Robert Stevenson's CV is dominated by one film, Mary Poppins, and his period at the Disney studios. However, his pre-war career in British cinema is full of pleasurable films which are fast-paced, good-looking and enjoyable.
Stevenson had no interest in cinema growing up, and it wasn't until he was an mechanical sciences student at Cambridge that he first seriously engaged with it. He graduated with a first, then studied psychology as a post-graduate and edited Granta. After leaving Cambridge he joined a newsreel agency. In 1929 he became a screenwriter at Gaumont-British.
Michael Balcon, throughout his career as one of the major producers of British cinema, was always ready to give a helping hand to bright young men from Oxbridge and Robert Stevenson fitted right into this category. Stevenson contributed to the scripts for a wide range of films and gained associate producer credits too.
He co-directed a couple of Jack Hulbert films before getting a chance to direct solo. Tudor Rose, the story of Lady Jane Grey's short reign, was a solid hit and established his name as an up-and-coming director. He was back to producing duties (and some uncredited directing) on Jack Hulbert's The Camels are Coming which co-starred Anna Lee. Stevenson and Lee married soon after and she starred in many of his British films.
His career was going well when war broke out, and his pacifism and a contract with Selznick took him to Hollywood. Unlike his contemporary Alfred Hitchcock who also crossed the Atlantic at around the same time for Selznick, Stevenson's career stalled with only Jane Eyre making much of an impact. His marriage to Lee ended in 1944. By the mid-50s, Stevenson was reduced to TV.
The Disney Corporation came to the rescue. Disney was always able to use a sharp, professional director who didn't impose too much of his own style on the material and Stevenson fitted that bill. The films he made for Disney have endured to become family classics, if only due to Disney's policy of reissuing the films on a regular basis as a new generation of kids succeeded the old. So the likes of the Absent-Minded Professor, The Love Bug, The Shaggy D.A. and of course Mary Poppins have entertained families for forty years or more.
|1932||Happy Ever After (co-dir)|
|1933||Falling for You (co-dir)|
|1934||The Camels are Coming|
|1936||The Man Who Changed His Mind|
|1936||Jack of All Trades (co-dir)|
|1937||King Solomon's Mines|
|1937||Non-Stop New York|
|1938||The Ware Case|
|1939||Young Man's Fancy|
|1940||Return to Yesterday|
|1940||Tom Brown's School Days (US)|
|1941||Back Street (US)|
|1942||Joan of Paris (US)|
|1943||Forever and a Day (US)|
|1943||Jane Eyre (US)|
|1944||Know Your Ally! (US)|
|1946||American Creed (US)|
|1947||Dishonoured Lady (US)|
|1948||To the Ends of the Earth (US)|
|1949||The Woman on Pier 13 (US)|
|1950||Walk Softly, Stranger (US)|
|1951||My Forbidden Past (US)|
|1952||The Las Vegas Story (US)|
|1957||Johnny Tremain (US)|
|1957||Old Yeller (US)|
|1959||Darby O'Gill and the Little People (US)|
|1961||The Absent-Minded Professor (US)|
|1962||In Search of the Castaways|
|1964||The Misadventures of Merlin Jones (US)|
|1964||Mary Poppins (US)|
|1964||The Monkey's Uncle (US)|
|1965||That Darn Cat (US)|
|1967||The Gnome-Mobile (US)|
|1968||Blackbeard's Ghost (US)|
|1968||The Love Bug (US)|
|1971||Bedknobs and Broomsticks (US)|
|1974||Herbie Rides Again (US)|
|1974||The Island at the Top of the World (US)|
|1975||One of Our Dinosaurs is Missing|
|1975||The Shaggy DA (US)|
Robert Stevenson at Amazon UK
Robert Stevenson at Amazon US