William Dieterle

"Though the director's filmography includes memorably dull biopics (Zola, Pasteur, Juarez and the discoverer of a cure for syphilis) his finest work reveals a flair for romanticism… Though a minor, erratic talent, Dieterle is deserving of more serious critical attention than he has so far received." - Geoff Andrew (The Director's Vision, 1999)

William Dieterle

Director / Producer
(1893-1972) Born July 15, Ludwigshafen am Rhein, Rhineland-Palatinate, Germany

Key Production Country: USA
Key Genres: Drama, Romance, Melodrama, Biography, Romantic Drama, Period Film, Crime, Musical Drama, Medical Drama, Film Noir, Fantasy
Key Collaborators: Warren Low (Editor), Hal B. Wallis (Producer), Hans Dreier (Production Designer), Henry O'Neill (Character Actor), Victor Young (Composer), Henry Blanke (Producer), Paul Muni (Leading Actor), Joseph Cotten (Leading Actor), Tony Gaudio (Cinematographer), Joseph August (Cinematographer), Claude Rains (Leading Character Actor), Donald Crisp (Leading Character Actor)

"Considering that the 1939 version of The Hunchback of Notre Dame is just about my favourite film, it is a bitter pill to swallow that its German director, William Dieterle, also made a fair percentage of outright clinkers, especially in his later years, his films from 1953 vying with each other for awfulness. But in the Warners years Dieterle's dark, Germanic nature was in full flight and he made some weird and wonderful variations on standard genres there before becoming immersed in the studio's passion for biopics." - David Quinlan (Quinlan's Illustrated Guide to Film Directors, 1999)
"William Dieterle seemed less interesting than Michael Curtiz in his (Dieterle's) Warners period and less interesting than Billy Wilder in his (Dieterle's) Paramount period... But Dieterle was around on the set when many interesting things happened over the years, and it is reasonable to assume that he had something to do with them." - Andrew Sarris (The American Cinema, 1968)
"Dieterle proved a prolific workhorse, serving Paramount, Warners, and David Selznick... By the mid-1940s Dieterle was under Selznick's wing and his sense of almost supernatural atmosphere was not unsuited to the producer's dreamy-mystical conception of Jennifer Jones in Portrait of Jennie - indication of how often the women's picture encourages moderate talent into abandoning caution." - David Thomson (The New Biographical Dictionary of Film, 2002)
"Bosley Crowther referred to Dieterle as the "Plutarch of the screen," in reference to the filmmaker's brilliant series of cinema biographies throughout the 1930s. Dieterle was influenced by expressionism, and his work is usually slow moving, occasionally top-heavy, but more often penetrating." - William R. Meyer (The Film Buff's Catalog, 1978)
"Despite earlier commercial success, William Dieterle may be one of Hollywood's greatest lost romantics… Under the influence of David O. Selznick for the Paramount Jennifer Jones projects Love Letters (1945) and Portrait of Jennie (1948), Dieterle's romantic sensibility flourished, prompting the notion that he could have excelled with the lush spectacles favoured by 1950s Hollywood as an antidote to television. But involvement in liberal politics - Dieterle was instrumental with Fritz Lang in getting Bertolt Brecht and Kurt Weill out of Germany - led to McCarthyist censure in 1947. Directing assignments became less interesting and Dieterle's career went into terminal decline." - Richard Armstrong (The Rough Guide to Film, 2007)
"If during the 30s Dieterle was mostly respected for his pedantic technical proficiency and meticulous craftsmanship, in the 40s he occasionally demonstrated a capacity for romantic expression in such films as Paramount's Love Letters and Selznick's Portrait of Jennie." - The Film Encyclopedia, 2012
"He was responsible for a good many meritorious films that have yet to receive the praise they're due, among them his poignant yet melodramatic "lost generation" saga The Last Flight (1931), the sparkling, Lubitsch-like romantic comedy Jewel Robbery (1932), his masterful production of The Hunchback of Notre Dame (1939), and especially the dazzling The Devil and Daniel Webster (1941)… Everyone who worked with Dieterle remembers his one absolute distinction among Hollywood directors: he always wore white gloves." - Leonard Maltin's Movie Encyclopedia, 1995
"A former silent era actor, astonishingly, played a bit role in F.W. Murnau's Faust (1926), Dieterle made a niche for himself directing such luxury biopics as Juarez (1939) and the excellent Dr. Ehrlich's Magic Bullet (1940), before he discovered where his real talent lay and branched out into romantic melodramas with Love Letters (1945) and the haunting Portrait of Jennie (1948)." - Mario Reading (The Movie Companion, 2006)
TSPDT Guide
Recommended
The Hunchback of Notre Dame (1939), Dr. Ehrlich's Magic Bullet (1940), The Devil and Daniel Webster (1941), Love Letters (1945), Portrait of Jennie (1948), Rope of Sand (1949), The Accused (1949) ✖︎, September Affair (1950), Dark City (1950) ✖︎
Worth a Look
The Last Flight (1931), Jewel Robbery (1932), A Midsummer Night's Dream (1935) [co-directed by Max Reinhardt], The Story of Louis Pasteur (1936), Juarez (1939), This Love of Ours (1945), The Turning Point (1952) ✖︎, Elephant Walk (1954)
Approach with Caution
The Secret Bride (1934), The Life of Emile Zola (1937), Paid in Full (1950), Magic Fire (1955)
Not Recommended
Fashions (1934)
Acclaimed Films / IMDB Filmography
✖︎ 1,000 Noir Films
William Dieterle / Favourite Films
Battleship Potemkin (1925) Sergei Eisenstein, The Best Years of Our Lives (1946) William Wyler, Bicycle Thieves (1948) Vittorio De Sica, The Birth of a Nation (1915) D.W. Griffith, The Gold Rush (1925) Charles Chaplin, The Grapes of Wrath (1940) John Ford, The Life of Emile Zola (1937) William Dieterle, The Passion of Joan of Arc (1928) Carl Theodor Dreyer, Storm Over Asia (1928) Vsevolod Pudovkin, Under the Roofs of Paris (1930) René Clair.
Source: Cinémathèque Belgique (1952)
Amazon Products
Films / Books
    The Turning Point
    comments powered by Disqus