Hollywood Renegades Archive

The Society of Independent Motion Picture Producers

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Leo McCarey: Hollywood Auteur, Hollywood Renegade

Rainbow Productions: SIMPP Member (1944-1948)

Excerpt from Hollywood Renegades by J. A. Aberdeen

Leo McCarey - Independent producer-director. Movies include The Awful Truth, Going My Way, and The Bells of St. Mary's.  (Aberdeen collection). 

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Rainbow Productions, the corporate alter ego of writer-producer-director Leo McCarey, joined SIMPP in 1944.

McCarey, with over 20 years experience directing in Hollywood, was one of the most celebrated filmmakers to emerge from the studio system. 

He was also one of the many talented alumni from the Hal Roach Studio, the independent company which launched the careers of many other independents-to-be including Harold Lloyd, George Stevens, Tay Garnett, and Frank Capra.

McCarey has been widely credited as the mastermind behind the Laurel and Hardy team-up, and the director of some of their best silent two-reelers produced by Hal Roach.

The Hal Roach Studio where many influential independents got their start.

Leo McCarey, who had left the Hal Roach Studio in 1929 to become a freelance director, made films for several independents including Joseph Schenck (Indiscreet, 1931) and Sam Goldwyn (The Kid From Spain, 1932). McCarey hit pay dirt at Paramount directing the Marx Brothers in Duck Soup (1933), and at Columbia with the blockbuster The Awful Truth (1937).

One of his greatest box office successes was Going My Way (1944) which McCarey made for Paramount. The film was based on McCarey's own original story, which he developed into a Bing Crosby vehicle. McCarey's profit participation as writer-producer-director on Going My Way made him the highest paid artist in Hollywood that year earning over $1 million.

Leo McCarey (right) with Hal Roach.

But he was not content to remain merely a studio employee. He created a sequel to Going My Way, and decided to take it independent. The film, The Bells of St. Mary's (1945), was produced by his own company Rainbow Productions and released through RKO. Once again, McCarey's movie became one of the most popular hits of the year, out-grossing the already-enormous take of Going My Way. The success of The Bells of St. Mary's also had a trigger effect on the principle actors Bing Crosby and Ingrid Bergman, both of whom went independent shortly thereafter. In 1946 Bing Crosby, then the number one box office star in Hollywood, likewise joined SIMPP.


Bogdanovich, Who the Devil Made It, pp. 379-383; Dardis, Harold Lloyd, pp. 54-55; also see Maltin and Bann, Our Gang, pp. 10-12.

See Bibliography.

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