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Gregory La Cava Edit Profile

Film director

Gregory La Cava was an American film director.

Background

Cava, Gregory La was born on March 10, 1892 in Towanda, Pennsylvania, United States. Son of Pascal Nicholas and Eva (Wolz) LaCava.

Education

Trained as a political cartoonist, La Cava wrote scripts for comedy shorts before being given the chance to direct. Most of his silent pictures were made at Paramount, including five Richard Dix films and two W. C. Fields pictures—So’s Your Old Man and Running Wild (Fields and La Cava were drinking buddies).

Career

Stage Door and The Half-Naked Truth are wonderful entertainments (Morrie Ryskind was a writer on Stage Door, and he was on Godfrey, too). The Primrose Path has Ginger Rogers as a girl from the wrong side of the tracks in love with the decent Joel McCrea. What Every Woman Knows (from J. M. Barrie) has Helen Hayes sorting out her dim husbands political career. In general, La Cava delighted in struggles of moral intelligence between men and women. She Married Her Boss is a model title and attitude for La Cava films, and it was written by Sidney Buchman, but it is rather dull.

It’s ironic, in view of his critical eye on America, that he lost his way when war came. He w'as invariably good with actors, and the answer to his ups and downs lies in his relations with actors. Allan Scott (who was on Fifth Avenue Girl and Primrose Path) has said that La Cava mulled over many versions of a scene before giving actors their pages an hour before the camera rolled.

La Cava is still underrated. My Man Godfrey gets smarter as we revive its age of contrasts.

Personality

Some said La Cava drank on the set, and that he was a rebel. He didn’t like studio authority, and he could easily turn indignant over social conditions in the 1930s. Yet he loathed Roosevelt and liberal solutions. Actors loved working with him, and he had a manner that could let careful preparation seem spontaneous. He is a terrific comedy director, but—as James Harvey has pointed out—with an edge of disquiet, or anger, even. That edge is very important to My Man Godfrey, one of the greatest of comedies, but with many shivery insights, social and personal, and a true sense of a daft paradise ready to topple over the brink. Its theme plainly fascinated La Cava, for Fifth Avenue Girl (a lesser film) is the same story, with a woman (Ginger Rogers) in the Godfrey role.

Equally, despite Selznicks heavy and sweet hand, Symphony of Six Million is moved by a city of painful contrasts, and Gabriel Over the White House—with Walter Huston as a crooked president who sees the light—plays with dangerous elements.

Connections

Married Grace Garland, March, 1941.

father:
Pascal Nicholas LaCava

mother:
Eva (Wolz) LaCava

spouse:
Grace Garland