Let me direct (pardon the pun) your attention to whom I consider to be one of the best of the Hollywood directors, Michael Curtiz. He began his career in 1912, in Hungary, at the age of 26 in “Today and Tomorrow”, in which he both directed and acted. The following year he acted in and for the first and last time was the assistant-director for “Atlantis”. He worked in 6 different decades, with more than 170 credits as director, working exclusively in film (no television employments).
Recently (in my blog regarding “White Christmas,” 1954) I wrote the following about Curtiz: “this romantic musical was not helmed by someone with a career spent, in directing Hollywood musicals, but instead, it was crafted by the man whose style cannot be spotted as many directors can be by a characteristic stamp, such as Billy Wilder and George Cukor. White Christmas was directed by the very same man of whom classics and near-classics such as The Adventures of Robin Hood and Four Daughters , 1938, The Sea Wolf, 1941, Yankee Doodle Dandy and Casablanca, 1942, Mildred Pierce, 1945, Young Man with a Horn, 1950, and The Proud Rebel in 1958… five decades of film making, in nearly every genre and doing it well; a true journeyman with the directorial skills of an auteur, with none of the discernible tell-tale signs, the one the only, Michael Curtiz.”
One does not need to look far for proof of the talent of Curtiz, “Casablanca,” 1942, is a Hollywood classic, maybe the finest that the studio system ever produced; “Mildred Pierce,” 1945, a hard hitting film, with deep dark emotions; “Yankee Doodle Dandy,” 1942, a flag-waving, toe-tapping, all-American, good-hearted movie experience. Need I say more? Somebody “hold my mule” (popular phrase by some southern farmers meaning: “let me tell you about it”) while I continue on about the film-making capacities of Michael Curtiz. The 1933, “The Kennel Murder Case,” a sharp, brisk, Philo Vance mystery starring the debonair William Powell. “The Sea Wolf,” 1941, one of the best examples of the sea-faring drama-adventure; “Life with Father,” 1947, a family comedy-drama with few equals; “The Adventures of Robin Hood,” 1938, still one of the most beautifully-photographed color films made, a grand sweeping tale of epic proportions! Musicals, comedies, dramas, action, adventure, war, romance, bio-pics, film-noir, silents, historical and horror and the list of genres, sub-genres and cross-genres go on and on.
Nominated four times for the Academy Award for Best Director, with one Oscar (Casablanca) on his shelf, Curtiz also received one Directors Guild of America nomination for Outstanding Directorial Achievement in Motion Pictures for “I’ll See You in my Dreams,” with other nominations at the Venice Film Festival and the New York Film Critics Circle Awards; in addition he was a Western Heritage Award winner.
So, make a New Year’s resolution to watch more Michael Curtiz movies in 2016 and set yourself down in your favorite chair. Enjoy the mission, I know you will.
By C. S. Williams