Today is the birthday of film director Mark Sandrich (Mark Rex Goldstein, 1900-1945). Sandrich studied engineering at Columbia University before breaking into films as a prop master. He began directing comedy shorts for Fox in 1926, mostly starring long-forgotten comedians (that is to say, even less remembered than the folks we normally write about here) and sadly almost all of these films are now lost.
In the sound era he went over to RKO, where he continued directing comedy shorts, this time with names we recognize, such as Ford Sterling, Walter Caitlett, Skeets Gallagher, Phil Harris, and many others. In 1933 he began to make features for RKO, including two with Wheeler and Woolsey, Hips, Hips, Hooray and Cockeyed Cavaliers (both 1934), almost all of the Fred and Ginger vehicles, the Jack Benny comedy western Buck Benny Rides Again (1940), and Irving Berlin’s Holiday Inn (1942). He also amassed many screen credits as a screenwriter and producer. He died suddenly and without warning in 1945 while working on Blue Skies, the follow up to Holiday Inn.
But as Paul Harvey used to say, “And now…the Rest of the story.” Mark’s son Jay Sandrich carried on the family business by becoming one of the top tv sit-com directors of the 1970s and 80s, including most of the episodes of The Mary Tyler Moore Show, the first three seasons of The Cosby Show, and many, many episodes of Get Smart, The Odd Couple, The Bob Newhart Show, Soap, WKRP in Cincinnati and Golden Girls. He also directed the 1980 comedy film Seems Like Old Times, written by Neil Simon and starring Chevy Chase, Goldie Hawn, and Charles Grodin.
To learn more about comedy film history don’t miss my book: Chain of Fools: Silent Comedy and Its Legacies from Nickelodeons to Youtube, just released by Bear Manor Media, also available from amazon.com etc etc etc. For still more on show biz history, consult No Applause, Just Throw Money: The Book That Made Vaudeville Famous, available at Amazon, Barnes and Noble, and wherever nutty books are sold.