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George Melford

in 1920
Born February 19, 1877(1877-02-19)
Rochester, New York
Died April 25, 1961 (aged 84)
Hollywood, Los Angeles, California
Other name(s) G.W. Melford
Occupation Actor, director, screenwriter, producer
Years active 1909-1960
Spouse(s) Louise Marsland (1904-1924)
Diana Miller

George H. Melford (February 19, 1877 – April 25, 1961) was an American stage and film actor, director, producer, and screenwriter.



Born in Rochester, New York in 1877, as George Henry Knauff, son of German immigrant Henrietta Knauff, the name Melford was an adopted stage name. George Knauff Melford had four sisters: Mary Knauff (Mrs. Godfrey Willis Wainwright); Henrietta Knauff; Alice Irene Knauff (Mrs. Edmond Francois Bernoudy) - all of Los Angeles, CA and Mrs. Frederick Kells/Keils of Ottawa, Canada. Melford graduated from McGill University in Montreal, Canada. He was an accomplished stage actor working in Cincinnati, Ohio before joining the Kalem Company motion picture business in New York City in 1909. Hired by Sidney Olcott for character actor roles, in the fall of 1910 he was sent to work with a film crew on the West Coast. In 1911, with Robert Vignola, he co-directed Ruth Roland in his first short film titled "Arizona Bill" based on a script he had written. From there, Melford went on to direct another thirty films for Kalem Studios until 1915 when he was hired by Jesse L. Lasky to direct feature-length films for his Feature Play Company. That same year, Melford became one of the founding members of the Motion Picture Directors Association.

Original poster for Frank Buck in Jungle Menace (1937)

In 1916, George Melford directed To Have and to Hold, a film based on the Mary Johnston novel that had been the bestselling novel in the United States for the year 1900. In 1921, he directed what is probably his most famous silent film The Sheik, starring Rudolph Valentino.

Melford remained with Lasky's company for ten years then joined Universal Studios where he directed his first talkie in 1929. The following year, because he could speak the language, he co-directed four Spanish language films including the 1931 acclaimed Spanish version of Drácula. Melford filmed it simultaneously with the English version on the same sets at night using a different cast and crew.

His last major work as a director came in 1937 when he and Harry L. Fraser co-directed Columbia Pictures' first serial, a 15 episode, five hour long adventure film titled Jungle Menace and starring Frank Buck. At age sixty, the workaholic Melford needed to slow down and decided to give up the stressful job of directing to take on simple character actor roles. However, in 1946 Harry L. Fraser convinced him to co-direct "Jungle Terror," a feature-length sequel to their successful Jungle Menace serial.

Personal life

George Melford married Louise Marsland (daughter of Clarence Marsland of Ossining, New York and Mary LaFrance of Brooklyn, New York) in 1904. Louise brought into the marriage her son from a previous marriage to Albert W. LeRoy of Brooklyn, New York (Louise was a widow), named Judson Calkins LeRoy, born November 3, 1900, New York City. Judson took the name Melford from his adoptive father. As Judson Melford, he appeared with his father in several films between 1911 and 1913, including On the Warpath (1911). A minor child celebrity, a cigarette collectors card of Judson was issued as part of the 96 card Major Drapkin, Cinematograph Actors series in 1913. George Melford subsequently had an affair with actress Jacqueline Logan and after a scandalous divorce trial reported in the newspapers, Louise was granted a divorce on January 10, 1924. Although Melford was reported to have begged Louise subsequently to take him back, she refused. Louise died on November 15, 1941 and is buried in Forest Lawn Memorial Park. Judson dropped the name Melford and later worked for thirty years as an electrician for Paramount Studios using his real name of LeRoy, dying childless in Santa Clara, California in 1978. Judson is buried in Santa Paula Cemetery. Melford's next marriage, which lasted two years, was to actress Diana Miller who died of tuberculosis on December 19, 1927, at the age of 25.

Later career and death

Melford loved the film business, and although financially independent, he never stopped working. Having directed more than one hundred and thirty films, he continued to work in small character roles. In the 1940s, Melford was part of Preston Sturges' unofficial "stock company" of character actors, appearing in six films written and directed by Sturges.[1] He also made a notable appearance in the 1956 epic The Ten Commandments.

He appeared in his last film in 1960 at the age of eighty-three, passing away in Hollywood on April 25, 1961 of heart failure. He is interred in Valhalla Memorial Park Cemetery in North Hollywood, Los Angeles, California.

Selected filmography





  • Behold My Wife (1920)
  • Moran of the Lady Letty (1922)
  • East of Borneo (1931)


  • Arizona Bill (1911)
  • Prisoners of War (1913)
  • The Wartime Siren (Scenario, 1913)
  • The Fire-Fighting Zouaves (Scenario, 1913)
  • Big Timber (1924)
  • Sea Fury (1929)
  • Jungle Menace (Story, 1937)


  1. ^ Melford appeared in The Great McGinty, The Lady Eve, The Miracle of Morgan's Creek, Hail the Conquering Hero, Unfaithfully Yours, The Beautiful Blonde from Bashful Bend, Sturges' last American film. Earlier, he had also appeared in Remember the Night, which Sturges wrote.

External links


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