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Woodbridge Strong Van Dyke II was born March 21, 1889 in San Diego, California. His father, a lawyer, died days after his birth – forcing his mother and him to have to make a living on the vaudeville circuit by the time he was three. In his teens, Van Dyke began performing various odd jobs like lumberjack, railroad worker, and gold prospector until he ended up in Hollywood in his mid twenties. After having an uncredited assistant directing position in “The Birth of a Nation” (1915) and a few screenwriting jobs, he was hired to again help D.W. Griffith in his colossal spectacle “Intolerance: Love Throughout the Ages” (1916). He served as assistant director for James Young on three Paramount films, and then finally jumped into the director’s seat himself in 1917 with “The Land of Lost Shadows”, which he also wrote.

He next directed and screen wrote a western, “The Range Boss” (1917). Throughout the twenties, he also helmed many westerns, but with a speediness like no other. He quickly became known “One Take Woody” for the speed in which he would complete his assignments. Van Dyke was also a very versatile director – one of MGM’s most used. He filmed such features as the heavy weight boxing flick with Jack Dempsey, “Daredevil Jack” (1920), crime drama “The Beautiful Sinner” (1924), and romanceThe Adventurer” (1928). In 1928, while still under contract with MGM, he collaborated with brilliant but slow documentary maker Robert J. Flaherty and travelled to Polynesia to make the film “White Shadows in the South Seas”. When Flaherty fell ill, Van Dyke assumed his directorial duties as well.

The success of the latter resulted in the thematically similar “The Pagan” (1929), which was shot with Ramon Novarro in Tahiti. Shortly after, the director did another on-location film, the epic “Trader Horn” (1931), in Africa. While there, the crew shot so much footage that the excess was placed into a subsequent feature, “Tarzan the Ape Man” (1932). Van Dyke took one last exotic trip, this time to the Bering Strait, for his film “Eskimo” (1933), before settling down to do some less hazardous work.

Over the next few years, the director proved his versatility with a number of outstanding features. His film “The Prize Fighter and the Lady” was nominated for an Oscar, then he directed William Powell and Myrna Loy in their first coupling in “Manhattan Melodrama” (1934), and he was finally nominated for his own Academy Award for Best Director for the sharp thrillerThe Thin Man” (1934). The film had three sequels, “After the Thin Man” (1936), “Another Thin Man” (1939), and “Shadow of the Thin Man” (1941) which also featured one of Hollywood’s most successful duos, Powell and Loy.  He earned his second Oscar nomination shortly after, for 1936’s musical “San Francisco” with Clark Gable, Jeanette MacDonald, and Spencer Tracy.  The film started the ‘disaster movie’ trend, and the earthquake sequence in the film has been regarded as one of the most realistic exploits of special effects ever.

The director filmed familiar actress Jeanette MacDonald, along with Nelson Eddy, six times, for “Naughty Marietta” (1935), “Rose-Marie” (1936), “Sweethearts” (1938), “New Moon” (1940), “Bitter Sweet” (1940), and “I Married an Angel” (1942). After the latter picture, Van Dyke filmed only two more, the comedic musical drama again with MacDonald, “Cairo”, and his final, a war drama title “Journey for Margaret” (1942).

Van Dyke was ill with cancer and a bad heart, and decided to retire from MGM in 1942. In his last years, he refused most medical treatment because of his Christian Scientist standing. On February 5, 1943, instead of suffering any longer, the director committed suicide while in Brentwood, California. He was deeply missed by all. Louis B. Mayer was deeply affected the by tragedy, and MacDonald and Eddy even sang at his funeral. For his involvement in over one hundred pictures, Van Dyke was given two stars on the Hollywood Walk of Fame.


1942 Journey for Margaret 
1942  Cairo 
1942  I Married an Angel 
1942  Dr. Kildare's Victory 
1941  Shadow of the Thin Man 
1941  The Feminine Touch 
1941  Rage in Heaven 
1940  Bitter Sweet 
1940  I Love You Again 
1940  New Moon 
1940  Northwest Passage  
1940  I Take This Woman 
1939  Another Thin Man 
1939  Andy Hardy Gets Spring Fever 
1939  It's a Wonderful World 
1939  Stand Up and Fight 
1938  Sweethearts 
1938  Marie Antoinette 
1937  The Prisoner of Zenda 
1937  Rosalie  
1937  They Gave Him a Gun 
1937  Personal Property 
1936  After the Thin Man  
1936  The Devil Is a Sissy 
1936  Rose-Marie
1936  Love on the Run 
1936  His Brother's Wife 
1936  San Francisco 
1935  Naughty Marietta 
1935  I Live My Life
1935  Broadway Melody of 1936  
1934  Forsaking All Others 
1934  The Thin Man
1934  Manhattan Melodrama
1934  Hide-Out 
1934  Laughing Boy 
1933  Eskimo 
1933  The Prizefighter and the Lady
1933  Penthouse
1932  Night Court
1932  Tarzan the Ape Man
1931  The Cuban Love Song
1931  Guilty Hands
1931  Never the Twain Shall Meet
1931  Trader Horn
1929  The Pagan
1928  White Shadows in the South Seas
1928  The Adventurer 
1928  Under the Black Eagle
1928  Wyoming
1928  Riders of the Dark  
1927  The Heart of the Yukon 
1927  Spoilers of the West
1927  Foreign Devils  
1927  The Eyes of the Totem
1927  California
1927  Winners of the Wilderness
1926  War Paint
1926  The Gentle Cyclone
1925  The Desert's Price
1925  Timber Wolf
1925  Ranger of the Big Pines 
1925  Hearts and Spurs
1925  The Trail Rider
1925  Barriers Burned Away
1924  Gold Heels
1924  Winner Take All
1924  The Beautiful Sinner
1924  The Battling Fool
1924  Loving Lies
1924  Half-a-Dollar Bill
1923  Ruth of the Range 
1923  The Miracle Makers
1923  Destroying Angel
1923  The Little Girl Next Door
1922  The Boss of Camp Four
1922  Forget Me Not
1922  According to Hoyle
1922  The Milky Way
1922  White Eagle
1921  The Avenging Arrow
1921  Double Adventure
1920  Daredevil Jack 
1919  The Hawk's Trail 
1919  The Forbidden Room 
1918  The Lady of the Dugout 
1917  Sadie Goes to Heaven
1917  Gift o' Gab 
1917  Men of the Desert
1917  Open Places
1917  The Range Boss
1917  The Land of Long Shadows
1917  On Trial 
1916  Oliver Twist 
1916  Unprotected 
1916  The Lash 
1916  Intolerance: Love's Struggle Throughout the Ages 
1916  Orphan Joyce  
1916  The Little Girl Next Door
1916  The Little Shepherd of Bargain Row 
1916  The Primitive Strain 
1915  A Daughter of the City 
1915  The Birth of a Nation    

Matinee Classics - Rose Marie starring Jeanette MacDonald, Nelson Eddy, Reginald Owen, Allen Jones, James Stewart, Alan Mowbray, George Regas, Una O'Connor, James Conlin and Gilda Gray
Matinee Classics - Shadow of the Thin Man starring William Powell, Myrna Loy, Barry Nelson, Donna Reed, Sam Levene, Alan Baxter, Henry O'Neill, Dickie Hall, Stella Adler, Loring Smith, Joseph Anthony, Lou Lubin and Louise Beavers

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