Isadore "Dore" Schary (August 31, 1905 – July 7, 1980) was an American playwright, director, and producer for the stage and a prolific screenwriter and producer of motion pictures. He directed just one feature film, Act One, the film biography of his friend, playwright and theater director Moss Hart. He became head of production at Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer and replaced Louis B. Mayer as president of the studio in 1951.
Schary was born to a Jewish family, in Newark, New Jersey. Schary's father ran a catering business called the Schary Manor. Dore attended Central High School for a year but dropped out to sell haberdashery and buy china. When he finally returned to school, he completed his three remaining years of classwork in one year, graduating in 1923.
Schary worked as a journalist, did publicity for a lecture tour by Rear Adm. Richard E. Byrd and was an assistant drama coach at the Young Men's Hebrew Association in Newark. The head coach was Moss Hart.
Schary worked in theatre as an actor and writer. In 1927 he got a bit part on Broadway in a play with Paul Muni. Then he worked with Hart at a summer resort in the Catskill Mountains, where they wrote, produced and directed skits and plays.
Schary appeared on Broadway in The Last Mile with Spencer Tracy. He wrote a play which was read by film producer Walter Wanger, who wired his New York office: "Hire Dore Schary. She writes with a lot of vigor – for a woman." Wanger subsequently hired Schary as a $100 a week film writer. Schary moved to Hollywood, but his option with Wanger was dropped after three months.
Schary worked on Let's Talk It Over (1934) for Universal, The Most Precious Thing in Life (1934) at Columbia, and Young and Beautiful (1934) at Universal. Other work for Universal included Storm Over the Andes (1935), Chinatown Squad (1935), and (uncredited) The Raven (1935).
At Paramount he did Timothy's Quest (1936), Mind Your Own Business (1936), Her Master's Voice (1936), Outcast (1937), and The Girl from Scotland Yard (1937). He did Ladies in Distress (1937) at Republic.
Schary's play Too Many Heroes ran on Broadway for 16 performances in the fall of 1937.
Work at MGM
Schary went on to write Broadway Melody of 1940 (1940), Young Tom Edison (1940) with Mickey Rooney and Edison, the Man (1940) with Tracy. He also worked on Married Bachelor (1941). For Republic, Schary wrote Behind the News (1940).
MGM promoted Schary to producer of their "B" pictures unit. Schary began with Joe Smith, American (1942), based on Schary's own story, which became a solid hit. Kid Glove Killer (1942), the directorial debut for Fred Zinnemann, was also profitable.
Journey for Margaret (1942) was a big success, making a star of Margaret O'Brien. Bataan (1943) made a profit of over one million dollars. Lassie Come Home (1943) with Roddy McDowall and Elizabeth Taylor had a profit of over two million.
Schary accepted an offer to go to work for David O. Selznick's Vanguard Films as head of production. He produced I'll Be Seeing You (1944), The Spiral Staircase (1946), Till the End of Time (1946), The Farmer's Daughter (1947) with Loretta Young, and The Bachelor and the Bobby-Soxer (1947) with Cary Grant, Myrna Loy and Shirley Temple. All films were considerable critical and commercial successes.
Head of Production at RKO
Schary's Vanguard films were released through RKO who offered him the job as head of production. Although he still had eleven months left on his Vanguard contract they let him go and Schary signed a five-year deal with RKO in January 1947.
Expensive money losers included Adventure in Baltimore (1949) with Shirley Temple.
RKO was taken over by Howard Hughes, who clashed with Schary, particularly over Schary's desire to make Battleground, a film about the Battle of the Bulge. Schary resigned in July 1948. He soon accepted a job offer from Louis B. Mayer at MGM.
Head of Production at MGM
MGM were struggling to adapt to the post-war filmmaking environment, and in 1947 recorded their first-ever end-of-year financial loss. The movie industry was faced with the threat of the Paramount Decree, rising labor costs, political turmoil, labor unrest and the threat of television. MGM's parent company, Loews Incorporated in New York decided that Schary might be able to turn the tide. Schary signed to be vice president in charge of production in July 1948.
Schary and studio chief and founder Louis B. Mayer would soon be at odds over philosophy, with Mayer favoring splashy, wholesome entertainment and Schary leaning toward what Mayer derided as darker "message pictures".
