Life on Stage and Screen


An Armenian national raised in Russia, Rouben Mamoulian (1897--1987) studied in the influential Stanislavski studio, renowned as the source of the "method" acting technique. Shortly after immigrating to New York in 1926, he created a sensation with an all-black production of Porgy (1927). He then went on to direct the debut Broadway productions of three of the most popular shows in the history of American musical theater: Porgy and Bess (1935), Oklahoma! (1943), and Carousel (1945). Mamoulian began working in film just as the sound revolution was dramatically changing the technical capabilities of the medium, and he quickly established himself as an innovator. Not only did many of his unusual camera techniques become standard, but he also invented a device that eliminated the background noises created by cameras and dollies. Seen as a rebel earlier in his career, Mamoulian gradually gained respect in Hollywood, and the Directors Guild of America awarded him the prestigious D. W. Griffith Award for Lifetime Achievement in 1983.

In this meticulously researched biography, David Luhrssen paints the influential director as a socially conscious artist who sought to successfully combine art and commercial entertainment. Luhrssen not only reveals the fascinating personal story of an important yet neglected figure, but he also offers a tantalizing glimpse into the extraordinarily vibrant American film and theater industries during the twenties, thirties, and forties.

  • The University Press of Kentucky; November 2012
  • ISBN 9780813141190
  • Read online, or download in secure PDF or secure EPUB format
  • Title: Mamoulian
  • Author: David Luhrssen
  • Imprint: The University Press of Kentucky

In The Press

"David Luhrssen has done yeoman work in researching the neglected theatrical aspect of Mamoulian's career, recreating it with a graceful and often colorful style. Luhrssen does equal justice to Mamoulian's films, giving full attention to his unique style and the technological and artistic advances he helped bring about. This important book helps restore the limelight to an influential artist who has been unjustly overlooked in recent years." -- Joseph McBride, author of What Ever Happened to Orson Welles?: A Portrait of an Independent Career

About The Author

David Luhrssen is the arts and entertainment editor and film critic for the Shepherd Express and cofounder and director of the Milwaukee International Film Festival. He is the author of Hammer of the Gods: Thule Society and the Birth of Nazism and Elvis Presley: Reluctant Rebel.