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Michael Curtiz Poster

Biography

Jump to: Overview (5)  | Mini Bio (2)  | Spouse (3)  | Trivia (23)  | Personal Quotes (6)

Overview (5)

Born in Budapest, Austria-Hungary [now Hungary]
Died in Hollywood, Los Angeles, California, USA  (cancer)
Birth NameManó Kaminer
Nickname Miska
Height 5' 9" (1.75 m)

Mini Bio (2)

Curtiz began acting in and then directing films in his native Hungary in 1912. After WWI, he continued his filmmaking career in Austria and Germany and into the early 1920s when he directed films in other countries in Europe. Moving to the US in 1926, he started making films in Hollywood for Warner Bros. and became thoroughly entrenched in the studio system. His films during the 1930s and '40s encompassed nearly every genre imaginable and some, including Casablanca (1942) and Mildred Pierce (1945), are considered to be film classics. His brilliance waned in the 1950s when he made a number of mediocre films for studios other than Warner. He directed his last film in 1961, a year before his death at 74.

- IMDb Mini Biography By: Doug Sederberg <vornoff@sonic.net>

Michael Curtiz was a Hungarian-born (as Mihaly Kertesz) American director who turned out some of the best-regarded films ever to come out of Hollywood. He received his diploma from the School for Dramatic Arts in Hungary in 1906. He then went to live in Pécs, then Szeged. He began acting in and then directing films in his native Hungary in 1912. The next year he went to Denmark to study the newest achievements of film art in the studios of the then flourishing Nordisk company. Here he worked as assistant and director and acted as the main character in Atlantis (1913). Returning to Hungary in 1914, he worked for Jenö Janovics's production company in Kolozsvár (today Cluj-Napoca, Romania). In 1915 he returned to Budapest and the next year worked for Kinoriport, then as a director for Phönix until late 1918. He shot a total of 38 films in Hungary. He was one of the most productive and educated artists in Hungary at the beginning of the silent film era. In 1919 he shot Jön az öcsém (1919), based on a popular poem by Hungarian poet Antal Farkas. Hungary entered a period of political instability known as the Commune, and Curtiz settled down in Vienna, Austria. After World War I--during which he fought in the Hungarian army--he continued his filmmaking career in Austria and Germany, and in the early 1920s he began directing films in other European countries. Curtiz moved to the US in 1926 and began making films for US studios, mainly Warner Brothers, where he spent most of his career and where he directed such classic films as Casablanca (1942), The Adventures of Robin Hood (1938), The Charge of the Light Brigade (1936), Dodge City (1939) and Mildred Pierce (1945), among many others.

- IMDb Mini Biography By: A. Nonymous

Spouse (3)

Bess Meredyth (7 December 1929 - 10 April 1962) ( his death)
Lili Damita (1925 - 1926) ( divorced)
Lucy Doraine (1915 - 1923) ( divorced) ( 1 child)

Trivia (23)