"Films must provoke thought in addition to entertainment", Schary once said. "They must educate and inform as they entertain."
Schary's career at MGM got off to a strong start when Battleground (1949) proved to be MGM's most profitable film of the year. A 1949 profile called him a "boy wonder... very probably the most important man in the movie industry."
Schary received acclaim for his personal productions, including The Next Voice You Hear... (1950), Go for Broke! (1951) and Westward the Women (1951). Schary co-wrote (with Charles Palmer) the 1950 book Case History of a Movie, which extensively covered, from initial conception to screening, the production of the film The Next Voice You Hear....
Mayer and Schary's differences came to a head with production of The Red Badge of Courage (1951). Mayer presented an ultimatum to Nick Schenck, head of Loews, that Schary be fired. Schenck supported Schary and Mayer resigned. In July 1951 Schary took over complete control of production at MGM.
Schary wrote and produced the documentary film The Battle of Gettysburg (1955), getting two Oscar nominations for his work.
Fired from MGM
In Schary's last year at MGM he personally produced three films, all of which lost money: The Swan (1956), The Last Hunt (1956) and Designing Woman (1957). MGM recorded a loss in 1956 leading to Loews firing him from his $200,000 a year contract and replacing him with Ben Thau. He was to remain as a consultant for MGM until 1968 at $100,000 a year.
Contemporary newspaper reports and Schary later claimed he was fired because of his political activities, including his close association with the Democratic Party.
MGM swimming star Esther Williams would later state in her 1999 autobiography, The Million Dollar Mermaid, that Schary was just as rude, cruel, and as imperious as Mayer had been. She noted that she thought it appropriate that Schary was fired on Thanksgiving Day, since he was a "turkey". In 1956 in his final year running MGM, he appeared on the show This Is Your Life. Host Ralph Edwards stated that there had never been a show where more stars appeared to honor a guest.
Return to Broadway and later films
Following his departure from MGM, Schary obtained the rights to the life of Franklin D. Roosevelt in April 1957. He wrote and produced the Broadway play Sunrise at Campobello (1958–59), about Roosevelt, starring Ralph Bellamy. The play won five Tony Awards and ran for 556 performances.
He had another Broadway hit when he produced and directed (but did not write) the comedy A Majority of One (1959–60) by Leonard Spigelgass, starring Gertrude Berg and Cedric Hardwicke. Schary earned a Tony nomination for his direction and the show ran for 556 performances. (It was later filmed, without Schary's involvement.)
Less successful was The Highest Tree (1959), which Schary wrote, produced and directed (and featured a young Robert Redford in the cast) and Triple Play (1959), a collection of short plays, which he produced.
Schary wrote and produced the film version of Sunrise at Campobello, which was released by Warner Brothers, directed by Donehue, in 1960. He also had a brief uncredited role in the film as Chairman of the Connecticut Delegation.
On Broadway, Schary had another huge hit as producer and director with the Meredith Wilson musical, The Unsinkable Molly Brown (1960) starring Tammy Grimes, which ran for 532 performances. MGM released a film version starring Debbie Reynolds in 1964.
Schary wrote, produced and directed The Devil's Advocate (1961), based on the novel by Morris West, which ran for 116 performances. He produced and directed Something About a Soldier (1962) by Ernest Kinoy and Love and Kisses (1963) by Anita Block both which had short runs. He also wrote a memoir, For Special Occasions (1962).
Schary made his directorial debut in movies with Act One (1963) based on the memoirs of Moss Hart; Schary also wrote and produced. It was a flop and marked both the beginning and the end of Schary's film directing career.
Schary wrote two more produced Broadway plays, Brightower (1970) (one performance) and Herzl (1976) (8 performances), neither of which had long runs. He wrote his memoirs, Heyday, which came out shortly before his death.
Reflecting on his career shortly before his death he said "I've always had an edge and the edge is that I'm a writer. No matter what happens I can write. And I'm tough. You had to be tough to outwit them, to wear them down. I've always been pretty lucky that way."
