Revealed: The incredible story of Scotland's most successful filmmaker

HE'S the most prolific and successful filmmaker Scotland has ever produced.

Frank Lloyd was one of Hollywood's top directors in the Twenties and Thirties, making the classic Mutiny On The Bounty, starring Charles Laughton and Clark Gable, in 1935.

But his amazing legacy has largely been forgotten in his native land. Yet, he was a historic and pioneering figure in the world of film, a founder of the Academy Awards and was Scotland's first Oscar winner.

He made 187 movies and counted James Cagney, Douglas Fairbanks Jnr, John Wayne, Clark Gable, Cary Grant and Marlene Deitrich as friends.

He won two Best Director Oscars, first for The Divine Lady (1929) about the romance between Lord Nelson and Lady Hamilton, then for Cavalcade (1933), a lavish epic based on a Noel Coward story.

His Mutiny On The Bounty won Best Picture and, at the time, was the most expensive film ever made, costing $2million. But it made $4.4million at the box office.

Frank's success earned him a star on the Hollywood walk of fame outside his favourite restaurant, Musso and Frank's.

When he died in 1960, aged 73, the film industry turned out in force to honour him.

It marked the end of a remarkable life and an incredible journey, from his birthplace in Cambuslang, on the outskirts of Glasgow, to a plush mansion in Los Angeles. Born to a Welsh father, Edmund, a mechanical engineer, and Scottish mother Jane, he was the youngest of seven children.

Because of his father's work, the family travelled the country. But after his dad gave up engineering due to injury, they settled in Shepherd's Bush, London, and bought a pub.

Frank was just 14 when his interest in film was born as he watched the funeral procession of Queen Victoria. In his unpublished memoirs, he wrote: "I climbed the wall and grabbed an iron railing to hoist myself above the crowd. Beside me, an unwieldy box had a wooden crank which ground on. The operator ignored all questions as he cranked the odd contraption by hand.

"Nobody could tell me what the machine was until a bobby spoke low, 'That's called a Mutescope. It makes pictures wot move, lad.' "I was to spend my mature years trying to make pictures which moved, but this was the first film camera I had seen."

By day, young Frank worked in a shoe shop. At night, he sang in choral groups and went to the theatre as often as he could.

He tried to write plays and joined a vaudeville group doing impersonations and song and dance. But aged 22, he took the decision to emigrate.

It was December 1909 when he crossed the Atlantic for s5, heading for Canada. He travelled as cheaply as possible in steerage - the lowest deck with poor amenities.

He entertained fellow passengers singing at their concerts on the long trip. But his excellent voice earned him a bonus when the purser ordered him to sing for the first-class passengers. He recalled: "I was escorted into the luxurious music salon. They were kind in their applause. I managed to stumble down to my deck in a daze of delight, managing to clutch the extra s2 the purser told me I had earned.

"I had barely the s5 required for landing and took this windfall as a good omen."

With no friends and no job, he arrived in the New World to the sound of bagpipes as a band turned out to welcome fellow Scots.

Frank wrote: "I blessed the bagpipes. This land already seemed less strange. Winnipeg was my destination, after hearing work was most plentiful there. Western Canada and I had something in common. We were young and invited opportunity."

He worked on a ranch for a year in Alberta, before moving to a telephone company, erecting poles and wires.

Then he returned to his first love of theatre. He joined a travelling show, performing in a different town every night in Canada and the US.

He fell in love with the show's leading lady, Alma Haller, and they quit when the manager refused them time off to get married.

On the day they walked out, they found themselves in a tiny, quiet Californian town called Hollywood.

It was there Frank got bit parts in movies. His first role was a Confederate soldier in The Battle For Gettysburg (1913). He had acted in more than 40 films by 1915, often as a villain. He still appeared on stage, often impersonating Harry Lauder.

Around this time, he met and became friends with the great silent movie actor Harold Lloyd. They decided they were related because they shared the same surname.

Frank also became pals with Boris Karloff and Lon Chaney, and, for the next 15 years, his career blossomed.

But he saw that writing and directing could be a lot more lucrative and quit acting.

He directed more than 90 silent movies, most of which have been lost.

He wrote: "We were making at least a picture a week. A two-reel film was to cost not more than 2000, at the rate of 1 a foot. A two-reeler - The Prince of Bavaria - finished within the week, bringing my check to 110.

"As a celebration, I hurried out to buy a Model T Ford for 425. We were so proud of our first car."

FRANK began experimenting with mood lighting, shadows and contrasts, fading, double exposure, split screens, panning and pull-backs.

He worked for many studios before going to Fox and then Sam Goldwyn.

At 25, he was already a star name and making big bucks at the box office as silent movies drew huge crowds.

In 1922, he made Oliver Twist, with Lon Chaney as Fagan and Jackie Coogan, aged seven, as Oliver. It cost just 175,000 but brought in 2million.

By now a dad, Frank often used his eight-year-old daughter, named Alma after her mum, as an extra.

One day on the set, Jackie was on a pony which bolted. Young Alma gave chase on another pony and stopped the runaway. When they met years later, he would always remind her of the day she saved his life.

His father's job had given Frank a love of the sea and he made many maritime movies.

The Sea Hawk (1924) was his 60th film and included rousing battle scenes involving full-size ships - not models - which cost a colossal 200,000. On location, 150 tents were erected to house 1000 extras and the authenticity helped it make 2million.

In 1927, Lloyd and 35 other senior movie figures set up the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences.

They included Cecil B. DeMille, whose daughter went to school with Alma, and Frank's racquet-ball partner, Douglas Fairbanks Snr.

Frank later told his family he had insisted "sciences" be added to recognise technicians, cameramen and others behind the scenes. And that's the reason for the tiny film canister on which an Oscar stands, representing a group which contributed to the making of a film.

