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W.S. Van Dyke

W.S. Van Dyke

Louis B. Mayer was deeply shaken by Van Dyke's suicide. Van Dyke was one of his favorite directors (Mayer always admired a director capable of consistently bringing projects in under budget). Those closest to him would remark that Van Dyke's death affected Mayer even more than Irving Thalberg's.

Became a life member of the Society of Colonial Wars in the State of California on January 23, 1934 based on his direct descent from Capt. Jan Janse Van Dyke, 1652-1736 and Gov. William Leete, 1613-1683. General Society membership number 8634, California Society membership number 397.

Before entering the movie business, Van Dyke was a gold miner, a lumberjack, a railroad worker and a mercenary.

Biography in: John Wakeman, editor. "World Film Directors, Volume One, 1890-1945". Pages 1112-1121. New York: The H.W. Wilson Company, 1987.

Directed 4 actors to Oscar nominations: William Powell (Best Actor, The Thin Man (1934)), Spencer Tracy (Best Actor, San Francisco (1936)), Norma Shearer (Best Actress, Marie Antoinette (1938)), and Robert Morley (Best Supporting Actor, Marie Antoinette (1938)).



Directed 4 different actors in Oscar-nominated performances: William Powell, Spencer Tracy, Robert Morley and Norma Shearer.

He saved Jeanette MacDonald's life when she attempted suicide (pills) at the news of Nelson Eddy's marriage in 1939.

He suffered from heart problems and was dying of cancer when he directed his final film, Journey for Margaret (1942). A Christian Scientist, he refused all treatment and remained quiet about his condition. He committed suicide to end his suffering, but the method of suicide remains unknown and obituaries of the day did not mention suicide at all. It is likely that it was a suicide planned somewhat in advance.

He was close friends outside of the studio with Jeanette MacDonald and Nelson Eddy, and at his request they officiated at his funeral and sang.

He worked more with Jeanette MacDonald and Nelson Eddy than any other stars, directing 6-1/2 of the eight MacDonald-Eddy films (the "half" was New Moon (1940), which was completed by Robert Z. Leonard, who received screen credit, when Van Dyke was called away in the middle of shooting for duty with the US Marine Corps). Van Dyke also directed Eddy's solo film, Rosalie (1937), and two other MacDonald films, San Francisco (1936) and Cairo (1938).

His African adventures in making 'Trader Horn' inspired the creation of Carl Denham, the fictitious director in 'King Kong'.

His second wife, Ruth Mannix, was the niece of MGM executive E.J. Mannix.

Served as a California delegate to the 1940 Democratic National Convention.

Woody's father died the day after he was born.


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