He served as National Chairman of the Anti-Defamation League of B'nai B'rith from 1963 until April 22, 1969, when Samuel Dalsimer was elected the new National Chairman. After Dalsimer died unexpectedly later that year on August 22, Schary was named acting National Chairman and served until May 1970, when Seymour Graubard was elected to replace him. Schary was appointed by Mayor John Lindsay to the office of New York City Commissioner for Cultural Affairs.
He worked as a printer in his youth at Art Craft Press in Newark, New Jersey. He married (March 5, 1932) Miriam Svet (pianist and later recognized painter) with whom he had three children: the novelist and memoirist Jill Schary Robinson, psychoanalyst Dr. Joy Schary, and CLIO award-winning producer Jeb Schary. Miriam and Dore Schary collectively had seven grandchildren and 13 great-grandchildren.
Dore Schary died in 1980, aged 74, and was interred in the Hebrew Cemetery (also known as the Monmouth Fields Jewish Cemetery), West Long Branch, New Jersey. Miriam Svet Schary died in October, 1986, aged 74, and was interred next to her husband in the Hebrew Cemetery.
To honor his memory, the Anti-Defamation League established the Dore Schary Awards in 1982.
In popular culture
- His name is used just for a rhyme at the very end of Stan Freberg Presents the United States of America Volume One: The Early Years, a satirical album from 1961: "That highly military / (script by Dore Schary) / Revolutionary War!"
- In the 1948 RKO film, The Bachelor and the Bobby-Soxer (which he produced), Schary can be seen driving Cary Grant to the airport at the end of the film. Grant refers to him as "Jebby".
- In the I Love Lucy episode "Don Juan is Shelved" (1955), Ricky Ricardo calls Schary's office from his Hollywood hotel room and later Lucy Ricardo unknowingly recruits Schary to play a "big Hollywood producer" to prevent Ricky from being fired from his movie contract at MGM. In the episode, Schary was played by Philip Ober, Vivian Vance's husband at the time.
- In the popular one-act comedy "Adaptation", written by Elaine May, the lead character Phil Bensen names his son "Dore Schary Junior" and another actor plays the son for the rest of the show.
- Actor Josh Pais portrayed Schary in the 2015 film I Saw the Light
- Dore Schary appears as a character in the Broadway biography of Moss Hart, Act One, written by James Lapine and produced by Lincoln Center Theatre in 2014.
- Fury of the Jungle (1933) – screenwriter
- Fog (1933) – screenwriter
- He Couldn't Take It (1933) – screenwriter
- Let's Talk It Over (1934) – original story "Loves of a Sailor"
- The Most Precious Thing in Life (1934) – screenwriter
- Young and Beautiful (1934) – screenwriter
- Murder in the Clouds (1934) – screenwriter
- Red Hot Tires (1935) – additional dialogue
- Mississippi (1935) – contributing writer
- Racing Luck (1935) – additional dialogue
- Storm Over the Andes (1935) – screenwriter
- Chinatown Squad (1935) – screenwriter
- The Raven (1935) – screenwriter (uncredited)
- Silk Hat Kid (1935) – screenwriter
- Your Uncle Dudley (1935) – screenwriter
- Timothy's Quest (1936) – screenwriter
- Song and Dance Man (1936) – screenwriter
- Mind Your Own Business (1936) – screenwriter
- Her Master's Voice (1937)
- Outcast (1937) – screenwriter
- The Girl from Scotland Yard (1937) – screenwriter
- Big City (1937) – screenwriter
- Ladies in Distress (1938) – screenwriter
- Boys Town (1938) – screenwriter
- Broadway Melody of 1940 (1940) – original story
- Young Tom Edison (1940) – screenwriter
- Edison, the Man (1940) – screenwriter
- Behind the News (1940)
- Married Bachelor (1941) – screenwriter
- Here Comes Kelly (1943) – story
- It's a Big Country (1951) – story
- The Battle of Gettysburg (1955) (documentary short)
