Gregory La Cava

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Gregory La Cava
Gregory La Cava 1926.jpg
La Cava in 1926
BornMarch 10, 1892
DiedMarch 1, 1952(1952-03-01) (aged 59)
Occupation Film director

Gregory La Cava (March 10, 1892 – March 1, 1952) was an American film director of Italian descent best known for his films of the 1930s, including My Man Godfrey and Stage Door , which earned him nominations for Academy Award for Best Director.



La Cava was born in Towanda, Pennsylvania. [1] His father was a shoemaker, and the family moved to Rochester, New York. La Cava reported for the Rochester Evening News and studied at the Art Institute of Chicago. He was a member of the Art Students' League. [2]


Around 1913, he started doing odd jobs at the studio of Raoul Barré. By 1915, he was an animator on the Animated Grouch Chasers series.

Policy and Pie part 1 of 2 (1918)
Policy and Pie part 2 of 2 (1918)

Towards the end of 1915, William Randolph Hearst decided to create an animation studio to promote the comic strips printed in his newspapers. He called the new company International Film Service, and he hired La Cava to run it (for double what he was making with Barré). La Cava's first employee was his co-worker at the Barré Studio, Frank Moser. Another was his fellow student in Chicago, Grim Natwick (later to achieve fame at Disney). As he developed more and more of Hearst's comics into cartoon series, he came to put semi-independent units in charge of each, leading to the growth of individual styles.

La Cava also had the significant advantage over other studios of an unlimited budget: Hearst's business sense completely broke down when it came to his Hearst-Vitagraph News Pictorial and the "living comic strips" they contained. La Cava's main fault as a producer and director was that his cartoons were too clearly animated comic strips, hampered by speech balloons when rival Bray Studio was creating more effective series with original characters. He was apparently aware of this fault, and he had his animators study Charlie Chaplin films to improve their timing and characterization. But he didn't have time to achieve very much, because in July 1918, Hearst's bankers caught up with him and International Film Service was shut down.

Hearst still wanted his characters animated, so he licensed various studios to continue the IFS series. La Cava and most of the IFS staff got jobs with John Terry's studio (not surprising since John Terry himself was an IFS alumnus). This only lasted a few months before Terry's studio went out of business. The animators were immediately hired by Goldwyn-Bray (as Bray Productions was now known), but La Cava was not, since Goldwyn-Bray had several producers of its own and La Cava was not interested in starting over. Instead, he moved west to Hollywood.

Live action reels and features

By 1922, La Cava had become a live-action director of two-reel comedies, the direct competitor to animated films. Among the actors he directed in the silent era are:

La Cava worked his way up to feature films in the silent era, but it is for his work in sound films of the 1930s—especially comedies—that he is best known today. And though he did not always get credit, he also often had a hand in creating the screenplays for his films. Among the sound films he directed are:

Helen Hayes in La Cava's film What Every Woman Knows (1934) What Every Woman Knows 1934.JPG
Helen Hayes in La Cava's film What Every Woman Knows (1934)

His output dropped severely in the 1940s, and he only officially directed one film after 1942, Living in a Big Way (1947).

Personal life and death

La Cava and his first wife, Beryl, had a son. They were divorced in 1937. [1] On December 2, 1940, La Cava married Mrs. Grace O. Garland, widow of William J. Garland. [3] He died on March 1, 1952, in his sleep in his home. [1] His remains were buried at Chapel of the Pines Crematory.[ citation needed ]


YearFilmAcademy Award NominationsAcademy Award Wins
1921 His Nibs
1923 The Life of Reilly
Beware of the Dog
1924 Restless Wives
The New School Teacher
1925 Womanhandled
1926 Let's Get Married
Say It Again
So's Your Old Man
1927 Paradise for Two
Running Wild
Tell It to Sweeney
The Gay Defender
1928 Half a Bride
Feel My Pulse
1929 Saturday's Children
Big News
His First Command
1931 Laugh and Get Rich
Smart Woman
1932 Symphony of Six Million
The Age of Consent
The Half-Naked Truth
1933 Gabriel Over the White House
Bed of Roses
Gallant Lady
1934 The Affairs of Cellini 40
What Every Woman Knows
1935 Private Worlds 10
She Married Her Boss
1936 My Man Godfrey 60
1937 Stage Door 40
1939 Fifth Avenue Girl
1940 Primrose Path 10
1941 Unfinished Business
1942 Lady in a Jam
1947 Living in a Big Way
1948 One Touch of Venus

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  1. 1 2 3 "Gregory La Cava, director, 59, dead" . The New York Times. United Press. March 2, 1952. p. 92. Retrieved December 22, 2022.
  2. Nemeth, Michael (December 2022). "Gregory La Cava: The Road Less Traveled". Classic Images. pp. 6–12.
  3. "Gregory La Cava Married" . The New York Times. Associated Press. April 12, 1941. p. 13. Retrieved December 22, 2022.