Vincent Sherman, veteran Warner Bros. director and one of the last survivors of the great Hollywood studio era, died Sunday at the Motion Picture & Television Fund Hospital in Woodland Hills, one month short of his 100th birthday. He had been in excellent health until very recently.
A fine craftsman who made several notable melodramas, often toplining leading female stars, Sherman directed such popular entertainments as “Mr. Skeffington” with Bette Davis, “Old Acquaintance” with Davis and Miriam Hopkins, “The Hard Way,” “In Our Time” and “Pillow to Post” with Ida Lupino, “All Through the Night” with Humphrey Bogart, “Nora Prentiss” and “The Unfaithful” with Ann Sheridan and “The Adventures of Don Juan” with Errol Flynn.
Born Abe Orovitz in Vienna, Georgia, on July 16, 1906, Sherman studied law at Oglethorpe U. in Atlanta before turning to acting. His deep, rich voice and impeccable enunciation won him early roles onstage in such New York productions as “Counsellor-at-Law,” “One Is Guilty” and “Midnight Alibi,” and then in a number of films, including “Hell Bent for Love” and “Girl in Danger.”
After a couple of screenwriting credits, on “Crime School” and “King of the Underworld,” he made his directorial debut in 1939 on “The Return of Dr. X,” which starred Bogart, then spent more than a decade turning out films mostly for Warner Bros.
He was scrutinized and “graylisted” by the House Un-American Activities Committee, in part for his earlier activities with the WPA theater in New York, and went to Britain to make “The Hasty Heart” with Ronald Reagan and Richard Todd; latter received an Oscar nomination. He made three features with Joan Crawford, “The Damned Don’t Cry,” “Harriet Craig” and “Goodbye, My Fancy,” then “Affair in Trinidad” with Rita Hayworth; in his autobiography, “Studio Affairs: My Life As a Film Director,” published in 1996, he revealed his affairs with both stars, as well as with Davis.
Among his later pictures were “The Garment Jungle,” “The Naked Earth,” “The Young Philadelphians” with Paul Newman, “Ice Palace” with Richard Burton and Robert Ryan, “A Fever in the Blood,” “The Second Time Around” and, in 1967, his last film, “Cervantes” (aka “The Young Rebel”).
Sherman worked in television from the 1960s to the 1980s, on such shows as “77 Sunset Strip,” “Matlock,” “The Waltons” and “Trapper John M.D.” His long history in Hollwyood informed TV movies such as “Bogie” and “The Dream Merchants.”
He was honored by France’s Institut Lumiere, the American Cinematheque and Midnight Sun film fest. After a retrospective screening or “The Hard Way” at the Telluride Fest in 1995, his career enjoyed renewed recognition. His final bigscreen appearance came in the American Cinematheque documentary “Forever Hollywood.”
He is survived by son Eric, a producer-director; daughter Hedwin; a sister; four grandchildren; and three great-grandchildren. His wife, Hedda, died in 1984.