As head of MGM B Unit
For David O. Selznick
Films overseen while head of RKO
- Trail Street (Feb 1947)
- A Likely Story (Apr 1947)
- Banjo (May 1947)
- Honeymoon (May 1947)
- Born to Kill (May 1947)
- The Woman on the Beach (Jun 1947)
- Crossfire (Jul 1947) – presents
- The Bachelor and the Bobby Soxer (July 1947) – personally produced
- The Long Night (Aug 1947)
- Magic Town (Oct 1947)
- Out of the Past (Nov 1947)
- Mourning Becomes Electra (Nov 1947)
- So Well Remembered (Nov 1947)
- Tycoon (Dec 1947)
- Night Song (Jan 1948)
- If You Knew Susie (Feb 1948)
- The Miracle of the Bells (Mar 1948)
- I Remember Mama (Mar 1948) – presents
- Berlin Express (May 1948)
- Race Street (Jun 1948) – presents
- Mr Blandings Builds His Dream House (June 1948) – presents
- Fighting Father Dunne (Jun 1948)
- Return of the Badmen (Jul 1948)
- The Velvet Touch (Aug 1948)
- They Live By Night (filmed 1947 rel Aug 1948) – presents
- Bodyguard (Sep 1948)
- Rachel and the Stranger (Oct 1948) – presents
- Station West (Oct 1948) – presents
- Every Girl Should Be Married (Nov 1948) – presents
- Blood on the Moon (Nov 1948)
- The Boy with Green Hair (Dec 1948) – presents
- A Woman's Secret (Feb 1949) – presents
- The Clay Pigeon (Feb 1949)
- The Set-Up (Mar 1949)
- Adventure in Baltimore (Apr 1949) – personally produced, presents
- The Window (May 1949)
- Roughshod (Jun 1949)
- Follow Me Quietly (Jul 1949)
- Make Mine Laughs (Aug 1949)
- Bed of Roses (1948)
- Indian Summer (1949)
- Easy Living (filmed 1948 rel Oct 1949)
- Walk Softly, Stranger (filmed 1948, rel Oct 1950)
Personally produced while head of MGM
- Battleground (1949)
- The Next Voice You Hear... (1950)
- Go for Broke! (1951)
- Westward the Women (1951)
- Target for Scandal(1952)
- Plymouth Adventure (1952)
- The Hoaxsters (1953) – documentary
- Dream Wife (1953)
- Take the High Ground! (1953)
- Bad Day at Black Rock (1955)
- The Swan (1956)
- The Last Hunt (1956)
- Designing Woman (1956)
Films overseen while head of MGM
Post MGM films
- Too Many Heroes (1937) – writer
- Sunrise at Campobello (1958) – writer, producer
- A Majority of One (1959) – producer, director
- Triple Play (1959) – producer
- The Highest Tree (1959) – writer, producer, director
- The Unsinkable Molly Brown (1960) – producer, director
- The Devil's Advocate (1961) – writer, producer, director
- Something About a Soldier (1962) – producer, director
- Love and Kisses (1963) – producer, director
- One by One (1964) – writer, producer, director
- The Zulue and the Zayda (1965) – producer, director
- Brightower (1970) – writer
- Herzl (1976) – writer, producer
- "Dore Schary". Movies & TV Dept. The New York Times. 2007. Archived from the original on November 11, 2007.
- Schary, Dore (1979). Heyday: An autobiography. Boston: Little, Brown. ISBN 0-316-77270-4.
- Edwards, Anne (January 28, 2014). The Reagans: Portrait of a Marriage. ISBN 9781466863262.
- Brook, Vincent (December 15, 2016). From Shtetl to Stardom: Jews and Hollywood: Chapter 1: Still an Empire of Their Own: How Jews Remain Atop a Reinvented Hollywood. Purdue University Press. p. 17. ISBN 9781557537638.
- Phillips, McCandlish. "Schary Named City's First Cultural Chief", The New York Times, February 25, 1970. Accessed March 27, 2018. "He was born in Newark and attended Newark Central High School, dropping out at 14 to work but later making up the missed credits."
- Staff. "Dore Schary, Playwright and Movie Producer, 74, Dies; Human-Rights Leader Powerful in Hollywood Rejoined Hart in Catskills Some M-G-M Movies", The New York Times, July 8, 1980. Accessed March 27, 2018.
- S. B. (February 6, 1949). "Plan for hollywood -- by schary". New York Times. ProQuest 105779005.
- A.H. WEILER (August 15, 1948). "BY WAY OF REPORT". New York Times. ProQuest 108332422.