Frank took Best Director in the second year of the awards for The Divine Lady. It was crucially important as it came at the start of the talking movies. Two versions were made, one with sound and another without, as some cinemas had yet to be adapted.

On the night Frank won his second Best Director Oscar, for Cavalcade, there was a hilarious incident.

Another top director, Frank Capra, was a Best Director nominee for Lady For A Day.

When host Will Rogers opened the envelope for Best Director, he said: "I've watched this young man for a long time. Saw him come up from the bottom, and I mean the bottom. It couldn't have happened to a nicer guy.

Come on up and get it, Frank." Capra got up, squeezing past tables and making his way to the open dance floor to accept his Oscar.

He recalled: "The spotlight searched around trying to find me. 'Over here,' I shouted and waved."

Then Rogers said: "The winner is Frank Lloyd."

Capra recalled: "The spotlight swept away from me and picked up a flustered man standing on the other side of the dance floor, Frank Lloyd."

Capra described his walk back to his table amid shouts of "Sit down" as the "longest, saddest, most shattering of my life". He added: "I wished I could have crawled under the rug like a miserable worm. When I slumped in my chair, I felt like one. All my friends at the table were crying."

But Capra got his reward in later years with three Oscars of his own.

In 1934, Frank took on a major challenge - Mutiny On The Bounty.

Locations included Tahiti and filming took 88days, long by industry standards Interviewed at the time by photoplay Magazine, Frank said: "When I finished reading Mutiny On The Bountry, I felt a definite excitement.

"I knew I'd follow the simple history Of a little ship-a-character in itself - on a long journey. That aboard is a small group of men, courageous, sometimes sullen always genuine.

"That the ship and the men reached Paradise and saw its beauty, were forced to leave that beauty and mutinied knew that there was thrilling adventure, a great and simple theme, the qualities of laughter and grief, and superb characters.

"And I knew that I could sell a combination like that to any audience.

"A good picture and, what's more Important, a best-selling picture, must Have three basic qualities of success - entertainment ment value, an important idea or thought, and good characters."

Clark Gable and Charles Laughton starred as Fletcher Christian and Captain Bligh respectively and were both nominated for Oscars.

James Cagney had a small part, too.

Afriend of Frank's, he was sailing on his yacht off of Los Angeles when he saw filming taking place near Santa Catalina island.

On a whim, he asked to join in as an extra, a sailor, for the day, uncredited.

GABLE was worried period costume would make him look effeminate. To persuade him to wear breeches and a pony tail and shave off his moustache, Frank had to convince him the film would be a smash.

He also bribed him with the reward of a cruise around South America after filming finished.

Laughton - at his own expense - had Captain Bligh's original London tailor make his costume. He also tracked down Bligh's hatmaker and got an authentic tricorn.

Gable and Laughton disliked each other. Gable, a notorious homophobe, did not care for Laughton's homosexuality and relations between the two broke down after Laughton brought his boyfriend to the island.

But Frank did a good job of soothing their huge egos and both were nominated for Oscars. The film got eight nominations in total but only won Best Picture.

Frank then went on to make movies with Paramount.

During World War Two, he was assigned the rank of major and made documentaries about the strategy of bombing in the South Pacific and about the bombing of Nagasaki.

He was awarded the Air Medal as well as the very prestigious Legion of Merit award.

Frank continued to make movies until the mid-Fifties and, with his wife Alma, hosted wedding anniversary parties in their home on July 11 every year until she died in 1952.

Their only child, Alma, trained for the stage in New York on Broadway, acted in two of Frank's films and later married a Broadway actor and had four children.

In 1957, Frank married the twice Oscar-nominated screen-writer Virginia Kellogg, his companion until his death from a heart and lung condition in 1960.

His memory is now being preserved by his proud grandchildren.

Tonia Guerrero, a retired teacher and translator who lives in Santa Barbara, said: "We have thousands of photos and lots of letters and clippings and posters, lobby cards and programmes.

"I was 13 when my grandfather died.

My brother, Christopher, a film editor with his own business, is older and remembers going on my grandfather's sets. We have another brother Jon, a professor of Russian literature, and a sister Miranda, a film editor."

Tonia would love to preserve and restore all films, especially the silents and the 187 acted in or made by Frank.

She said: "I visit early film festivals around the world, introducing my grandfather's movies and speaking about the desperate need for preservation of these treasures.

"Film decomposes at a rapid rate because of the chemicals. There are ways to copy them but it's time consuming and expensive.

"We often visited my grandfather's home in Hollywood. He had a big house called The Grove in the Whittier district of LA. He would take me and my siblings out to restaurants, usually the classic Hollywood Brown Derby or his favourite, Musso and Frank's.

"He was known for his bushy eyebrows and stylish golf caps. He loved to drive us around in his big Oldsmobile. He kept his Scottish accent but could change to an English or California accent whenever needed.

"From our recollections, he did not have any enemies. Actors, producers and other directors admired his professional attitude and his desire to turn out a good, entertaining show.

"His favourite drink was Scotch on the rocks and he loved to hunt ducks and ride horses. He liked to sing with his wife, especially Scottish songs. One of his favourites was Harry Lauder's A Wee Deoch-An-Doris.

"He became a US citizen in 1934 and returned to Britain in 1937 with his family, visiting London, Glasgow and Edinburgh. There is a plaque to his memory in the Waterfront Cinema, Greenock."

The Glasgow Film Festival from February 12 to 22 will celebrate Frank Lloyd's achievements with a rare screening of his Oscar-winning film The Divine Lady. For more information on Frank Lloyd, visit

This article is taken from the Scotland Daily Record on November 12, 2008