Andre de Toth

Happy birthday to director AndredeTothAndre de Toth, born May 15, 1913 in Mako, Csanad, Hungary, Austria-Hungary.  de Toth earned a law degree from the Royal Hungarian University, but as a student, also wrote several plays that garnered high praise.  This led to deeper involvement in the theater, where he became an actor during the early 1930s.  Several years later, de Toth started working in Hungarian film as a writer, editor, assistant director, and occasional actor.  By 1939, he was directing his own films, but when war broke out, he fled to England and worked as an assistant to producer/director Alexander Korda.  In 1942, de Toth emigrated to the United States and settled in Los Angeles, where he embarked on a career in Hollywood.  His first project was as assistant director on The Jungle Book (1942).  The following year he directed his first American film, Passport to Suez (1943) with Eric Blore and Ann Savage.  de Toth preferred films with a rough, gritty edge, so it’s not surprising he went on to direct several classic noir films: Dark Waters (1944) with Merle Oberon and Franchot Tone, Guest in the House (1944) (uncredited) with Anne Baxter and Ralph Bellamy, Pitfall (1948) with Dick Powell and Lizabeth Scott, Crime Wave (1954) with Gene Nelson and Sterling Hayden, and Hidden Fear (1957) (also as writer) with John Payne.  During the 1950s, de Toth primarily directed westerns, but perhaps his most well-known film, House of Wax (1953) with Vincent Price, also came from this period.  House of Wax was one of the earliest 3D movies, yet de Toth was unable to appreciate the 3D effect because he only had one eye.  de Toth spent the early 1960s directing several TV episodes along with a handful of films, but by the end of the decade, had essentially retired from film.  de Toth was married seven times.  One of his wives, from 1944 to 1952, was actress Veronica Lake, with whom he had two children.  de Toth died from an aneurysm in 2002 at age 89.

 

Ida Lupino

Happy birthday to actress, IdaLupinodirector, writer, and producer Ida Lupino, born Feb 4, 1918 in London, England. Starting out as an actress, Ida Lupino pushed the boundaries of what was possible for women in the golden age of Hollywood, forging her own path as a writer, director, and producer at a time when very few women were in positions of creative power in Hollywood. She blazed a trail and broke down barriers for all women filmmakers who came after her. Lupino was born into a well-established theatrical family and studied at the Royal Academy of Dramatic Art. Her first film role was in the British movie The Love Race (1931), followed by Her First Affaire (1932). By 1933, she was already playing leads in several more British films before coming to Hollywood, where she appeared in over 15 films for Warner Bros. during the late 1930s. In 1940 she was cast opposite Humphrey Bogart and George Raft in one of the earliest noirs, They Drive by Night. Her noteworthy performance led to leading parts in several more early noir films: High Sierra (1941) with Humphrey Bogart, Out of the Fog (1941) with John Garfield, Ladies in Retirement (1941) with husband Louis Hayward, and Moontide (1942) with Jean Gabin. Lupino worked consistently during the 1940s, although she often found herself suspended by the studio for refusing to take roles or insisting on script revisions. The suspensions enabled Lupino to spend time on movie sets observing the technical aspects of film making, and in 1949, she got an opportunity to put her newfound knowledge into practice during the production of Not Wanted, when director Elmer Clifton became ill. Lupino stepped in and finished directing the movie, but didn’t take credit out of respect for Clifton. Lupino enjoyed directing and wanted to do more, but the studios insisted she be in front of the camera, so in the late 1940s, Lupino and second husband Collier Young, formed The Filmakers, an independent production company that produced 12 feature films, many of them tackling controversial social issues, six of which Lupino directed and five that she wrote or co-wrote, including the noir films: The Hitch-Hiker (1953) (co-writer and director) with Edmond O’Brien and Private Hell 36 (1954) (star and co-writer) with third husband Howard Duff. Throughout this period, Lupino also starred in many studio-produced noir films: The Man I Love (1947) with Robert Alda, Road House (1948) with Cornel Wilde, Woman in Hiding (1950) with Howard Duff, On Dangerous Ground (1951) with Robert Ryan, Beware, My Lovely (1952) with Robert Ryan, Jennifer (1953) with Howard Duff, Women’s Prison (1955) with Jan Sterling, The Big Knife (1955) with Jack Palance, and While the City Sleeps (1956) with Dana Andrews. In total, Lupino starred in 15 classic noir films. By the late 1950s, Lupino was working almost exclusively in television, both as an actor and director. She and husband Howard Duff, starred together in the sitcom Mr. Adams and Eve (1957-58), and Lupino herself appeared on many popular TV shows, including Bonanza, The Twilight Zone, The Wild Wild West, Batman, Family Affair, Columbo, and Charlie’s Angels. She directed multiple episodes of Have Gun – Will Travel (1959-61), Thriller (1961-62), The Untouchables (1962-63), The Fugitive (1963-64), Gilligan’s Island (1964-66), and many other shows. Lupino retired in 1978 leaving a prolific legacy of film and television accomplishments. She died of a stroke in 1995 at age 77.

