William A. Seiter (June 10, 1890 – July 26, 1964) was an American film director.
Life and career
Seiter was born in New York City. After attending Hudson River Military Academy, Seiter broke into films in 1915 as a bit player at Mack Sennett's Keystone Studios, doubling as a cowboy. He graduated to director in 1918.
At Universal Studios in the mid-1920s, Seiter was principal director of the popular Reginald Denny vehicles, most of which co-starred Seiter's then wife Laura La Plante (his second wife was actress Marian Nixon). This period also included The Beautiful and Damned and The Family Secret.
In the early talkie era, Seiter helped nurture the talents of RKO's comedy duo Wheeler & Woolsey in such rollicking features as Caught Plastered (1931) and Diplomaniacs (1933). He also directed Laurel and Hardy in Sons of the Desert (1933), generally regarded as one of their best feature films. Seiter's other films include Sunny, Going Wild, Kiss Me Again, Hot Saturday, Way Back Home, Girl Crazy, Rafter Romance, Roberta, Room Service, Susannah of the Mounties, Allegheny Uprising, You Were Never Lovelier, Up in Central Park, One Touch of Venus.
Among the many stars directed by Seiter during his long career were Shirley Temple, Fred Astaire, Ginger Rogers, Henry Fonda, Margaret Sullavan, Barbara Stanwyck, Jack Haley, Deanna Durbin, Jean Arthur, John Wayne, Fred MacMurray, Lucille Ball, Rita Hayworth and the Marx Brothers.
As a director, on occasion, if he ran into friction from his star—as was the case with Lou Costello in 1946's Little Giant—Seiter would get even by adhering religiously to the script, refusing to add any nuance or creativity to the project (this pettiness may have been the reason that one prominent actress of the 1930s referred to Seiter as the most unimaginative director she'd ever worked with). On his final four films, before he retired in 1954, Seiter functioned as both producer and director. These films included The Lady Wants Mink (1953), a gentle satire of the then topical "raise your own coat" craze.
He died in Beverly Hills, California, of a heart attack, aged 74. Seiter was buried at Forest Lawn Memorial Park in Glendale, California. His grandson, with Nixon, is screenwriter Ted Griffin.
Most of the films Seiter directed with the Wheeler/Woolsey duo have been released on two DVDs by Warner Archive.