Lewis Milestone


Lewis Milestone

Original Name Lev Milstein
Chisinau (Kishinev), Chișinău Municipality, Moldova
Death 25 Sep 1980 (aged 84)
Westwood, Los Angeles County, California, USA
Burial Los Angeles, Los Angeles County, California, USA
Plot Mausoleum, Sanctuary of Tenderness
Memorial ID 9468 View Source
Suggest Edits

Motion Picture Director. Born Lev Milstein in Kishinev, Russia (now Chisinau, Moldova), he was the son of a wealthy clothing manufacturer and cousin of famed violinist Nathan Milstein. As a youth he wanted to become an actor, but his disapproving family sent him to Germany to study engineering. On an impulse he quit school and ran away to the United States, where he arrived penniless in 1912. He worked as a dishwasher, laborer, and photographer's assistant before joining the Army in 1917 for World War I service. Assigned to the Signal Corps, he received thorough training in shooting and cutting documentaries. After his discharge he became a US Citizen in 1919, changed his name to Lewis Milestone, and headed for Hollywood, where he became an editor and assistant to director Henry King, among others. He had enormous experience by the time he directed his first film, "Seven Sinners", in 1925. Two years later, in the first-ever Academy Awards ceremony, Milestone won an Oscar for Best Comedy Direction (a category existing only that year) for "Two Arabian Nights" (1927). This was followed by an early gangster picture, "The Racket" (1928), and his greatest film, "All Quiet on the Western Front" (1930). Adapted from the novel by Erich Maria Remarque, it remains one of the most powerful indictments of war in cinema history. It won Academy Awards for Best Picture and Best Director, and received a special commendation from the Nobel Peace Prize committee. Milestone garnered further prestige with the crackling comedy "The Front Page" (1931), for which he received a Best Director Oscar nomination; "Rain" (1932), a moody version of the Somerset Maugham story; the Depression-era musical "Hallelujah I'm a Bum" (1933); and "The General Died At Dawn" (1936), an exciting, atmospheric espionage tale. He closed the decade with his second masterpiece, "Of Mice and Men" (1939), the first screen adaptation of John Steinbeck's novel, with an unforgettable performance by Lon Chaney, Jr. as Lennie. A determined individualist, Milestone was one of the few major directors of Hollywood's Golden Age who worked as a freelance, refusing to sign long-term contracts with the big studios. He was an outstanding craftsman with a fluid visual style and firm grasp of cinematic technique, and his best films show a humanistic compassion for the underdog. But after 1940 his output was spotty in quality. He made a handful of good efforts, among them "A Walk in the Sun" (1945), which endeavored to do for the Second World War what "All Quite on the Western Front" had done for the First, "The Strange Love of Martha Ivers" (1946), a stylish film noir, and "The Red Pony" (1949); but he was not too choosy with script material and the majority of his later work is routine. In 1949, during the anti-communist hysteria that was sweeping the movie industry, Milestone was blacklisted for his leftist associations of the 1930s and his pro-Russian feature "The North Star" (1943). He didn't work for a year. The director was not called to testify before the House Un-American Activities Committee, however, and he managed to salvage his career with "The Halls of Montezuma" (1951), a jingoistic World War II epic that appeared to negate the pacifist sentiments of his other war films. He returned to form with yet another combat subject (this time the Korean War), the gritty "Pork Chop Hill" (1959). Milestone's last two features were big-budget disappointments: "Ocean's Eleven" (1960), a middling caper comedy that failed to make the most of the legendary casting of The Rat Pack, and a bloated remake of "Mutiny on the Bounty" (1962). Shortly after beginning production of "PT-109" in 1963, Milestone suffered a stroke and was forced into retirement. He spent the last 10 years of his life confined to a wheelchair. His death followed unsuccessful abdominal surgery, just five days before his 85th birthday. Milestone was married to actress Kendall Lee from 1935 until her death in 1978.

Bio by: Bobb Edwards



Family Members



In their memory
Plant Memorial Trees



How famous was Lewis Milestone?

Current rating:

57 votes

to cast your vote.

  • Maintained by: Find a Grave
  • Added: 22 May 2000
  • Find a Grave Memorial 9468
  • Find a Grave, database and images ( : accessed ), memorial page for Lewis Milestone (30 Sep 1895–25 Sep 1980), Find a Grave Memorial ID 9468, citing Westwood Memorial Park, Los Angeles, Los Angeles County, California, USA ; Maintained by Find a Grave .