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Michael Curtiz @ 125

Naturally, today's brief roundup has to feature the trailer for White Christmas.
The DailyMichael Curtiz

Kertész Kaminer Manó was born in Budapest on this day in 1886. Or so he claimed. According to the Wikipedia entry, "Both the date and the year are open to doubt: he was fond of telling tall stories about his early years, including that he had run away from home to join the circus and that he had been a member of the Hungarian fencing team at the 1912 Olympic Games, but he seems to have had a conventional middle-class upbringing. He studied at Markoszy University and the Royal Academy of Theater and Art, Budapest, before beginning his career as an actor and director as Mihály Kertész at the National Hungarian Theater in 1912."

From TCM's biography:

One of the most prolific directors in the history of the cinema, Hungarian-born Michael Curtiz thrived in the studio system as the top helmsman at Warner Bros Studio in the 1930s and 40s. Tirelessly hammering out four or five films a year, Curtiz relentlessly tackled both low-budget pictures and more prestigious Oscar-baiting fare, all the while proving amazingly adept at creating lavish results on minimal budgets in a wide variety of genres. Autocratic and overbearing to the extreme, Curtiz clashed constantly with his actors, and his most famous player, Errol Flynn, finally refused to work for him after 12 pictures, including swashbuckler classics like Captain Blood (1935) and The Adventures of Robin Hood (1938). Yet for all his unsympathetic treatment of performers, Curtiz had a knack for detecting and fostering unknown talents, including Flynn, John Garfield — whom he introduced in Four Daughters (1938) — and Doris Day, among others. His highly developed visual approach combined with his technical mastery could elevate the most mundane material, and three of his finest films — Yankee Doodle Dandy (1942), Casablanca (1942) and Mildred Pierce (1945) — made a virtue of melodrama and sentimentality. Though he reached the culmination of his creative powers with The Breaking Point (1950), Curtiz entered a financially successful period with more crowd-pleasing pictures like White Christmas (1954) and King Creole (1958). Having tapped out with The Commancheros (1961), Curtiz was nonetheless a tireless director who left behind a rich legacy, some of which displayed the very best Hollywood had to offer.

Further browsing: They Shoot Pictures, Don't They? for the basics; and Dave Kehr got quite a conversation about Curtiz rolling in August.


Time Out London's David Jenkins in 1999 on White Christmas: "Paramount's first film in (lavender-hued) VistaVision was this pornographically soppy but, nonetheless, hearty and humorous 1954 festive romp in which Bing Crosby and Danny Kaye take their astonishingly popular two-man lounge-comedy-dance revue to rural Vermont. It's a standard putting-on-a-show movie with swinging tunes (courtesy of Irving Berlin), harmless misogyny, and a nice line in bitching at Rogers and Hammerstein's expense. It's as sickly-sweet as an eggnog tsunami, but Bing's brandy-butter baritone and Kaye's incessant, proto-Jim Carrey clowning always manage to raise a smile."

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