U.C.L.A. until his death in 1961.

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