German 43: Exiles and Émigrés
 

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Curtiz, Michael

(Budapest 1888–Hollywood 1962)

Born as Mihály Kertész. Director. An actor-manager for many years in his native Hungary, he fled the counterrevolutionary, anti-Semitic Horthy regime in 1919 and came to Berlin. Over the next seven years, he here made several spectacular silents, including the lavish Sodom and Gomorrah (1922). In 1927, Jack Warner invited Curtiz to work for him in Hollywood, thus beginning a twenty-eight year career at the Warner Bros. studios. During this remarkable stint, Curtiz directed the features that made him into a filmmaker of international renown. After a mediocre start, he finally gained some popularity in 1933 with the release of 20,000 Years in Sing Sing, The Mystery of the Wax Museum, The Keyhole, and The Kennel Murder Case. Although he stuck to conventional plots, Curtiz was able to manipulate them to showcase the talents of actors like Spencer Tracy, Bette Davis, Fay Wray, and William Powell. Similarly, his fifth picture of 1935, Captain Blood, made a star of Errol Flynn; the two would collaborate on eight other movies. 1938 was another landmark year in Curtiz's career with the release of blockbusters like The Adventures of Robin Hood (starring Flynn and with a score by Erich Wolfgang Korngold), Four Daughters (with Claude Rains), and the gangster classic Angels with Dirty Faces (starring James Cagney and Pat O'Brien). 1942 saw Curtiz reach the epitome of his career with Yankee Doodle Dandy and Casablanca. The latter, a World War II classic starring Humphrey Bogart, Ingrid Bergman, and a slew of German exiles, won Academy Awards for best picture, best screenplay, and best direction, and is widely considered to be one of the greatest films ever made—a success he never matched again during the remainder of his career. Often considered a workhorse more than an artist, today he is widely acknowledged as one of the most versatile, prolific, and successful Hollywood directors.


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