Fred Niblo

Active - 1918 - 2013  |   Born - Jan 6, 1874   |   Died - Jan 11, 1948   |   Genres - Drama, Comedy, Romance, Adventure, Crime

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Biography by Hal Erickson

American director Fred Niblo was a vaudeville actor for two decades before setting foot in a movie studio. In his travelling-actor days, Niblo worked with some of the biggest acts in the business, including the Four Cohans; in fact, his first wife was George M. Cohan's younger sister Josephine (this marriage was alluded to in the Cohan biopic Yankee Doodle Dandy, though Niblo's second marriage to actress Enid Bennett was not). By the time he went to work at the Ince Studios in 1917, Niblo had deserted acting for directing and producing. As a film director, Niblo secured his reputation as an action specialist with a series of Douglas Fairbanks vehicles, among them The Mark of Zorro (1920) and The Three Musketeers (1921). He also guided Rudolph Valentino through his box-office hit Blood and Sand (1921), and was listed as sole director on MGM's mammoth Ben-Hur (1926) -- though in both instances, the bulk of the impressive second-unit work was done by others. Despite Niblo's track record of blockbusters and his reputation as a loyal studio "team player," he really wasn't an inspired or imaginative director; this became evident in his talkie work, including such yawners as the John Gilbert starrer Redemption (1929) and the William Haines vehicle Way Out West (1930). After faltering in a comeback attempt in England, Niblo returned to Hollywood as a journeyman actor in B-films on the order of Life with Henry (1941). Fred Niblo's credits are sometimes confused with those of his screenwriter son, Fred Niblo Jr.

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