Coming from a show business family (his parents were stage actors), Rowland V. Lee began his career as a child actor in stock and on Broadway. He interrupted his stage career for a stint as a Wall Street stockbroker, but gave that up after two years and returned to the stage. Lee was hired by Thomas H. Ince as an actor in 1915, and after service in World War I returned to Ince, but this time as a director. Lee didn't specialize in any particular genre in the many films he directed, but several of his lower-budget horror films were especially effective in their grim, gritty atmosphere, and his last film, Captain Kidd (1945) with Charles Laughton, had the potential to be a first-rate adventure yarn, but was hampered by its low budget.