German 43: Exiles and Émigrés
 

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Photo of Otto PremingerPreminger, Otto

(Vienna 1906–New York 1986)

Director and actor. At age 17, Preminger debuted as actor in Max Reinhardt's Viennese theater, switching to stage director for Reinhardt's Theater in der Josefstadt in 1930, and taking over as artistic director in 1932. His first film (and only non-English feature), Die Grosse Liebe, premiered in 1932. He was not forced to leave Europe for political reasons, but saw important career opportunities in Daryl F. Zanuck's personal invitation to come to the United States and direct b-movies for the studio. After falling out of favor, he returned to the stage, continuing his acting career by starring in Broadway plays. His comeback as film actor was portraying Nazis in anti-Nazi films, most notably Margin for Error (1943), which he also directed. But it was Laura (1944), a story about a police detective (Dana Andrews) who falls in love with a mysterious woman (Gene Tierney), that made him one of Hollywood's most prominent directors. Preminger would continue to direct throughout the era of the studio system, and although a few of his movies are forgettable, his most outstanding works are unique contributions to American cinema: Whirlpool (1949, with José Ferrer as a mad hypnotist), Where the Sidewalk Ends (1950, reuniting Andrews with Tierney), The Moon Is Blue (1953, released without Code approval), and Anatomy of a Murder (1959, featuring an all-star cast and a score by Duke Ellington). He even found time to reprise his stock Nazi character in Billy Wilder's Stalag 17 (1953). Finally, Carmen Jones (1954) and Porgy and Bess (1959), made during a tense period in the history of American race relations, are notable musicals featuring all-black casts. Preminger's films of the 1960s were not as commercially or critically successful as his earlier work. But after directing the 213-minute Exodus (1960), he found himself with another Oscar nomination for his 1963 saga, The Cardinal.


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