Lloyd Bacon (1889-1955)

Lloyd Bacon
Lloyd Bacon

Lloyd Bacon was an early Hollywood film director who made his name with the brilliantly innovative Busby Berkeley musicals '42nd Street' and 'Footlight Parade' and continued directing over 100 movies in a variety of genres and with great success. He started his career as a vaudeville actor and he continued acting in silent movies with top stars such as Charles Chaplin. He several times directed his namesake, character actor Irving Bacon, but the two were not related.


Lloyd Bacon was born Lloyd Francis Bacon on December 4, 1889, in San José, California. His parents were both actors and his father, Frank, was the star and co-author of the successful 1918 Broadway show 'Lightnin'.

After studying law at the Jesuit-run Santa Clara College in California, Bacon, with the encouragement of his parents decided to enter the acting profession and in 1911 he began touring with the stock company run by producer and theatrical impresario, David Belasco. He spent several years on the touring circuit, gaining acting experience and making contacts which he would find invaluable in later years.

In 1915 he appeared in his first silent movies, mostly at the Essanay Studios in shorts starring one of the first movie cowboy stars, and one of the founders of Essanay, Gilbert 'Broncho Billy' Anderson. He also worked as a double and stuntman during this time, working with Charlie Chaplin in such films as 'The Tramp' in 1915, 'The Floorwalker' and 'The Fireman' in 1916 and 'Easy Street' in 1917.

World War I 1917

When America entered the war in 1917, Bacon enlisted in the U.S. Navy and was assigned to the photographic department. Many of his later films as a director harked back fondly to his time in the Navy.

After the war Bacon continued with his acting career but he was drawn to the creative role behind the camera. He worked for a time writing gags for the Mack Sennett studio and from 1921 on he started to direct some of Sennett's comedy shorts. In the early 1920's he moved between Fox and Universal Studios making a number of short comedies such 'Radio Romeo' in 1923, 'Wedding Showers' and 'Empty Heads' in 1924 and 'He Who Gets Smacked' and 'Good Morning, Nurse' in 1925, before joining Warner Brothers late in 1925, where he would stay for most of his career.

His first feature film for Warners was 'Broken Hearts of Hollywood' in 1926, followed later that year by 'Private Izzy Murphy' starring George Jessel. It was the start of a highly successful directorial career and within three years Bacon was being described as one of the best directors in Hollywood.

Talkies 1929

Bacon took the coming of Sound in movies in his stride and directed Al Jolson in two movie follow-ups to 'The Jazz Singer', 'The Singing Fool' in 1928 and 'Say It with Songs' the following year, both of which used dialogue and music and did not just add synchronised songs to a silent film, as with 'The Jazz Singer'.

Within a few years Bacon had become as well known for his musicals as he had been for his comedy movies and in 1933 he directed two classics of the musical genre, '42nd Street' and 'Footlight Parade'. Both movies had snappy scripts, top quality performers such as Dick Powell and Ruby Keeler and, above all, choreography by Busby Berkeley. Bacon became the highest paid of all Warners' directors.

'Footlight Parade' starred James Cagney who had already appeared in Bacon's 'Picture Snatcher' earlier in 1933 The two established a good working relationship and went on to make a total of fourteen movies together including 'The Irish in Us' and 'Devil Dogs of the Air' in 1935, the smash hit 'Boy Meets Girl' in 1938 and 'The Oklahoma Kid' in 1939.

In 1937 Bacon directed one of his most notable films, 'Marked Woman', starring Bette Davis and Humphrey Bogart about a brutal New York gangster based on real life Lucky Luciano. The screenplay was written by Robert Rossen who also wrote two further movies which Bacon directed, 'Racket Busters' in 1938 and 'A Child Is Born' the following year.

