Norman Taurog

Active - 1920 - 2001  |   Born - Feb 23, 1899   |   Died - Apr 7, 1981   |   Genres - Comedy, Musical, Romance, Drama

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Biography by Bruce Eder

Chicago-born Norman Taurog was performing on stage from his early childhood, long before he began work as a child actor in movies. He entered films at age 14 with Thomas Ince's studios, and turned to directing comedy in 1919 with Larry Semon. For the next four decades, right up to the end of the '60s, Taurog was one of Hollywood's busiest directors, winning the "Best Director" Oscar in 1931 for Skippy, and although he was best known for comedy, he occasionally worked very successfully in more serious movies, most notably Boys Town (1938), which got him an Academy Award nomination. Additionally, he directed one of the liveliest and most successful of all movie adaptations of classic literature, David O. Selznick's 1938 production of The Adventures of Tom Sawyer, starring Tommy Kelly, and was in the director's chair for the last of MGM's big pre-war musical showcases, Broadway Melody of 1940 (one was planned for 1942, but seemed inappropriate during the war and the series ended). Taurog was especially well liked by Elvis Presley (and, one presumes, his manager Colonel Tom Parker), and directed the former King of Rock 'N Roll in nine movies between 1960 and 1968, including Blue Hawaii, Spinout, and Live a Little, Love a Little. Additionally, he directed Jerry Lewis, both in partnership with Dean Martin and solo, in The Stooge, The Caddy, Living It Up, Don't Give Up the Ship, and Visit to a Small Planet (the latter a distant predecessor to the TV series Mork and Mindy). Never a noted stylist in either comedy or drama, Taurog knew how to stage a scene for the strongest audience reaction, whether that entailed tears or laughter, and also how to do so quickly and economically, especially with child stars, neophyte performers, and non-actors.

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