Henry Hathaway was an American film director and producer. He is best known as a director of Westerns, especially starring John Wayne.
Born Henri Leonard de Fiennes in Sacramento, California, he was the son of an American actor and stage manager, Rhody Hathaway, and a Hungarian-born Belgian aristocrat, Marquise Lillie de Fiennes, who acted under the name Jean Hathaway. This branch of the de Fiennes family came to America in the 1800s on behalf of King Leopold I of Belgium and was part of the negotiations with the Belgian Prime Minister, Charles Rogier, to secure the 1862 treaty between Belgium and what was then known as the Sandwich Islands and is now called Hawaii.
In 1925, Hathaway began working in silent films as an assistant to notable directors such as Victor Fleming and Josef von Sternberg and made the transition to sound with them. He was the assistant director to Fred Niblo in the 1925 version of Ben-Hur starring Francis X. Bushman and Ramon Novarro. During the remainder of the 1920s, Hathaway learned his craft as an assistant, helping direct future stars such as Gary Cooper, Marlene Dietrich, Adolphe Menjou, Fay Wray, Walter Huston, Clara Bow, and Noah Beery.
Henry Hathaway made his directorial debut in 1932 with a Western film production, Heritage of the Desert. Based on a Zane Grey novel, Hathaway gave Randolph Scott his first starring role in film that led to a lengthy career for Scott as a cowboy star. Hathaway too, was a fan of stories of the settling of the American West and would make a number of films involving the subject. In 1935, he directed The Lives of a Bengal Lancer which received several Academy Award nominations including Best Picture and for which Hathaway won his only nomination for the Academy Award for Directing. He followed this with Go West, Young Man, starring Mae West, based on Lawrence Riley’s Broadway hit Personal Appearance. Once again, he used Randolph Scott in this film, but not as a cowboy this time.