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Michael Curtiz was one of the greatest and least heralded directors of all time! He was born Mihaly Kertesz in Budapest, Hungary in 1886. He began acting and directing in Hungary in 1912. After WWI he started directing movies in Austria and Germany. In 1924, Curtiz directed his most ambitious film to date, Die Sklavenkonigin, which was set in ancient Egypt and tells of the oppression of the Jews under the rule of the Pharaoh. If this sounds remarkably similar to The Ten Commandments, which was being made in the U.S. by Cecil B. DeMille at the same time, it is because it was, and there are reports that Curtiz' film was superior! Cecil B. DeMille rightly worried that a U.S. release of Die Sklavenkonigin would hurt the box office of his movie, and he was able to use his influence to keep it from being release in the U.S. at all that year (it would finally be released by FBO under the title of Moon of Israel in 1927). But executives at Warner Bros saw Die Sklavenkonigin, and they convinced Curtiz to sign with them and move to the U.S. in 1926. This was their second best decision ever (other than making the first partial sound movie, The Jazz Singer, the following year!). It took Curtiz a couple of years to get used to making English language films, but once he did, he became Warners' top director, and he remained there for many years, with an output that puts EVERY other director to shame! He made many of the most memorable Warner Bros. movies of the 1930s and 1940s, including: Captain Blood (nominated for the Best Director Academy Award for this film), Four Daughters (nominated for the Best Director Academy Award for this film), Casablanca, Yankee Doodle Dandy (Casablanca & Yankee both came out in 1942). He directed SIX movies in 1939 alone, and he directed over 100 movies for Warner Bros, on top of the 64 movies he had directed earlier. Yet because he did not have a distinctive directorial style ("auteur"), he fell out of favor with the leading film critics of the 1960s (another wonderful director who has a similar problem is William Wyler). My two personal favorite Michael Curtiz movies (along with Casablanca and Yankee Doodle Dandy) are The Adventures of Robin Hood and Angels With Dirty Faces (nominated for the Best Director Academy Award for this film).
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