Edward G. Robinson 1938

With war looming at the end of the 1930's, typical Warner Bros. gangster movies began to look dated and Bacon made a series of three gangster parodies, each one starring Edward G. Robinson, who had made his name playing serious gangster films. ' A Slight Case of Murder' in 1938 was a big success and Bacon followed it with 'Brother Orchid' in 1940 and 'Larceny Inc.' in 1942.

World War II

During the Second World War Bacon made several propaganda movies including the well received 'Action in the North Atlantic' in 1943, which was his last film for Warner Bros. He moved to 20th Century Fox in 1944, where he stayed for five years, and continued to make movies of high quality such as 'The Sullivans' in 1944.

Later Career

Whilst still at Fox, Bacon directed 'It Happens Every Spring' in 1949, a baseball comedy starring Ray Milland, which did well at the box office. He directed another baseball film in 1950, 'Kill the Umpire' starring William Bendix, this time for Columbia, and he finished his career with two comedies for RKO, 'The French Line' and 'She Couldn't Say No', both in 1954.


Lloyd Bacon is not remembered as a John Ford or George Cukor for making a string of masterpieces but he was certainly one of the foremost names in early Sound movies. He made several unforgettable classics such as '42nd Street' and 'Marked Woman' and his movies were notable for their timing, style and good old-fashioned storytelling. He was a studio man and gave his bosses what they wanted, successful movies, on time and under budget.

Bacon worked almost to the end. He died from a cerebral hemorrhage on November 15, 1955 in Burbank, California.

Lloyd Bacon Academy Awards

No Nominations:

Lloyd Bacon Filmography

The Speeder (Short)
The Educator (Short)
No Luck (Short)
Extra! Extra! (Short)
Uneasy Feet (Short)
F.O.B. (Short)
Radio Romeo (Short)
The Host (Short)
Good Morning (Short)
Wedding Showers (Short)
Don't Fail (Short)
Empty Heads (Short)
The Wild Goose Chaser (Short)
The Raspberry Romance (Short)
Merrymakers (Short)
He Who Gets Smacked (Short)
Good Morning, Nurse (Short)
Hurry, Doctor! (Short)
A Rainy Knight (Short)
Good Morning, Madam! (Short)
Take Your Time (Short)
Isn't Love Cuckoo? (Short)
The Window Dummy (Short)
Wide Open Faces (Short)
The Funnymooners (Short)
Meet My Girl (Short)
Circus Today (Short)
Two Lips in Holland (Short)
Broken Hearts of Hollywood
A Prodigal Bridegroom (Short)
Private Izzy Murphy
Finger Prints
Smith's Customer (Short)
White Flannels
The Heart of Maryland
The Heart of Maryland
A Sailor's Sweetheart
Brass Knuckles
The Question of Today (Short)
Pay as You Enter
The Lion and the Mouse
Women They Talk About
The Singing Fool
Stark Mad
No Defense
Honky Tonk
Say It with Songs
So Long Letty
The Other Tomorrow
She Couldn't Say No
A Notorious Affair
Moby Dick
The Office Wife
50 Million Frenchmen
Sit Tight
Kept Husbands
Gold Dust Gertie
Honor of the Family
Manhattan Parade
Fireman, Save My Child
Alias the Doctor (uncredited)
The Famous Ferguson Case
Miss Pinkerton
You Said a Mouthful
42nd Street
Picture Snatcher
Mary Stevens, M.D.
Footlight Parade
Son of a Sailor
Wonder Bar
A Very Honorable Guy
He Was Her Man
Here Comes the Navy
6 Day Bike Rider
Devil Dogs of the Air
In Caliente
Broadway Gondolier
The Irish in Us
Frisco Kid
Sons o' Guns
Cain and Mabel
Gold Diggers of 1937
Marked Woman
Ever Since Eve
San Quentin
Submarine D-1
A Slight Case of Murder
Cowboy from Brooklyn
Racket Busters
Boy Meets Girl
Wings of the Navy
The Oklahoma Kid
Indianapolis Speedway
Espionage Agent
A Child Is Born
Invisible Stripes