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Fred Zinnemann was born in Vienna, Austria in 1907. He excelled at the violin as a youth, and wanted to make that his career, but changed his mind and decided to become a lawyer. But while in college he discovered film making, and he went to Germany and became a cameraman! In 1930, he was one of the four directors on the German movie Menschen am Sonntag (People on Sunday). The other three directors also all went on to illustrious careers: Curt Siodmak, Robert Siodmak, and Edgar G. Ulmer, but oddly all would be primarily known for horror movies! Zinnemann moved to the U.S. in 1930, but it wasn't until 1937 that he starting directing, and at first all he got were short subjects for MGM. In 1942, he got to direct the B-movie, Kid Glove Killer, and it is a fine movie that got Zinnemann noticed. He directed four more movies by 1947, but he made his major breakthrough in 1948 when he directed The Search (nominated for the Best Director Academy Award for this film), a really fine movie which marked Montgomery Clift's debut in movies. In 1950, he directed Marlon Brando in HIS first movie, The Men, and in 1952 he directed both the classic High Noon and The Member of the Wedding which was Julie Harris' first movie. The following year he directed the marvelous From Here to Eternity. He started spending more time on his movies, doing one every two years or so, but the quality remained super-high. He did Oklahoma, A Hatful of Rain, The Nun's Story, and The Sundowners! He then took a four year break before returning with Behold a Pale Horse and A Man for All Seasons (perhaps my favorite movie ever!). He then took seven years off before returning with the perfect thriller, The Day of the Jackal, and four years later he made Julia, and five years later he made Five Days One Summer, the only lesser movie once he hit his stride, and he wisely retired. Fred Zinnemann's career most closely parallels that of Stanley Kubrick, a great filmmaker who crafted his best movies into perfect gems, but sadly, because he was not an "auteur" with a clearly recognizable directorial style, he is not regarded as highly as Kubrick (similar to a great director of a generation earlier, William Wyler). This is sad, because Zinnemann's best movies (and there were a lot of them!) rank in the very finest movies ever made! He passed away in 1997 at the age of 89.
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