Born: January 15, 1892 in Dublin, Ireland
Died: July 21, 1950 in North Hollywood, California, USA
|~Hoover Portrait of Director Rex Ingram~
Not to be confused with the African American actor of the same name, Irish-born actor/director Rex
Ingram was a set designer and painter before entering films as a performer in 1914's Necklace of
Rameses. Handsome enough to thrive as a film star, Ingram was more attracted to directing, making
his debut in this capacity with the 1916 feature "The Great Problem." A consummate artist, Ingram
disliked the crass business haggling of Hollywood, and was particularly disenchanted with the level of
American writing. He was drawn to the mystical, tragic novels of Spanish author Vicente Blasco
Ibanez; many of these were un-filmable, but one Ibanez adaptation, "Four Horsemen of the
Apocalypse" (1922), was not only a hit for Ingram but secured the stardom of Rudolph Valentino.
Unwilling to submit to rushed production schedules and tight budgets, Ingram was not well loved in
Hollywood, though he found a kindred spirit in fellow director Erich Von Stroheim, who like Ingram
was meticulous in detail but careless in spending studio money. When Von Stroheim completed the
eight-hour film drama"McTeague," Ingram volunteered out of friendship to cut the film down to a
more playable length. When Ingram's cut was whittled down further by MGM and released as
"Greed" (1924), Ingram decided that he was sick of the so-called "butchers" of Hollywood and
retreated to France, where he set up his own studios in Nice to direct films of his own choosing with
his wife Alice Terry as star. Visually exquisite, with richly toned photography and beautifully tinted
film stock, Ingram's features were artistic successes but box-office disappointments. Seen today,
such Ingram films as "Mare Nostrum" (1926) and "The Magician" (1927) are feasts for the eye, but
rather stodgy and slow; moreover, though he fancied himself a writer, Ingram's screenplays are often
confusing and disorganized. Still, he was a staunch individualist in a world of cookie-cutter studio
directors, and Ingram had a loyal following, even if his films lost money for his Anerican distributors.
Utterly opposed to the introduction of talking pictures, Ingram made one sound film, "Baroud"
(1931), which was filmed in Morocco. Thereafter, Ingram abandoned filmmaking for the tenets of
Islam, devoting the last two decades of his life to introspective worship, writing, and sculpting.
|~Los Angeles Times~
January 29, 2010
silent film era, Ingram was a primary sculptor of the art of film and a discoverer of talent who was
instrumental in the careers of many of Hollywood's silent screen luminaries, including Rudolph
Valentino, Ramon Novarro and Barbara La Marr.
Known as one of the most artistic directors of his time, Ingram's landmark epic "The Four Horsemen
of the Apocalypse" (1921), based on Vicente Blasco Ibanez's novel, was a visual stunner with
unparalleled pageantry and emotion, causing viewers to "fall under its spell."
"The elegant Parisian salons, the sordid Argentine cafe, in their enriched color and life, hold
fascination for the eye," wrote film critic Edwin Schallert. He described Valentino, Alice Terry and
Virginia Warwick, among others, as "magnetic interpreters" who "immediately claim your attention
and hold it through force of personality."
As one of the largest-grossing films of the time, at more than $4 million, it ushered in a new era, the
era of the first movie idol, Valentino, and his legacy as the "Latin Lover."
Ingram followed the film's success with another vehicle for his two main stars, Valentino and Terry,
by directing "The Conquering Power" the same year, to rave reviews. "With the screening of this
picture, Rex Ingram becomes a master of the beautiful in visual expression," wrote Schallert. "If true
art can be determined by its symbols of beauty, its rhythm, its formal perfection and its reality, then
'Conquering Power' is the great artistic picture of the year."
While conquering film, Ingram also conquered love, in the form of his featured starlet, Terry, whom
he first directed in "Hearts Are Trumps" (1920). He plucked her from obscurity to megastardom,
alongside Valentino, when he cast her in "The Four Horsemen of the Apocalypse." They married in
early 1922, forming a personal and professional partnership that lasted until his death. He directed
Terry in "Turn to the Right" (1922), "The Prisoner of Zenda" (1922) and "Where the Pavement Ends"
(1923), among others. Ingram and Terry co-directed the film "Baroud" (1932), of which Ingram wrote
the screenplay. It was Ingram's only talkie and his swan song from filmmaking. As sound ushered in
a new era, he found expression in sculpting and novel writing.
Never idle, always evolving, Ingram, the son of a clergyman, who spent many of his formative years
in his father's rectory, announced in 1933 that he was leaving the film industry to pursue the
Mohammedan faith. He returned to Hollywood in 1936.
Recognized for his fundamental influence in the artistry and evolution of filmmaking, including the
dawn of the epic, the Directors Guild of America recognized him with an Honorary Life Member
Award in 1949.
—Nancy Baker for the Los Angeles Times Jan. 29, 2010