Norman Taurog was born on February 23, 1899 in Chicago, Illinois, to Arthur Jack Taurog and Anita Taurog (née Goldsmith).
He was exposed to the show business as a young child and became a child performer on the stage at an early age. By the time he was 13 he had made his film debut in the short film ‘Tangled Relations.’ He spent his late teens performing in theater, mostly off-Broadway.
He attempted to make a comeback to films as a romantic lead when he was a young man but did not find much success. By this time his interests were also shifting more towards directing than acting. He turned to direction in 1919 and collaborated with Larry Semon in ‘The Sportsman’ (1920).
There was no looking back once the directing bug caught him and he proceeded to make a series of 42 silent films, mostly shorts. Early in his career he focused more on comedy and often worked with Semon.
The first feature film he made was ‘Lucky Boy’ (1928), which he co-directed with Charles C. Wilson. He received a major breakthrough in 1931 when he directed ‘Skippy,’ the story of a young boy, his antics, and adventures. The film was a very successful one which established Taurog as a reputed Hollywood director.
Over the next few years he directed a series of well-received films, and his 1938 biographical drama film ‘Boys Town’, based on Father Edward J. Flanagan’s work with a group of underprivileged and delinquent boys, proved that the talented director’s versatility as until now he was mostly known for his comedies.
He began the 1940s with ‘Young Tom Edison’ (1940), a biographical film about the early life of inventor Thomas Edison, with Mickey Rooney in the title role. In 1943 he made the musical film ‘Presenting Lily Mars,’ starring Judy Garland and Van Heflin, and based on the novel by Booth Tarkington.
In 1947, he ventured into newer territories and directed a docudrama film ‘The Beginning or the End,’ a film about the development of the atomic bomb in World War II. The film dramatizes the creation of the atomic bomb in the Manhattan Project and the bombing of Hiroshima and is noted for some historical inaccuracies. It was not a commercial hit.
In 1952, he directed the popular comedy duo, Martin and Lewis, in ‘Jumping Jacks,’ a military comedy. Over the next few years he worked often with the comedic pair to make ‘The Stooge’ (1953), ‘The Caddy’ (1954), ‘Living It Up’ (1955), and ‘You’re Never Too Young’ (1954).
Taurog achieved much popularity for his work with Elvis Presley. He directed the singing sensation for the first time in ‘G.I. Blues’ in 1960. The film, an entertaining, light-hearted formula, was a resounding success which led to Taurog and Presley working together in eight more films including ‘Blue Hawai’i (1961), ‘Girls! Girls! Girls!’ (1962), ‘Tickle Me’ (1965), and ‘Spinout’ (1966).
In 1968, Norman Taurog, almost 70, retired from films and later taught at the University of California School of Cinema and remained a board member of the Director’s Guild.
ACHIEVEMENTS AND AWARDS
His best known movie is ‘Skippy,’ a tale about the adventures of a young boy, his friends, and a dog. It was a surprise hit that earned several Academy Award nominations, with Taurog winning the one for Best Director. The super-hit film also inspired a sequel called ‘Sooky.’
Taurog directed Spencer Tracy as Father Edward J. Flanagan in the biographical drama film ‘Boys Town’ which also had Mickey Rooney and Leslie Fenton in its star cast. The film was a massive hit which earned over $2 million in profit and also bagged an Academy Award nomination for Taurog.
Norman Taurog won the Academy Award for Best Director for ‘Skippy’ (1931).
In 1938, he was awarded the Venice Film Festival Mussolini Cup for Best Film for ‘The Adventures of Tom Sawyer.’
For his contribution to the motion picture industry, Norman Taurog has a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame at 1600 Vine Street.