Old Movie Teams

Weren’t they also in that other movie?

Cedric Gibbons & Douglas Shearer

They were not actors per se and found themselves performing rarely in front of a camera and almost never in the same frame. They are, nonetheless, included here as a team because their names appear in the credits of MGM Studio releases more than any other duo in motion pictures. Beginning with The Broadway Melody (1929) and culminating with Tennessee Champ (1954), a span of 25 years and approximately 876 movies, Cedric Gibbons and Douglas Shearer consistently performed the roles of art director and director of sound recording, respectively.

Mr. Gibbons even took a stab at directing. It was actually co-directing with Jack Conway and James McKay for the second Johnny Weissmuller Tarzan movie Tarzan and his mate (Mr. Gibbons, however, is the only one of the three directors to receive mention in the credits). In 1955, Mr. Shearer was promoted to the office of director of technical research at MGM and ceased to appear in the credits. He held that position until his retirement in 1968.

Both men brought to their respective roles innovation and artistic flare, as evidenced by the volume of awards each received throughout their careers. Douglas Shearer, for instance (who, incidentally, is the brother of Academy Award-winning actress Norma Shearer), received 25 nominations for Academy Awards for his work with, influence and inspiration to the recording and construction of sound in the movies. Fourteen of those nominations resulted in Oscars, and five of Mr. Shearer’s Oscars were for the sound recording of movies in which Cedric Gibbons’s name was also in the credits for art direction:

The Big House (1930)
Naughty Marietta (1935)
San Francisco (1936)
Strike Up the Band (1940)
The Great Caruso (1951)

Cedric Gibbons received 30 nominations for Academy Awards for his work in art direction and won Oscars for 11 of those nominations (10 of those Oscar wins occurred for movies in which Douglas Shearer’s name also appears in the credits for sound recording):

The Bridge of San Luis Rey (1929)
The Merry Widow (1934)
Pride and Prejudice (1940)
Blossoms in the Dust (1941)
Gaslight (1944)
The Yearling (1946)
Little Women (1949)
An American in Paris (1951)
The Bad and the Beautiful (1952)
Julius Caesar (1953)

Interestingly, they failed to receive Oscars for any one same movie. Also interesting is the fact that their names appear with such frequency in the credits of MGM movies not because of their direct participation in the making of every single movie at the MGM studio from 1929 through 1955, but because their contracts during that time period stipulated that their names would appear in every MGM feature-length movie.

1 Comment»

  Geo A Gibson wrote @

My wife (RIP) & I were always into classic movies. We’d pick up on, what we called, the big 3. Gibbons, Shearer & Willis. Although Edwin Willis only was involved in 600+ films, I didn’t realize that Cedric & Doug had their names in some 876-odd films. That’s incredible. I liked your article. Too bad my wife missed out on it.

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