American producer/director/cinematographer George Stevens made his professional acting debut at age five in the company of his actor-parents. Developing an interest in photography as a hobby, Stevens became an assistant movie cameraman at the age of 17. From 1927 through 1930, he was principal cameraman at Hal Roach Studios, shooting such classic two-reelers as Laurel and Hardy's Two Tars (1928) and Below Zero (1930), as well as a handful of feature films, including the 1927 Western No Man's Law. Stevens was elevated to director in 1930 for Roach's Boy Friends series.
Stevens' directorial style displayed the same acute sense of visual dynamics that had distinguished his earlier work as a cameraman; the director refined and improved upon that style through sweat and persistence. Once he reached the "A" list, Stevens became one of the most meticulous and painstaking directors in the business, commencing production only after extensive research, filming take after take until perfection was achieved, and then spending as much as a full year editing the finished product.
During World War II, Stevens was made an officer in the Signal Corps, filming vivid color footage of such historical milestones as the D-Day maneuvers and the liberation of the death camps; much of this footage was incorporated into the 1984 documentary George Stevens: A Filmaker's Journey, assembled by George Stevens Jr. After the war, Stevens produced and directed his final RKO assignment, I Remember Mama (1948), then moved to Paramount for what many consider his crowning achievement -- 1951's A Place in the Sun, a brilliant filmization of the Theodore Dreiser novel An American Tragedy. A Place in the Sun won Stevens his first Oscar for best directing in 1951. The more time and effort Stevens expended on his individual projects, the fewer he produced. His output between 1953 and 1959 consisted of Shane (1953); Giant (1956), in which he put the awkward Cinemascope screen to superb artistic use, winning his second Oscar in the process; and The Diary of Anne Frank (1959).
While George Stevens' reputation was tarnished by the disappointments of his last years, critics and fans alike have taken a "forgive and forget" stance since his death in 1975, preferring to cite his huge manifest of hits rather than his final faltering misses.