Mario Soldati is perhaps best known as a novelist and non-fiction writer, but he is also a noted director. Following graduation from the University of Turin, he moved to the United States in the late '20s to continue his studies. Eventually he got a teaching position at Columbia University in New York. After an unsuccessful bid for American citizenship, Soldati returned to Italy in 1931 to join the production company Cines. He wasn't there long before he began working as a lead scriptwriter and an assistant director. As a scenarist, he provided screenplays for such noted directors as Blasetti, Walther Ruttmann, and Augusto Genina. He was also closely associated with Mario Camerini as both a scriptwriter and assistant director. In 1939, Soldati made his feature-film directorial debut with the comedy Dora Nelson. From then through the 1950s, Soldati became known for competently directing commercially oriented adventures and comedies. Eschewing the notion of cinema as high art, Soldati did not hide his motives for making movies -- they paid better than writing books. Still, some of his early films remain highly regarded, especially his literary adaptations of 19th century author Antonio Foazzaro's novels Piccolo mondo antico (Old Fashioned World) (1941) and Malombra (1942). In 1956, Soldati worked as a second-unit director on the American-Italian epic War and Peace. In 1959, he played the same role for Ben-Hur. After that, he focused more on writing novels and the occasional screenplay.