George Stevens

George Stevens

The son of performers, Stevens entered films at age 17 as a cameraman and later worked for the Hal Roach company, where he directed his first shorts. He joined RKO in 1934 and proceeded to churn out a series of crafty comedies and light musicals, scoring his first major success with "Alice Adams" (1935), which was followed by the Astaire-Rogers classic "Swing Time" (1936), the action-packed "Gunga Din" and the brilliantly realized debut pairing of Katharine Hepburn and Spencer Tracy, "Woman of the Year" (1941). After heading the Army Signal Corps Special Motion Picture Unit during WWII, Stevens re-entered civilian life in 1945 and hit his peak with "I Remember Mama" (1948) and "A Place in the Sun" (1951). His subsequent work, including "Shane" (1953) and "Giant" (1956), strove for epic status but came off as overblown and excessive. Stevens's final effort, "The Only Game in Town" (1970), was a refreshing, if flawed, return to his earlier, more modest, style. Son George Stevens, Jr., is a producer who made a well-received documentary on his father, "George Stevens, Filmmaker" (1984), served as chief of the United States Information Service's motion picture division from 1962-67 and was named the first head of the American Film Institute in 1977.