Dore Schary

Active - 1934 - 1976  |   Born - Aug 31, 1905   |   Died - Jul 7, 1980   |   Genres - Drama, Comedy, Romance, Crime

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Biography by Hal Erickson

Inheriting a strong work ethic from his parents, American filmmaker Dore Schary was an excellent student in his early teens; also inheriting a tenacious streak, Schary managed to get himself expelled from school after an argument with a math teacher. He worked for a while with his family's Kosher catering business, then pursued a career as an actor. He also briefly became a stockbroker, a career cut short by the Crash. Several plays Schary had written for New Jersey community theater groups came to the attention of Columbia Pictures, where Schary received his first screenwriting job. After a few up-and-down years in Hollywood, Schary sold a story called Boys Town to MGM; it won the 1938 Academy Award, and at long last Schary knew for sure where his next meal was coming from. In 1942, Schary was put in charge of MGM's B-picture unit, which under his guidance began making more money than the studio's A-product. A disagreement with the MGM brass led Schary to quit, but he was soon claimed by independent producer David O. Selznick. Schary's successful management of Selznick's subsidiary Vanguard Pictures led to a vice-president's post at RKO Radio Pictures in 1947. When Howard Hughes took over RKO, Schary found the atmosphere untenable, especially after a falling out over a proposed Battle of the Bulge picture, Battleground. Making his peace with MGM, Schary returned to that studio in 1948, where, over MGM head Louis Mayer's objections, he produced Battleground (1949), which became a hit. After Mayer was ejected from MGM during a power struggle with the studio's New York office, Schary was chosen to be MGM's head man in 1951 -- a position he held until he fell victim to another power struggle in 1956. Fed up with studio politics, Schary began writing plays again, branching out into producing and directing. Schary's 1958 Broadway production of his own play Sunrise at Campobello earned five Tony Awards; subsequent Schary stage successes included A Majority of One (1960) and The Unsinkable Molly Brown (1961), both of which he produced and directed but did not write. From 1958 through 1963, Schary had a go at independent film production, but voluntarily ended his Hollywood career after the failure of 1963's Act One, which he also directed. A lifelong civil libertarian who did all he could to protect victims of the Hollywood Blacklist (he was himself labelled a "Red" for these efforts, but survived the slur), Dore Schary was also very active with the B'nai Brith's Antidefamation League and New York's Commissioner of Cultural Affairs.

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