- The Eddie Mannix Ledger, Los Angeles: Margaret Herrick Library, Center for Motion Picture Study
- "DORE SCHARY HEAD OF RKO PRODUCTION". New York Times. January 2, 1947. ProQuest 107872453.
- DORE SCHARY, Executive Vice President in Charge of Production, RKO, Radio Pictures. (April 6, 1947). "GOING ON RECORD". New York Times. ProQuest 107984669.CS1 maint: multiple names: authors list (link)
- "DORE SCHARY RESIGNS RKO PRODUCTION POST". New York Times. July 1, 1948. ProQuest 108140882.
- "Schary signed as production pilot of MGM". Los Angeles Times. July 15, 1948. ProQuest 165865494.
- T. M. (May 16, 1954). "HOLLYWOOD DOSSIER". New York Times. ProQuest 112919349.
- THOMAS M PRYOR (July 17, 1951). "DORE SCHARY GETS FULL METRO POWER". New York Times. ProQuest 112192041.
- Tinee, M. (August 26, 1956). "Dore schary, a movie man of convictions". Chicago Daily Tribune. ProQuest 179859743.
- MILTON ESTEROW (November 29, 1956). "SCHARY IS OUSTED AS CHIEF AT M-G-M". New York Times. ProQuest 113676233.
- "Butler hails dore schary's political stand". Los Angeles Times. October 19, 1959. ProQuest 167589853.
- "Dore schary gets the FDR story". The Washington Post and Times Herald. April 12, 1957. ProQuest 148918843.
- "Sunrise at Campobello – Broadway Play – Original –". IBDB.
- Richard, D. M. (September 9, 1958). "Dore schary returns to film-making". The Christian Science Monitor. ProQuest 509736065.
- "The Highest Tree – Broadway Play – Original". IBDB.
- "Triple Play – Broadway Play – Original". IBDB.
- Sunrise at Campobello at IMDb
- "The Unsinkable Molly Brown – Broadway Musical – Original". IBDB.
- "The Devil's Advocate – Broadway Play – Original". IBDB.
- "Something About a Soldier – Broadway Play – Original". IBDB.
- "Love and Kisses – Broadway Play – Original". IBDB.
- M. S. (October 21, 1962). "Growing up in newark". New York Times. ProQuest 116198100.
- "One by One – Broadway Play – Original". IBDB.
- "The Zulu and the Zayda – Broadway Musical – Original". IBDB.
- "Brightower – Broadway Play – Original". IBDB.
- "Herzl – Broadway Play – Original". IBDB.
- Kevin Kelly, G. S. (February 10, 1980). "SCHARY AUTOBIOGRAPHY IS MOSTLY SELF-TRIBUTE; HEYDAY – AN AUTOBIOGRAPHY BY DORE SCHARY. LITTLE, BROWN. 389 PP. $L4.95". Boston Globe. ProQuest 293932621.
- Kleiman, C. (February 28, 1980). "Tempo". Chicago Tribune. ProQuest 170110677.
- "Samuel Dalsimer Named Anti-defamation League Chairman, Succeeding Dore Schary". Jewish Telegraphic Agency. April 24, 1969. p. 4. Retrieved July 28, 2020.
- "Samuel Dalsimer Is Dead at 60; Head of Anti-Defamation League; B'nai B'rith Group Chairman Since April Was on Board of Grey Advertising". The New York Times. August 23, 1969. ISSN 0362-4331. Retrieved July 28, 2020.
- "Anti-Defamation League of B'nai B'rith Elects Seymour Graubard US Chairman". The Wisconsin Jewish Chronicle. May 22, 1970. p. 6. Retrieved July 28, 2020 – via Newspapers.com.
- "Dore Schary Appointed New York Cultural Commissioner by Mayor Lindsay". Jewish Telegraphic Agency. February 26, 1970. p. 4. Retrieved September 2, 2020.
- "Monmouth Fields Jewish Cemetery". Retrieved September 16, 2021.
- "Dore Schary (1905-1980)". Find A Grave. Retrieved September 16, 2021.
- Beville Dunkerley (October 16, 2014). "Hank Williams Movie Casts Four New Roles". Rolling Stone. Retrieved October 28, 2014.