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Henry Hathaway
Born Henri Leonard de Fiennes
March 13, 1898(1898-03-13)
Sacramento, California,
United States
Died February 11, 1985 (aged 86)
Hollywood, California,
United States
Years active 1925 - 1974

Henry Hathaway (March 13, 1898 – February 11, 1985) was an American film director and producer. He is best known as a director of Westerns, especially starring John Wayne.



Born Henri Leonard de Fiennes in Sacramento, California, he was the son of American actor and stage manager, Rhody Hathaway (1868-1944) and a Hungarian-born Belgian aristocrat, Marquise Lillie de Fiennes (1876-1938) who acted under the name, Jean Hathaway. This branch of the de Fiennes family came to America in the 1800s on behalf of King Leopold I of Belgium and was part of the negotiations with the former Belgian Prime Minister, Charles Rogier (1800-1885) to secure the 1862 treaty between Belgium and what was then known as the Sandwich Islands but is now called Hawaii.

Early career

In 1925, Hathaway began working in silent films as an assistant to notable directors such as Victor Fleming and Josef von Sternberg and made the transition to sound with them. He was the assistant director to Fred Niblo in the 1925 version of Ben-Hur starring Francis X. Bushman and Ramon Novarro. During the remainder of the 1920s, Hathaway learned his craft as an assistant, helping direct future stars such as Gary Cooper, Marlene Dietrich, Adolphe Menjou, Fay Wray, Walter Huston, Clara Bow, and Noah Beery.



The 1930s

Henry Hathaway made his directorial debut in 1932 with a Western film production, Heritage of the Desert. Based on a Zane Grey novel, Hathaway gave Randolph Scott his first starring role in film that led to a lengthy career for Scott as a cowboy star. Hathaway too, was a fan of stories of the settling of the American West and would make a number of films involving the subject. In 1935, he directed The Lives of a Bengal Lancer which received several Academy Award nominations including Best Picture and for which Hathaway was nominated for the Academy Award for Directing. He followed this with Go West, Young Man (1936), starring Mae West, based on Lawrence Riley's Broadway hit Personal Appearance. Once again, he used Randolph Scott in this film, but not as a cowboy this time.

Film Noir

During the 1940s Hathaway began making films in the semidocumentary vein, often intersperse with the then popular film noir style; these included The House on 92nd Street (1945), for which he was nominated for a best director award by the New York Film Critics Circle, 13 Rue Madeleine (1947), and Call Northside 777 (1948), in which Hathaway demonstrated one of the first on-screen uses of a Fax machine. His film noir thriller titled Niagara (1953) starred the up-and-coming Marilyn Monroe.

Later Career

In the 1960s Hathaway returned to a genre he cared a great deal about, directing John Wayne in several notable Western films including his Oscar winning performance in True Grit. Hathaway also directed 1966's Nevada Smith, another Western starring Steve McQueen that was based on the Harold Robbins novel The Carpetbaggers. Hathaway was one of three directors on the epic Cinerama Western, How the West Was Won (1962), directing the bulk of the film, including the river, prairie, and train robbery sequences.

Henry Hathaway made his 65th and last film in 1974. He died from a heart attack in 1985 in Hollywood and was buried in Holy Cross Cemetery in Culver City, California. Although an often overlooked director, his body of work earned him a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame at 1638 Vine Street.

Partial filmography

External links


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