Douglas G. Shearer (November 17, 1899 – January 5, 1971) was a Canadian American pioneer sound designer and recording director who played a key role in the advancement of sound technology for motion pictures. He won seven Academy Awards for his work. In 2008, he was inducted into Canada’s Walk of Fame.
Shearer was born in Montreal, Quebec to a prominent upper-class family, but his family fell on hard times after his father’s business failed, which ultimately led to his parents’ separation.
Douglas remained with his father in Montreal while his two younger sisters, Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer star Norma Shearer and Athole, moved to New York City with their mother.
Unable to afford university, Douglas Shearer left school, working at a variety of jobs.
In 1928, he visited his sisters in Hollywood, California, who had relocated there in the early 1920s. He decided to remain there, and found a job at Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer, where his sister Norma was under contract. At MGM, he pursued an interest in adding sound to film. This interest led to a forty-year career in films. He was a significant innovator in motion picture sound technology.
One of his many contributions was a recording system that eliminated unwanted background noise. Over his long career, Douglas Shearer was nominated for an Academy Award a total of twenty-one times, winning seven times for Sound and Special Effects.
He is credited as Recording Director at MGM on most films produced between 1930 to 1953. In 1955, he was appointed MGM’s director of technical research. By the time he retired in 1968 he had won an additional seven Scientific or Technical Academy Awards.
He married Marion B. Tilden in Montreal on September 1922; she died on 6 June 1931. He later married Ann Cunningham; they had two sons, Mark and Stephen. After Ann’s death, he married a woman named Avice.
Shearer died in Culver City, California in 1971.