Michael Curtiz

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Michael Curtiz (1933)

Michael Curtiz (born December 24, 1886 in Budapest , Austria-Hungary , as Mihály Kertész Kaminer or Manó Kertész Kaminer ; † April 11, 1962 in Hollywood , Los Angeles , California , USA ) was a Hungarian-American film director . During his career spanning over 50 years, he directed over 160 films. He first worked in Hungary and Austria before moving to Hollywood in the mid-1920s. For Casablanca , his most famous film today, Curtiz was awarded the Oscar for best director at the 1944 Academy Awards . The adventures of Robin Hood , Angels with Dirty Faces , As Long a Heart Beats and White Christmas showed that Curtiz could celebrate successes in numerous film genres.


Under his birth name, after studying art at the Royal Hungarian Academy of Arts, he began a career as an actor and director in 1912. Before that, Curtiz went to Sweden, where he assisted directors such as Victor Sjöström and Mauritz Stiller , as Scandinavian and French films dominated European cinemas at the time. In Sweden he also acted as a performer in August Blom's literary adaptation of Captain Atlantis under the name Mihály Kertész . He then went back to his homeland, where he soon became chief director of the leading Hungarian film production company, Phoenix. He directed various films for Phoenix until 1918/1919 when he and other Hungarian filmmakers fled to Vienna with other Hungarian filmmakers when Béla Kun , who established a short-lived dictatorship in Hungary , came to power. There he continued his work on Sascha Kolowrat-Krakowsky's Sascha-Film under the name Michael Kertesz , where he directed several monumental films , among other things . With Sodom and Gomorrah and The Slave Queen , he realized some of the largest and most expensive film productions ever made in Austria. He was in direct competition with his compatriot Alexander Korda , who at the same time also directed monumental films for the rival company Vita-Film .

Curtiz was a board member of the Austrian Filmbund , an interest group for Austrian filmmakers. He was working in Berlin and Paris in the 1920s when he was called to the United States by Harry Warner in 1926 , where he received a well-paid contract with the Warner Brothers film company . When he emigrated, he also changed his surname. Friends of the co-founder Harry Warner, with whom he had a love for polo and horse breeding, he stayed with Warners for the next 26 years and became the studio's most prominent director. Some of his more than 100 films were routine productions, but in most of the works Curtiz was able to demonstrate his technical mastery of constructing interesting scenes even from hackneyed scripts. In the 1930s and 1940s in particular, Curtiz rose to be in-house director, so to speak, and was a style-maker in many ways. His films with Errol Flynn , starting with Under Pirate Flag , which was initially slated to lead Robert Donat , and in particular The Betrayal of Surat Khan , which depicts a heroic episode from the Crimean War , made Flynn the studio's greatest male star. Adventure films like Robin Hood, King of the Vagabonds from 1938, which perfectly combined technicolor and crowd scenes into effective scenes, and The Lord of the Seven Seas from 1940 became classics of the genre. Later, the successful collaboration broke up in the dispute between the rather undisciplined Flynn and the authoritarian Curtiz.

Curtiz helped some actors get excellent roles. James Cagney won for Yankee Doodle Dandy , the biopic of the composer and entertainer George M. Cohan , on the Oscar ceremony in 1943 the Oscar for best actor , while Joan Crawford on the Oscar ceremony in 1946 the Oscar for best actress for her performance in Mildred Pierce received . Crawford and Curtiz worked together again on The Road to the Success in 1949 . Kay Francis starred in The Keyhole , Mandalay , British Agent and Stolen Holiday , directed by Curtiz. John Garfield was discovered by Curtiz and conducted to star with father in 1938. Michael Curtiz was also responsible for the rise of Doris Day , which he led through Magic Nights in Rio in 1948 . He also made a number of successful films with Bette Davis , including a queen's favorite about Elizabeth I , who depicts a more or less made-up love story of the monarch in elaborate technicolor. His best-known film is Casablanca , which was named Best Picture at the Academy Awards in 1944 and made Ingrid Bergman a star. Since the film Doctor X from 1932 he worked regularly with the film editor George Amy together. Their last joint production was the family film Our Life with Father from 1947.

After Curtiz left Warner Brothers in 1953, his films quickly deteriorated in quality and he ended his career with films that were generally not very successful financially. Exceptions included White Christmas with Bing Crosby , Danny Kaye and Rosemary Clooney in the lead roles, the most commercially successful 1954 film in the US, and My Life is the Rhythm of 1958 with Elvis Presley in one of its few dramatic roles. Another popular Curtiz film from the 1950s is the crime comedy We're Not Angels, starring Humphrey Bogart and Peter Ustinov as prison gangsters.

Michael Curtiz had the daughter Kitty Curtiz-Eberson (born November 25, 1915, † December 31, 2006) from his marriage to actress Lucy Doraine .

In his long career, Curtiz was active in almost every genre. During his time at Warner Brothers, over the years he has been granted increasingly more artistic freedom than other contract directors of the studio. Curtiz was a distinct despot who directed his sets with an iron hand and discipline. His endless and mostly futile struggle with the English language was reflected in many anecdotes. The best known is probably the one he called out during the filming of The Treason of Surat Khan :

Bring on the empty horses!

He meant: "Bring the horses without riders!" David Niven chose this sentence as the title for his autobiography.

Filmography (selection)


  • 1912: Ma és holnap
  • 1913: Atlantis
  • 1913: Az utolsó bohém
  • 1914: Az aranyásó
  • 1915: Akit chains szeretnek
  • 1916: Farkas
  • 1916: Doctor úr
  • 1917: Zoárd mester
  • 1917: A vörös Sámson
  • 1917: Tatárjárás
  • 1917: A kuruzsló
  • 1918: A víg özvegy
  • 1918: Az ördög
  • 1918: Lulu
  • 1918: Júdás
  • 1918: Mandrake
  • 1918: The Dangerous Bet (99)
  • 1918: The Lady with the Sunflowers (A napraforgós hölgy)
  • 1919: Liliom




Curtiz also directed Sons of Liberty , which won the Oscar for Best Short Film at the 1940 Academy Awards .

See also

Web links

Individual evidence

  1. Tombstone in Glendale, CA, Forest Lawn Memorial Park
  2. a b Michael Hanisch in Filmspiegel , No. 7, 1987, p. 25.
  3. Michael Curtiz. In: Turner Classic Movies . Retrieved November 7, 2018 .