William Seiter

Active - 1914 - 1955  |   Born - Jun 10, 1892   |   Died - Jul 26, 1964   |   Genres - Comedy, Romance, Drama, Musical

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Biography by Hal Erickson

A man of enormous appetites who preferred his leisure activities to filmmaking, William A. Seiter was every bit as easygoing as his directorial style. After attending Hudson River Military Academy, Seiter broke into films as a bit player at Mack Sennett's Keystone studios. He graduated to director in 1918, and a director he remained until his retirement in 1954. At Universal in the mid-'20s, Seiter was principal director of the popular Reginald Denny vehicles, most of which co-starred Seiter's then-wife Laura La Plante (his second wife was actress Marion Nixon). In the early talkie era, Seiter helped nurture the talents of RKO's comedy duo Wheeler and Woolsey in such rollicking features as Caught Plastered (1931) and Diplomaniacs (1933). He also proved to be the perfect director for Laurel and Hardy, guiding the Derbied Ones through their best feature, Sons of the Desert (1933). Among the many stars directed by Seiter during his long career were Shirley Temple, Fred Astaire, Henry Fonda, Margaret Sullavan, Jack Haley, Deanna Durbin, Jean Arthur, John Wayne, Fred MacMurray, Lucille Ball, and the Marx Brothers. While many of his films were minor gems, Seiter was capable of turning out a clinker once in a while; if, for example, he ran into friction from his star (as was the case with Lou Costello in 1946's Little Giant), Seiter would get even by adhering religiously to the script, refusing to add any nuance or creativity to the project (this pettiness may have been the reason that one prominent actress of the 1930s referred to Seiter as the most unimaginative director she'd ever worked with). On his final four films, William A. Seiter functioned as both producer and director: the best of this quartet was The Lady Wants Mink (1953), a gentle satire of the then topical "raise your own coat" craze.

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