Michael Curtiz

"Workhorse directors, who were reliable, professional, and ready to take on whatever assignment was thrown at them, formed the solid foundation of the classic Hollywood studio system. And foremost among them was Michael Curtiz. Thrillers, weepies, war movies, comedies, horror, film noir - the Hungarian-born Curtiz tackled them all." - Philip Kemp (501 Movie Directors, 2007)

Michael Curtiz

Director
(1886-1962) Born December 24, Budapest, Austria-Hungary (now Hungary)
Top 250 Directors

Key Production Country: USA
Key Genres: Drama, Romance, Musical, Biography, Melodrama, Romantic Comedy, Traditional Western. War, Musical Drama, War Drama, Adventure, Crime Drama
Key Collaborators: Max Steiner (Composer), George Amy (Editor), Sol Polito (Cinematographer), Anton Grot (Production Designer), Errol Flynn (Leading Actor), Hal B. Wallis (Producer), Alan Hale (Leading Character Actor), Olivia de Havilland (Leading Actress), Robert Buckner (Screenwriter), Robert Haas (Production Designer), Humphrey Bogart (Leading Actor), Claude Rains (Leading Actor)

"Warner Bros.’ consummate house director during the classical era, Michael Curtiz was an expert technician who worked in a variety of genres and with a wide range of top studio stars, and like all of Warner’s long-term contract directors, he was amazingly prolific. Curtiz directed nearly one hundred features over some twenty-seven years at Warner (1926–1953), including over fifty films during the manic 1930s. Most were routine studio fare, although he occasionally directed prestige productions like the Errol Flynn-Olivia de Havilland vehicles. As Warner’s output slowed and its ambitions increased during the 1940s, Curtiz handled many of the studio’s top pictures, including back-to-back hits in 1942, Yankee Doodle Dandy and Casablanca, two of Warner’s signature wartime releases." - Thomas Schatz (Schirmer Encyclopedia of Film, 2007)
"Curtiz worked in every film genre imaginable - social drama, musical comedy, Westerns, sea sagas, swashbuckling romances, gangster and prison melodramas, horror films, mystery thrillers, etc. His forceful personality frequently broke through the most routine material, and it was often difficult to tell who was subservient to whom, Curtiz to the studio system or the studio system to Curtiz. More often than not, they seemed to be one and the same." - The MacMillan International Film Encyclopedia, 1994
"Neither a common theme nor a consistent style exists to confirm him as an auteur, yet his solid craftsmanship and an ability to elicit, if not the best, then the 'starriest' performances from his actors made him a superior purveyor of polished hokum." - Geoff Andrew (The Director's Vision, 1999)
"Curtiz's record during the transition to sound elevated him to the top echelon of contract directors at Warners. Unlike others, Curtiz seemed not to utilize this success to push for greater freedom and independence, but rather seemed content to take what was assigned, and execute it in a classic style. He produced crisp flowing narratives, seeking efficiency of method. He was a conservative director, adapting, borrowing and ultimately utilizing all the dominant codes of the Hollywood system. Stylistic innovations were left to others." - Douglas Gomery (International Dictionary of Films and Filmmakers, 1991)
"If many of the early Curtiz films are hardly worth remembering, none of the later ones are even worth seeing. What the collapse of studio discipline meant to Curtiz and to Hollywood was the bottom dropping out of routine filmmaking. The director's one enduring masterpiece is, of course, Casablanca, the happiest of happy accidents, and the most decisive exception to the auteur theory." - Andrew Sarris (The American Cinema, 1968)
"In the early 1940s, Curtiz achieved an outstanding vibrato, as if Hollywood's swan song sensed its climax. Yankee Doodle Dandy, Casablanca, and Mildred Pierce are an unrivaled trinity of inventiveness transforming soppiness to such an extent that reason and taste begin to waver at the conviction of genre in full flow." - David Thomson (The New Biographical Dictionary of Film, 2002)
"The marks of a Curtiz film are fast pace, fluid camera movement, expressive lighting, and simple story. Was the master of the sound swashbuckler (The Adventures of Robin Hood, 38; The Sea Hawk, 40), and distinguished himself in almost every other area of Hollywood film." - William R. Meyer (The Film Buff's Catalog, 1978)
TSPDT Guide
Highly Recommended
Angels with Dirty Faces (1938), Casablanca (1942) , Mildred Pierce (1945) ✖︎, Young Man with a Horn (1950)
Recommended
Captain Blood (1935), The Adventures of Robin Hood (1938) [co-directed by William Keighley], Dodge City (1939), The Sea Wolf (1941), The Unsuspected (1947), My Dream is Yours (1949), The Breaking Point (1950) ✖︎, King Creole (1958)
Worth a Look
20,000 Years in Sing Sing (1933), Female (1933), Mystery of the Wax Museum (1933), The Charge of the Light Brigade (1936), The Walking Dead (1936), The Private Lives of Elizabeth and Essex (1939), The Sea Hawk (1940), Dive Bomber (1941), Flamingo Road (1949), White Christmas (1954), The Best Things in Life Are Free (1956)
Approach with Caution
The Mad Genius (1931), The Strange Love of Molly Louvain (1932), Santa Fe Trail (1940), Virginia City (1940), Captains of the Clouds (1942), Yankee Doodle Dandy (1942), Passage to Marseille (1944), Life with Father (1947), The Man in the Net (1959), Francis of Assisi (1961)
Not Recommended
Front Page Woman (1935), Night and Day (1946)
Acclaimed Films / IMDB Filmography
1,000 Greatest Films ✖︎ 1,000 Noir Films
Amazon Products
Films / Books
    Young Man with a Horn
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