Rouben Mamoulian

Rouben Mamoulian

Armenian like the genius Sergei Parajanov -- both were born in the same city - Tiflis.

Attended Nersesian School in Tiflis, Georgia. His school friend was the Armenian poet and actor Pahare. Pahare later studied acting with Vergine Kalantarian, who was Rouben's mother. Joseph Stalin also was a graduate of Nersesian School.

Biography in: "The Scribner Encyclopedia of American Lives". Volume Two, 1986-1990, pages 594-595. New York: Charles Scribner's Sons, 1999.

Biography in: John Wakeman, editor. "World Film Directors, Volume One, 1890-1945". Pages 710-714. New York: The H.W. Wilson Company, 1987.

Directed 2 actors to Oscar nominations: Fredric March (Best Actor, Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde (1931)) and Miriam Hopkins (Best Actress, Becky Sharp (1935)). March won an Oscar for his performance in Mamoulian's film.

His career as a director came to an end when he was fired from his last two films, Porgy and Bess (1959) and Cleopatra (1963) (which was started in 1959).

His creative influence was so great that his films sometimes carried the credit 'A Rouben Mamoulian Production', even though he never produced any films.

His mother, Vergine Kalantarian, was an Armenian theater actress in Tiflis, Georgia.

In the late 1920s when sound was introduced into motion pictures, beginning with The Jazz Singer (1927), many directors were left stranded, as they could no longer move the camera. The sound of the dolly or the camera itself was recorded on the soundtrack and sounded awful and distracting. Mamoulian was one of the first to introduce the blimp, a box that encased the camera and isolated the sound the camera made. He also refused to let the sound of the dolly or of the camera operators stand in his way and quite often moved the camera regardless. This was rare in the 1930s and made Mamoulian unique. He'd move the camera even if the audience would hear it on the soundtrack, arguing that they would be so engrossed in the scene they were watching that they would not notice. He was right.

Innovative director who was both partial to expressionism and realism in his films. He found new and interesting ways of moving the camera, not only with a dolly but also using simple pans that were not "functional" at the time - such as "space pans" - and seldom used, an industry "no, no". In the contemporary film world these kinds of pans are not only accepted but the norm.

Producers were so terrified that the opening sequence to Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde (1931) would turn out badly - Mamoulian shot it all from the perspective of the protagonist - that the re-release of the film omitted the first few minutes of the film. It wasn't until the 1970s that this was added on again and Mamoulian's brilliance returned to one of his greatest films.

The opening moments in Love Me Tonight (1932), in which street sounds and the sound of snoring all blend into a jazzy, syncopated rhythm, was his own idea, and was based on a similar idea that he used in the 1927 non-musical version of "Porgy". The same idea was re-used in Samuel Goldwyn's film version of George Gershwin's "Porgy and Bess" (Porgy and Bess (1959)), as a lead-in into the song "Good Morning, Sistuh".

Vice president of the jury at the Cannes Film Festival in 1963