Starting as a journalist in Washington DC, Bell later played on stage and entered films in 1923 as an actor. Charlie Chaplin employed Bell as a film editor and assistant director and in 1924, he became a full-fledged director of sophisticated sex comedies. Bell is known for directing Greta Garbo's first American film, The Torrent. Bell joined up with Paramount Pictures serving as head of production at the Astoria studio in New York. As sound films came in, Bell directed a number of high comedies and low melodramas later moving to producing films.