b. Joseph Mansfield, 10 January 1889, Salt Lake City, Utah, USA, d. 8 August 1971, Los Angeles, California, USA. His stepfather was stage actor Eugene Santley and Joseph took to the stage at age three and appeared on Broadway at nine, billed as ‘America’s Greatest Boy Actor’. He attained Broadway stardom in 1910 with A Matinee Idol and Judy Forgot. This was followed in 1914 with his appearance in Irving Berlin’s Stop! Look! Listen! In 1916 he was in Betty where his co-star was Ivy Sawyer, whom he married. He was with a touring company version of Jerome Kern’s Oh, Boy! (1917), but soon afterwards began a long run of appearances with his wife, including Oh, My Dear (1918), The Half Moon (1920), The Wild Rose (1926) and Just Fancy (1927), in between which the couple were in Berlin’s Music Box Revue on a number of occasions.
Aware that his career in musical comedies would be adversely affected by the natural ageing process, Santley decided to change track and went to Hollywood where he sought work as a director. In 1929 he co-directed, with Robert Florey, the Marx Brothers’ first film, The Cocoanuts. The following year he directed Swing High and over the next few years directed numerous comedy shorts, in some of which appeared his wife Ivy Sawyer, Eddie Cantor and Rudy Vallee.
During the 30s and 40s Santley directed and sometimes co-wrote a string of B-movies including melodramas and musicals. Among the latter, all them seriously low-budget, are Dancing Feet, Laughing Irish Eyes and Walking On Air (all 1936), She’s Got Everything (1937), Swing, Sister, Swing (1938), Music In My Heart, Melody And Moonlight, Dancing On A Dime and Melody Ranch (all 1940), Sis Hopkins, Rookies On Parade, Puddin’ Head and Ice-Capades (all 1941), Thumbs Up and Chatterbox (all 1943), Rosie The Riveter, Three Little Sisters and Brazil (all 1944), Earl Carroll Vanities (1945), Make Believe Ballroom (1949) and When You’re Smiling (1950). Hampered by budget constraints, none of his films was memorable although some offer glimpses of actors and singers who did better things elsewhere. In the early 50s, Santley again changed tack, now going into television where he became a producer and director and was responsible for a number of popular variety shows.