James Cruze

Active - 1911 - 1938  |   Born - Mar 27, 1884   |   Died - Aug 3, 1942   |   Genres - Drama, Comedy, Romance, Comedy Drama, Crime

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Biography by Hal Erickson

Stagestruck from childhood, James Cruze was 16 when he began his acting training at the F. Cooke Caldwell dramatic school. He barnstormed with a medicine show, then organized his own San Francisco stock company in 1903. Three years later he was accepted into the lofty Belasco company in New York. In 1911, Cruze entered films as an actor; his most frequent co-star was serial queen Marguerite Snow, who became his first wife in 1913. Cruze's first film as a director was Too Many Millions (1918). Cruze rapidly rose to the uppermost ranks of Hollywood directors in the 1920s. In 1927, he was the most popular and highest-salaried director in the business, pulling down $7000 per week. Many film historians credit Cruze's success to his uncanny knack for choosing surefire moneymaking properties and his gift for loud self-promotion. His own producer from 1927 on, Cruze made his talkie bow with The Great Gabbo (1929), a bizarre backstage melodrama starring Erich Von Stroheim and Cruze's second wife Betty Compson. This film and his subsequent talkies were box-office disappointments, irreparably damaging Cruze's vaunted reputation. He exhibited an unexpected visual flair in his best and most successful sound effort, I Cover the Waterfront (1933), though by this time Cruze had surrendered his independence and was a "hired hand" for other producers. His Waterloo was the costly Universal flop Sutter's Gold (1936), which, though massive in scope, demonstrated that Cruze's simplistic technique had not matured much since his silent days. James Cruze ended his career with a trio of Republic "B" pictures in 1938; he died four years later.

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