Michael Curtiz

Happy birthday to MichaelCurtizdirector Michael Curtiz, born Dec. 24, 1886 in Budapest, Hungary. After studying at the Royal Academy of Theater and Art in Budapest, Curtiz went to work in the National Hungarian Theater as an actor and director. In 1923, he moved to Vienna where he directed movies for Sascha Films. Jack L. Warner took an interest in Curtiz after seeing one of his films, and hired him as a director. Curtiz moved to the United States in 1926, and embarked on a prolific and successful career directing over 100 Hollywood films. While Curtiz was a talented director, he was often arrogant and insulting on the set, quickly losing patience with members of the film crew and generally having a low opinion of actors. But his caustic attitude didn’t prevent him from crafting many memorable film classics, such as Captain Blood (1935) and The Adventures of Robin Hood (1938) with Errol Flynn, Angels with Dirty Faces (1938) and Yankee Doodle Dandy (1942) with James Cagney, Casablanca (1942) with Humphrey Bogart, Life with Father (1947) with William Powell, and Young Man with a Horn (1950) with Kirk Douglas. Of course, our interest in Curtiz lies in his notable contributions to film noir: Mildred Pierce (1945) with Joan Crawford, The Unsuspected (1947) with Claude Rains, Flamingo Road (1949) with Joan Crawford, The Breaking Point (1950) with John Garfield, The Scarlet Hour (1956) with Carol Ohmart, and The Man in the Net (1959) with Alan Ladd. Curtiz died of cancer in 1962 at age 75.

Fritz Lang

Happy birthday to FritzLangdirector Fritz Lang, born Dec. 5, 1896 in Vienna, Austria. Fritz Lang is one of several influential filmmakers who played a significant role in the development of film noir in American cinema. After finishing high school, Lang studied painting and spent time traveling through Europe and parts of Asia. At the outbreak of WWI, he enlisted in the Austrian army and saw action in Russia and Romania, where he was seriously wounded. While recovering from his injuries, Lang started writing story outlines for movies. After being discharged in 1918, Lang worked as an actor in the Viennese theater, but was soon hired as a writer for a production company in Berlin. Shortly thereafter, he started directing films for the German studios, Ufa and Nero-Film. The German Expressionist movement was emerging in the early 1920s, and many of Lang’s films incorporated the Expressionist esthetic of distorted reality, exaggerated perspectives, angular architecture, and dark psychological subject matter. In 1922, Lang married actress Thea von Harbou, and together they wrote all of Lang’s films for the next 11 years. During this period, Lang directed some of his most iconic works: Dr. Mabuse, des Spieler (1924), Die Nibelungen (1924), Metropolis (1927), and M (1931). The rise of the Nazi movement in 1930s Germany resulted in imposed restrictions on artistic expression, including film, and Lang grew increasingly concerned about his fate under the Nazi regime. In 1934, after divorcing his wife, who was a Nazi sympathizer, Lang fled to France and eventually came to the United States, where he went to work as a director for MGM. Lang, along with a small group of other influential film directors who emigrated from Germany, introduced Expressionist sensibilities into American cinema, where it was tempered by Hollywood’s established film making conventions. The combination of these two stylistic approaches is one of the key ingredients that contributed to the emergence of film noir in the 1940s. Lang directed 23 films in Hollywood, half of which are classic film noir titles: Moontide (1942 uncredited) with Jean Gabin and Ida Lupino, Ministry of Fear (1944) with Ray Milland, The Woman in the Window (1944) with Edward G. Robinson and Joan Bennett, Scarlet Street (1945) with Edward G. Robinson and Joan Bennett, Secret Beyond the Door (1947) with Joan Bennett, House by the River (1950) with Louis Hayward, Clash by Night (1952) with Robert Ryan and Barbara Stanwyck, The Blue Gardenia (1953) with Anne Baxter and Richard Conte, The Big Heat (1953) with Glenn Ford and Gloria Grahame, Human Desire (1954) with Glenn Ford and Gloria Grahame, While the City Sleeps (1956) with Dana Andrews and Rhonda Fleming, and Beyond a Reasonable Doubt (1956) with Dana Andrews and Joan Fontaine. In 1953, Joseph Losey directed an American noir remake of Lang’s German masterpiece, M. Lang’s authoritarian manner on the set and failing health made it increasingly difficult for him to find consistent work in Hollywood, and he returned to Germany in the late 1950s to make his final three films. Poor health and deteriorating eyesight forced him to retire from film making in the early 1960s. Lang died in 1976 at age 85.

