Rouben Mamoulian, Film and Theater Director

Rouben Mamoulian, Film and Theater Director

“As a film director, Mamoulian was a self-taught genius.” - Alice L. Birney, Library of Congress

Who he was

Rouben Mamoulian was a film director in what came to be known as “the golden age” of motion picture. He was known for pushing the envelope by using new filmmaking techniques that changed the way movies were shot. 

Mamoulian was born in Tiflis (now Tbilisi, Georgia) when it was still a part of Tsarist Russia. He studied with Stanislavsky and Vakhtangov in Russia before moving to the United States, settling in New York and teaching at the Eastman School of Music. Although he is remembered as a groundbreaking film director, he got his start directing theater productions in New York. It was only when he gained a reputation for stage productions that he was invited to direct films in Hollywood. 

During his career in film, Mamoulian directed “Applause,” one of the first movies with sound. In describing the movie, the Library of Congress compares it to Orson Welles’s “Citizen Kane” for its intrepid experimentation with untried moviemaking techniques. Under Mamoulian’s direction of “Dr. Jekyl and Mr. Hyde,” actor Frederic March won an Academy Award for his performance. The Directors Guild of America later honored Mamoulian with a Lifetime Achievement Award.

In describing a photo where Mamoulian is pictured with several other famous Hollywood directors, including Alfred Hitchcock, who is seated beside him, the Times Literary Supplement wrote: “His presence as one of the great American directors is appropriate, as is his position slightly separate from, and ahead of, these peers.”

Interesting fact

According to Jackie Cooper, Mamoulian was his uncle. 

Learn more about him

Rouben Mamoulian biography - Turner Classic Movies

Mamoulian Collection Arrives at the Library of Congress

Rouben Mamoulian Papers