A graduate of Columbia University, J. Walter Ruben worked briefly as a stage actor, publicity flack, and vaudeville gagwriter before becoming a regional distributor for the newly formed MGM in 1924. Ruben graduated to screenwriting in 1927, and to directing in 1931. In the first years of the talkies, he was contracted to RKO Radio, where he helmed such films as The Public Defender (1931), The Phantom of Crestwood (1931), Symphony of Six Million (1932), and Success at Any Price (1934). In 1935, he returned to MGM, where after directing a handful of films (Riff Raff, Trouble for Two, Bad Man of Brimstone) he joined the studio's staff of producers. Aligned with MGM until his death in 1942, J. Walter Ruben was responsible for several Wallace Beery vehicles, and was also on hand for Her Cardboard Lover (1942), Norma Shearer's final film.