Interred at Forest Lawn, Glendale, CA., in the Whispering Pines section.
Older brother of assistant director David Curtiz.
Biography in: John Wakeman, editor. "World Film Directors, Volume One, 1890-1945". Pages 172-181. New York: The H.W. Wilson Company, 1987.
Could be intensely absorbed, to the point of distraction. Once was hurt falling out of a moving car because he wanted to write down an idea. He was driving at the time.
His adopted son, John Meredyth Lucas, said he spoke five languages, all of them badly. His thick Hungarian accent often made it difficult for cast and crew to understand him when he spoke English. During the filming of Casablanca (1942), for instance, he asked a set dresser for a "poodle", and when the dresser brought him a small poodle dog, Curtiz exploded at the man--he had meant that he wanted a "poodle" of water. On the set of The Cabin in the Cotton (1932), Curtiz made a speech to the actors on how he wanted them to act like "woodpeckers" when the script described them as "peckerwoods". NOTE: A number of Curtiz' other misstatements were mistakenly attributed to producer Samuel Goldwyn, who was also famous for verbal slips.
Directed ten different actors in Oscar-nominated performances: Paul Muni, John Garfield, James Cagney, Walter Huston, Humphrey Bogart, Claude Rains, Joan Crawford, Ann Blyth, Eve Arden and William Powell. Cagney and Crawford won Oscars for their performances in one of Curtiz' movies.
Jodie Foster used to own a home that Curtiz built in 1934. The house was originally a guest house on the large estate that he owned. It is copied from small quaint Cotswold cottages found in the midlands in England. In 1995 she put the home up for sale for $1.1 million.
Fought in the Hungarian army during World War I.
He had one son, John Meredyth Lucas, whom he adopted in 1929 when the boy was ten years old.
His two most fruitful collaborations with stars were with Errol Flynn (they did 12 films together) and Humphrey Bogart (they did eight films together).
Was assigned to direct Adventures of Don Juan (1948) in 1947, but he and star Errol Flynn had a falling-out and Vincent Sherman wound up directing the picture.
After directing Elvis Presley in King Creole (1958) Curtiz was set to direct Presley's first post-Army film, G.I. Blues (1960) but for unknown reasons the film was eventually directed by Norman Taurog. Hal B. Wallis produced both.
After Nunnally Johnson bowed out, 20th Century-Fox started negotiations with Curtiz to direct the Elvis Presley film Flaming Star (1960), but the job was later given to Don Siegel. Curtiz had previously directed Presley in King Creole (1958) and was originally set to direct him again in G.I. Blues (1960).
Credited with "discovering" Doris Day, whom he heard sing at a Hollywood party. At the time he was about to direct Romance on the High Seas (1948) and was seeking a singer/actress to replace Betty Hutton, who had become pregnant and had to back out of the film.
At one point he was attached to direct Serenade (1956), which wound up being directed by Anthony Mann.
In 1946 Curtiz was invited by Frank Capra, George Stevens and William Wyler to join them in Liberty Pictures, which would have given him autonomy. Jack L. Warner granted him semi-independence with his own unit within Warners. After making lukewarm features--Flamingo Road (1949), two mediocre Doris Day musicals and The Unsuspected (1947)--he gave it up and rejoined Warners full time.
When he worked on the set, he never had lunch, explaining that disturbed the pace of work.
Despite his great wealth, he did not live in luxury. At the time of his death, he lived in a small apartment at 14155 Magnolia Boulevard in Sherman Oaks, CA.
His father, brother and sisters died in Auschwitz. Only his mother came to the USA, thanks to Jack L. Warner who helped him.
Along with Ernst Lubitsch, Jack Conway, Victor Fleming, John Ford, Alfred Hitchcock, Sam Wood, Francis Ford Coppola, Herbert Ross and Steven Soderbergh, he is one of ten directors to have more than one film nominated for Best Picture in the same year. The Adventures of Robin Hood (1938) (which he co-directed William Keighley) and Four Daughters (1938) were both so nominated at the 11th Academy Awards in 1939.
Directed seven films nominated for Best Picture at the Academy Awards: Captain Blood (1935), Anthony Adverse (1936) (uncredited), The Adventures of Robin Hood (1938), Four Daughters (1938), Yankee Doodle Dandy (1942), Casablanca (1942) and Mildred Pierce (1945), with Casablanca the only Best Picture winner.
While filming The Charge of the Light Brigade (1936), Curtiz used a stunt device on horses called the Running W that, despite being infamous for the number of horses it had killed, was used regularly in the 1930's to trip horses galloping at high speeds, Curtiz presided over the killing of approximately 25 horses while shooting just a single shot during the massacre scenes. His seeming indifference to the killings created a riff between him and Errol Flynn, a horseman, who physically attacked Curtiz and went public with the news of the killings. This helped lead to a reform in animal cruelty on Hollywood sets and although Curtiz and Flynn would make more movies together, they never spoke to each other again except when necessary on set.
He has directed four films that have been selected for the National Film Registry by the Library of Congress as being "culturally, historically or aesthetically" significant: The Adventures of Robin Hood (1938), Yankee Doodle Dandy (1942), Casablanca (1942) and Mildred Pierce (1945).

Personal Quotes (6)

[on the set of The Charge of the Light Brigade (1936), attempting to explain that he wanted a lot of riderless horses in the background of the climactic charge] Bring on the empty horses. NOTE: David Niven, who was in the cast of the film and heard about the remark, later used it as the title for his autobiography.
[chewing out an assistant for not doing an assigned task] The next time I want an idiot to do this, I'll do it myself! NOTE: This is often wrongly attributed to Samuel Goldwyn).
[berating David Niven during an on-set argument] You think you know fuck everything and I know fuck nothing. Well, let me tell you, I know fuck all!!
[on Randolph Scott] Randy Scott is a complete anachronism. He's a gentleman. And so far he's the only one I've met in this business full of self-promoting sons-of-bitches.
[on learning that Joan Crawford had been offered the title role in Mildred Pierce (1945)] She comes over here with her high-hat airs and her goddamn shoulder pads. Why should I waste time directing a has-been?
[on Cary Grant] Some actors squeeze a line to death. Cary tickles it into life.

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