Robert Z. "Pop" Leonard was a highly successful contract director at MGM, to such extent that critical appreciation of his work is practically nonexistent or of a negative kind. Nevertheless, the transparency of Leonard's work conceals a skilled and talented artisan of the highest order, and several of his films rate as classics and remain popular favorites decades after they were made. Born in Chicago, Leonard began as a stage actor, making his film debut in 1908 at the Selig Polyscope studios in Chicago; his directing career began in 1913 at Rex, a former independent then operating as a unit within Universal. Leonard's early films were comedies, often starring Leonard himself as a "boob" or an ethnic Swedish caricature. From the time vaudeville star Mae Murray arrived in Hollywood in 1916, Leonard gradually became her principal director, he abandoned his own career as a movie actor by 1918, but did make unbilled cameo appearances in later films.
Murray's headstrong behavior and open contempt of the studio bosses at Famous Players-Lasky (i.e., Paramount) kept both of them on a slippery slope in this period, but her great popularity with audiences likewise kept the Murray/Leonard team employed. In 1919, they were married, and in 1921 co-founded Tiffany Productions with producer Maurice H. Hoffman specifically to make Murray's films, then distributed through Metro. Murray became Metro's most popular female star -- Peacock Alley (1922) was an enormous hit -- and when Metro merged into Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer in 1924, Murray and Leonard left Tiffany to become contract artists with MGM; Tiffany continued as a studio for close to another decade. Their marriage, however, didn't survive the transition, and the last of their 24 films together was Circe the Enchantress (1924).