Mark Sandrich - Director

Nationality: American. Born: Mark R. Sandrich in New York City, 26 August 1900. Family: Married to Freda (Wirtschater) Sandrich; father of television director Jay Sandrich and second unit/assistant director Mark Sandrich Jr. Education: Graduated from Columbia University, where he studied science and mathematics. Career: Entered the film industry as a propman, 1922; began directing comedy shorts, 1926; made his feature film directorial debut with Runaway Girl , 1928; began producing his films, 1949. Died: Of a heart attack in Los Angeles, 4 March 1945.

Films as Director:


Jerry the Giant (short) (co-d with Lesley Selander); Napoleon Junior (short) (co-d with Lesley Selander)


Brave Cowards (short); Careless Hubby (short); First Prize (short); Hello Sailor (short); Hold Fast (short); Hold That Bear (short); Hot Soup (short); A Midsummer Night's Steam (short); The Movie Hound (short); Night Owls (short); Shooting Wild (short); Some Scout (short)


Bear Knees (short); A Cow's Husband (short); High Strung (short); A Lady Lion (short); Love Is Blonde (short) (co-d with Zion Myers); Sword Points (short); Runaways Girls


The Talk of Hollywood (+ co-story); Two Gun Ginsburg (short)


Aunt's in the Pants (short); Barnum Was Wrong (short) (+ co-story, dialogue); General Ginsburg (short) (+ co-story, dialogue); Gunboat Ginsburg (short) (+ co-story, dialogue); Hot Bridge (short); Moonlight and Monkey Business (short (+ co-continuity, dialogue); Off to Peoria (+ co-story, dialogue); Razord in Old Kentucky (short); Society Goes Spaghetti (short) (+ co-story, dialogue); Talking Turkey (short) (co-story, dialogue); Trader Ginsburg (short) (+ co-story, dialogue)


The County Seat (short) (+ co-story, dialogue); Cowslips (short) (co-story, continuity); False Roomers (short) (+ co-adaptation); The Gay Nineties (short) (+ co-adaptation, dialogue); Many a Sip (short) (+ co-story, continuity); A Melon-Drama (short) (+ co-adaptation, dialogue); Scratch-As-Catch-Can (short) (+ co-adaptation); The Strife of the Party (short) (+ co-story, adaptation); The Way of All Fish (short) (+ co-adaptation, dialogue); The Wife o' Riley (short) (+ co-story, dialogue)


Ex-Rooster (short) (+ co-story); A Hurry Call (short) + co-story); The Iceman's Ball (short) (+ co-adaptation, dialogue); Jitters, the Butler (short) (+ co-adaptation, dialogue); The Millionaire Cat (short) (+ co-adaptation, dialogue); A Slip at the Switch (short) (+ co-story); When Summons Comes (short (+ story, continuity); Hold 'Em Jail (co-sc only)


Aggie Appleby, Maker of Men ; The Druggist's Dilemma (short) (+ co-adaptation, dialogue); Hokus Focus (short) (+ co-adaptation, dialogue); Melody Cruise (+ co-sc); Private Wives (short) (+ co-story); So This Is Harris (short) (+ co-story); Thru Thin and Thicket; or, Who's Zoo in Africa? (short)


Hips, Hips, Hooray ; Cockeyed Cavaliers ; The Gay Divorcee


Top Hat


A Woman Rebels ; Follow the Fleet


Shall We Dance?

Mark Sandrich (sitting on ground by scaffolding), on the set of A Woman Rebels
Mark Sandrich (sitting on ground by scaffolding), on the set of A Woman Rebels




Man about Town


Love Thy Neighbor (+ pr); Buck Benny Rides Again (+ pr)


Skylark (+ pr)


Holiday Inn (+ pr)


So Proudly We Hail! (+ pr)


I Love A Soldier (+ pr); Here Come the Waves (+ pr)


On SANDRICH: articles—

McManus, John T., "A Sandrich and a Dance or So," in New York Times , 16 May 1937.

Strauss, Theodore, "That Sandrich Man," in New York Times , 12 July 1942.

* * *

The signature of Mark Sandrich is blurred. With a string of significant features to his credit, it would seem that a few books on Sandrich should have been published. Yet there have been no career evaluations of this director/producer. The reason is two-fold. First of all, Sandrich's efforts are upstaged by the star power in his films. Secondly, Sandrich died in early middle age in 1945, cutting short his screen legacy at a time when the major studio factory system was beginning to be derailed and director/producers of his caliber were just starting to assert their position as auteurs within an about-to-be newly designed Hollywood.

With few exceptions, Sandrich's most important films are comedies featuring legendary performers in legendary performances. The best known are the several Fred Astaire-Ginger Rogers musicals that he made at RKO. No matter how often these films are packaged, they never are tagged "Mark Sandrich films." Instead, they are the Astaire-Rogers musicals. Even so, it is Sandrich's contribution that allowed for the creation of Astaire-Rogers as one of the 1930's most popular and exciting screen teams. Sandrich employed his extensive experience in screen comedy to mold a bland-looking Fred Astaire from a stage dancer/singer into a lively and charming screen presence.

Directing dozens of silent and early sound comedy shorts gave Sandrich an expert's viewpoint on presenting screen comedy. With his sharpened eye, he determined how best to complement Astaire's rather stagy manner and distant formality with the more free-flowing, vivacious Rogers. The results were dynamic. When The Gay Divorcee was being made, Rogers had more screen experience than Astaire. She acts more loosely for the camera than Astaire, whose theatrical gestures and reactions are a bit heavy-handed for films. Realizing this, Sandrich adjusts the placement of the camera to accommodate each of his actors. The film unfolds with a series of brief comedy sequences involving Astaire, Rogers, and a number of character actors. When Sandrich films Astaire, he does so in a series of quick takes, and he does not bring the camera in for a close shot. When Astaire and Rogers "meet cute" over a large trunk in which Rogers' dress is caught, Sandrich moves in for a couple close shots of Rogers reacting to the situation, but he keeps Astaire at a distance. By recognizing the comfort zone of his stars, he brings out the most effective performance for each.

Sandrich seems to savor the comedy scenes in his films. His attention to camera placement and fast-paced editing result in efficient comedy sequences that bring quick laughs and prevent overly long reaction shots. Hips, Hips, Hooray and Cockeyed Cavaliers , both of which star the zany comedy duo of Wheeler and Woolsey, offer examples of this technique. Buck Benny Rides Again and Love Thy Neighbor , offbeat comedies featuring Jack Benny and Eddie "Rochester" Anderson, work because Sandrich is sensitive to Benny's precise comic timing, as well as the humorous styles of other popular radio comedians who make appearances in the film.

Sandrich produced as well as directed his films from 1940 until his death. Taking a break from comedy, he made an outstanding World War II patriotic melodrama of brave nurses caring for fighting men in the Pacific. In So Proudly We Hail! , Sandrich emphasized accuracy and brought in several experienced combat nurses to document details of their experience. That authentication was particularly important to audiences since the film was in production when the war was in progress. This project, plus a follow-up called I Love a Soldier , a drama about wartime marriage which re-teams several of the So Proudly We Hail! stars, demonstrates Sandrich's willingness to expand his cinematic repertoire, and make films that are serious as well as escapist.

Because of Sandrich's sudden death, one only can speculate whether he would have further developed his talents during the postwar era, perhaps in a manner similar to director George Stevens, whose early career parallels Sandrich's.

—Audrey Kupferberg

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