Michael Curtiz was one of Hollywood’s most prolific and colorful directors. Born to a well-to-do Jewish family in Budapest, he ran away from home at age 17 to join a circus, then trained for an acting career at the Royal Academy for Theater and Art. He worked as a leading man at the Hungarian Theatre before directing stage plays and then films. His first cinematic effort was Az Utolsó Bohém (1912), which was also the first feature-length film ever made in Hungary. Curtiz soon moved on to the more progressive Danish film industry, returning to his homeland in 1914 and serving a year in the Austro-Hungarian infantry before resuming his film career. While it may be arguable that Curtiz was Hungary’s finest director, he was certainly its busiest, making no fewer than 14 films in 1917, most of which starred his first wife, actress Lucy Dorraine. When the Hungarian film industry was nationalized by the new communist government in 1919, Curtiz packed his bags and headed for Sweden… read more
One of the kingpins of Hollywood’s studio system, Zanuck was the offspring of the ill-fated marriage of the alcoholic night clerk in Wahoo, Nebraska’s only hotel and the hotel owner’s promiscuous daughter. Both parents had abandoned him by the time he was 13. At 15, he joined the U.S. Army, and he fought in Belgium in World War I. Mustered out, he kept himself alive with a series of desultory jobs — steelworker, foreman in a garment factory, professional boxer — while pursuing a career as a writer. He turned his first published story (for "Physical Culture, " a pulp magazine) into a film scenario for William Russell; his next important sale was to Irving Thalberg.
Although often described as barely literate, Zanuck turned out to have a prodigious knack for movie plots. After a well-paid apprenticeship with Mack Sennett, Syd Chaplin and Carl Laemmle, Zanuck hit his stride by devising (with Malcolm St. Clair) the Rin Tin Tin series of police-dog movies for Warner Brothers. For… read more