In his time, which lasted from the '20s until the '60s, Mervyn LeRoy was one of the movie business's heavy hitters, a director/producer whose name evoked quality and entertainment in successful portions, and was associated with some of the more challenging and popular projects ever to come out of the old Hollywood.
His life might have made a good movie -- born in San Francisco at the opening of the 20th century to a well-to-do, totally assimilated Jewish family, he spent the first five years of his life in comfort -- then, at age five, his mother abandoned the marriage and her only child for the arms of another man; and not too much later, much of San Francisco (including his father's business) was destroyed by the 1906 earthquake. His father never got over it, and long after their extended stay at the refugee camp set up by the army at the Presidio, they were not much better than homeless, and little more than impoverished. The younger LeRoy took to selling newspapers to help support the two of them, and became good at it -- he got his introduction to performing one day when a patron, Theodore Roberts, a stage actor and future screen star, buying a paper from him outside the theater where he had a play running, offered him the part of a newsboy in the play Barbara Frietchie. It was the beginning of a show business career that would last more than 50 years.