Rouben Mamoulian was born in 1898 in Tbilisi, Georgia, which was ruled at that time by imperial Russia. His father was a bank president. Mamoulian spent part of his childhood in Paris, and later went to Moscow to study law, at the same time training under Stanislavsky and Vakhtangov at the Moscow Art Theatre.
He directed his first play in London in 1922, and the following year he moved to Rochester, New York where George Eastman, the founder of Kodak,
had started a new opera theatre. During his three years there, Mamoulian directed operas by Verdi, Bizet, and Wagner among others, before moving to Broadway where he was acclaimed for his 1927 production
of DuBose Heyward's Porgy with an all-black cast. Mamoulian later directed the Broadway premiere of Gershwin's operatic version of the play, Porgy and Bess (1935). In 1929 he directed his first feature film, Applause,
which was one of the early talkies. It was a landmark film due to his innovative use of camera movement and sound, and these qualities were carried through to his other
films released in the 1930s, such as Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde (1931) and the musical film Love Me Tonight (1932). His next two films, The Mark of
Zorro (1940) and Blood and Sand (1941), both remakes of silent films, earned him wide admiration. Mamoulian directed (and sometimes also produced) 16 films during his 29-year cinema career, many of which remain
Hollywood classics. He directed the greatest actors of the era, including Greta Garbo, Gary Cooper, Frederic March, Marlene Dietrich, Henry Fonda, Fred Astaire, James Cagney,
and Barbara Stanwyck, among many others. His film directing career came to an end when he was fired from two consecutive films, Porgy and Bess (1959) and Cleopatra (1963).
While directing films, Mamoulian had continued to work on Broadway where he directed the original productions of some of the classic American musicals, including Oklahoma! (1943) and Carousel (1945). During his later years he remained involved in theatrical productions and wrote extensively.
In 1982, he received the Directors Guild of America D.W. Griffith Award for his lifetime achievement in motion pictures. He died in 1987 in Woodland Hills, California. He has a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame at 1709 Vine Street. In 2004, a $1.1 million gift to UCLA established the Rouben Mamoulian Endowed Chair in Directing for Film and Theatre.
Courtesy of Professor Dickran Kouymjian, Armenian Studies Program, California State University, Fresno
APPLAUSE (1929). 82 min. One of first sound musicals. Helen Morgan.
CITY STREETS (1931). 74 min. First Hollywood film. Dashiell Hammett, with Gary Cooper.
DR. JEKYLL AND MR. HYDE (1931-32). 90 min. Robert Louis Stevenson story. Fredric March (Academy Award), Miriam Hopkins as Ivy.
LOVE ME TONIGHT (1932). 90 min. Maurice Chevalier, Jeanette MacDonald, Myrna Loy.
SONG OF SONGS (1933). 83 min. Marlene Dietrich.
QUEEN CHRISTINA (1933) . 100 min. Greta Garbo.
WE LIVE AGAIN (1934). 84 min. Tolstoy's Resurrection. Anna Sten and Fredric March.
BECKY SHARP (1935). 84 min. Thackeray's Vanity Fair. Mariam Hopkins.
THE GAY DESPERADO (1936). 88 min. Ida Lupino, tenor Nino Martini.
HIGH, WIDE AND HANDSOME (1937) . 111 min. Oscar Hammerstein, western musical. Randolph Scott, Irene Dunn, Dorothy Lamour.
GOLDEN BOY (1939). 99 min. Clifford Odets play. William Holden, Barbara Stanwyck, Adolphe Menjou.
THE MARK OF ZORRO (1940) . 93 min. Tyrone Power, Basil Rathbone, Linda Darnell.
BLOOD AND SAND (1941). 124 min. Tyrone Power, Rita Hayword, Linda Darnell, Anthony Quinn.
RINGS ON HER FINGER (1942) . 85 min. Gene Tierney, Henry Fonda.
SUMMER HOLIDAY (1947) . 92 min. Eugene O'Neill's Ah Wilderness, Mickey Rooney, Gloria De Haven, Frank Morgan, Agnes Moorehead.
SILK STOCKINGS (1957) . 117 min. remake of Ninotchka, Fred Astaire, Cyd Charisse, Peter Lorre.
PORGY AND BESS (1958) . Withdrew.
CLEOPATRA (1963) . Elizabeth Taylor, Richard Burton. Withdrew.
BIBLIOGRAPHY (major books only)
Anobile, Richard J., ed. Rouben Mamoulian's Dr. Jekyll & Mr. Hyde Starring Fredric March, New York: A Darien House Book, Flame Books, Avon Books, 1975.
Becvar, William Joseph, "The Stage and Film Career of Rouben Mamoulian," unpublished doctoral dissertation, University of Kansas, Drama Department, 1975.
Berthomieu, Pierre, Rouben Mamoulian, La galerie des doubles, Collection Grand écran petit écran, Liege: Céfal, 1995.
Mamoulian, Rouben, Abigayil: The Story of the Cat at the Manger, Greenwich, Conn.: New York Graphic Society Publishers, 1964.
Mamoulian, Rouben, Hamlet: A New Version, Indianapolis: Bobbs Merrill, 1965.
Mamoulian, Virginia Kalantarian, "The Story of My Life," unpublished diary translated by Boris Mirvis, n.d.
Milne, Tom, Rouben Mamoulian, Cinema One, Bloomington & London: Indiana University Press, 1969, 176 pages with filmography.
Oberstein, Bennett Thomas, "The Broadway Directing Career of Rouben Mamoulian," unpublished doctoral dissertation, Indiana University, Theatre Department, 1977.
Spergel, Mark, Reinventing Reality. The Art and Life of Rouben Mamoulian, The Scarecrow Filmmakers Series, Metuchen, NJ & London: Scarecrow Press, 1993.