Alfred L. Werker

Happy birthday to director AlfredLWerkerAlfred L. Werker, born Dec. 2, 1896 in Deadwood, SD. Werker started in film in 1917 as an assistant director. In 1928, he directed his first feature, Pioneer Scout, and would go on to direct over 45 more films across various genres, up until his retirement in 1957. Working for Fox, Paramount, and Eagle-Lion studios, Werker was known as a solid, no-nonsense director who could be counted on to deliver results. In the late 1940s and early 50s, Werker directed four noir films: Shock (1946) with Vincent Price, Repeat Performance (1947) with Louis Hayward and Joan Leslie, He Walked by Night (1948) with Richard Basehart, and Walk East On Beacon (1952) with George Murphy. The most notable films of his career were the aforementioned He Walked by Night, The Adventures of Sherlock Holmes (1939), which is considered one of the best Sherlock Holmes films, and Lost Boundaries (1949), for which he received a Directors Guild of America nomination. Werker died in 1975 at age 78.

Cy Endfield

Happy birthday to writer/director Cy Endfield, born Nov. 10, 1914 in Scranton, PA. While in college, Endfield took an interest in avant-garde theater, and eventually directed theater productions in the New York area throughout the late 1930s. In 1940, he came to the attention of Orson Welles, who hired Endfield to work for his Mercury Productions company at RKO in Hollywood. Following Welles’ fallout with RKO over the production of The Magnificent Ambersons (1942), CyEndfieldMercury was expelled from RKO and Endfield became a contract director at MGM. After serving in WWII, Endfield worked as a writer and director on various radio, television, and film projects, including directing The Argyle Secrets (1948). In 1950, he came into his own as an independent, writing and directing two noir films that took an uncompromising view of social class disparities and corrupt journalism respectively: The Sound of Fury (aka Try and Get Me) and The Underworld Story. Unfortunately, HUAC took notice of these films during their anti-Communist witch hunt, and even though he was not affiliated with the Communist party, Endfield was blacklisted. He moved to England in 1952, where he lived and worked for the remainder of his life. Among the movies he directed during this period was one more noir film, The Limping Man (1953), under the pseudonym Charles de Lautour. Endfield was also an uncredited writer for the noir feature, Crashout (1955). Endfield is probably best known for his film Zulu (1964), which he wrote and directed. His last film was Universal Soldier (1971), after which he lost interest in making movies. In 1980, working together with Chris Rainey, Endfield invented the “Microwriter”, a pocket-sized word-processing computer with a unique keyboard that could be operated by one hand. Endfield died in 1995 at age 80.

Don Siegel

Happy birthday to DonSiegeldirector Don Siegel, born Oct. 26, 1912 in Chicago, IL. Siegel began his film career in the 1930s as an editor and second unit director. In 1946, he made his debut directing features with the noir classic, The Verdict. He went on to direct nearly two dozen movies and television episodes in the 1940s and 50s, among them were seven more films noir: The Big Steal (1949), Count The Hours (1953), Riot in Cell Block 11 (1954), Private Hell 36 (1954), Crime in the Streets (1956), Baby Face Nelson (1957), and The Lineup (1958). He also directed the original version of the sci-fi horror classic, Invasion of the Body Snatchers (1956). Siegel is probably best known to movie audiences for many of the notable films he directed in 1960s and 70s, including Flaming Star (1960) with Elvis Presley, The Killers (1964) with Lee Marvin, Charley Varrick (1973) with Walter Matthau, The Shootist (1976) with John Wayne, and five films with Clint Eastwood, including Two Mules for Sister Sara (1970), Dirty Harry (1971), and Escape From Alcatraz (1979). Eastwood credits Siegel for teaching him about film directing. Siegel died of cancer in 1991 at age 78.