Henry Hathaway (Henri Léopold de Fiennes Hathaway)

Henry Hathaway

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 Gary Cooper in The Lives of a Bengal Lancer which received seven Academy Award nominations, including Best Picture and for which Hathaway won his only nomination for the Academy Award for Directing. Bengal Lancers is one of five films he directed in the 1930s with Gary Cooper. The five — Now And Forever, Peter Ibbetson, Lives Of A Bengal Lancer, Souls at Sea, and The Real Glory—offer a rich example of Hathaway’s breadth as director and storyteller. He followed Bengal Lancers 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. During the 1940s Henry Hathaway began making films in a semidocumentary vein, often using 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 (1945), The Dark Corner (1946), Kiss of Death (1947) and Call Northside 777 (1948), in which Hathaway presented one of the first on-screen uses of a Fax machine. His film noir thriller Niagara (1953) starred the up-and-coming Marilyn Monroe.

In Henry Hathaway’s 1958 film From Hell to Texas, the young Dennis Hopper attempted to assert himself artistically on the set. Perhaps influenced by his recent experience with fellow actor James Dean’s rebellious attitude on the sets of Rebel Without a Cause and Giant, Hopper forced Hathaway to shoot more than 80 takes of a scene before he acquiesced to Hathaway’s demands. After the shoot, Hathaway reportedly told the young actor that his career in Hollywood was over, Hopper was forced to make a living doing television guest shots for the next several years. It was not until 1965 that he landed another movie role in The Sons of Katie Elder. Hathaway directed this film and also worked with Hopper in 1969’s True Grit. Hopper later admitted he was wrong to have disrespected Hathaway as a youth and called him “the finest director I have ever worked with”. In the 1960s, Henry Hathaway directed John Wayne in several films, including Circus World (1964). Wayne asked Hathaway to cast John Smith in the role of Steve McCabe in the film; Smith from 1959 to 1963 had played the part of rancher Slim Sherman on NBC’s Laramie series. According to Smith’s Internet biography, Hathaway developed an intense dislike for Smith and stopped him from landing choice roles thereafter in Hollywood. Hathaway also directed Wayne in his Oscar-winning performance in True Grit (1969).

He directed Nevada Smith, a 1966 Western starring Steve McQueen that was extrapolated from a brief section of Harold Robbins’ novel The Carpetbaggers. In addition, 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. Hathaway may have stepped in for George Seaton in directing some winter outdoor scenes for the blockbuster hit Airport (1970), which stars Burt Lancaster and Dean Martin. Martin had been in Hathaway’s Western films The Sons of Katie Elder with John Wayne and 5 Card Stud with Robert Mitchum. Hathaway made his 65th and final film, Hangup, in 1974. Henry Hathaway died from a heart attack in 1985 in Hollywood and is interred at Holy Cross Cemetery in Culver City, California. Although often overlooked as a director, his body of work earned him a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame at 1638 Vine Street.

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  • March, 13, 1898
  • USA
  • Sacramento, California


  • February, 11, 1985
  • USA
  • Hollywood, California

Cause of Death

  • heart attack


  • Holy Cross Cemetery
  • Culver City, California
  • USA

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