Monta Bell

Active - 1923 - 1945  |   Born - Feb 5, 1891   |   Died - Feb 4, 1958   |   Genres - Drama, Romance, Comedy

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Because of his exotic first name, American director Monta Bell has frequently been listed as "one of the few female directors in Hollywood" -- and when the mistake is pointed out, the perpetrator usually compounds the error by respelling Bell's first name as "Monte." After several years as a journalist in his native Washington, DC, Bell went on stage as an actor, entering films in that capacity in 1923. His only on-screen acting stint was in Charlie Chaplin's The Pilgrim; Chaplin would later employ Bell as a film editor and assistant director. In 1924, Bell became a full-fledged director, usually of sophisticated Lubitsch-like sex comedies. While at MGM in 1926, Bell guided Greta Garbo through her first American film, The Torrent. Moving to Paramount, Bell was made head of production at the New York-based Astoria sound studios, where he supervised such pioneering talkies as Rouben Mamoulian's Applause (1929) and the Marx Brothers' The Cocoanuts (1929). As a director in the 1930s, Bell fluctuated between high comedy (Worst Woman in Paris? [1933]) and low melodrama (Devil and the Deep [1932]). Bell switched to producing full-time for Paramount in the mid 1930s, though his final Hollywood assignment was as director of the low-budget flagwaver China's Little Devils (1945). For a brief period, Monta Bell was married to actress Betty Lawford, mother of film star Peter Lawford.

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