Multi-Genre Cinematic Genius

(1886 - 1962)


Though most known as the Oscar winning director of Casablanca and an extremely temperamental one with his studio and cast, he actually should also be considered an auteur of the Silver Screen. He is overlooked in that category because of his wide variety of projects, many for commercial popular consumption, that he took in his long career. This profession started in silent film, from horror, adventure (Westerns and Swashbucklers with other historical stories) through musicals (even Elvis in King Creole), drama (sometimes on Biblical epic scale -- when it was not crime and war), 'chick flicks,' and comedy. Some historical film critics think he benefited from the highly experimental and proficient cinematographers the studios utilized, He is also remembered for his broken English on the set that evoked laughter (and then fear) unwittingly like during making his Charge of the Light Brigade, when he wanted a scene with many dismounted steeds he yelled, "Bring me the empty horses!" His Mildred Pierce is considered another 'film noir' masterpiece. Classic is the only description to give this man's work, I think it is safe to say, everyone has seen his White Christmas and Yankee Doodle Dandy since they have become (at least in the U.S.) nearly holiday obligatory in annual replays as festive lighted snow scenes and marching bands with fireworks.

The next time I want an idiot to do it, I'll do it myself!

Early History

What Child is This?

Michael Curtiz is also known as Mihály Kertész in his native Hungary, where he was born in Budapest on Christmas Eve of 1886, (part of the Austrian-Hungarian Empire). (Even though Christmas would become intertwined with his later life's work, his Jewish family would have been more apt to celebrate Hanukkah.) After being a circus runaway he entered school to take acting lessons. After He graduated in 1906 from the School for Dramatic Arts (also known as the Royal Academy for Theater and Art) before moving to Pécs and then Szeged.

Following Directions

He started acting in 1912 in Hungary's first feature-length film, Az Utolsõ Bohém (The Last Bohemian) and progressed to directing the burgeoning industry. To learn the latest technology in cinematographic advances he had to go to the Nordisk studios in Denmark where eventually he assisted directing in the 1913 movie, Atlantis as well as starring in it. After joining the Austro-Hungarian Army in 1914 he moved back to Kolozsvár, Hungary, he worked at the Jenõ Janovics film production facilities for a year until he made it back home. After working for a couple of years for Kinoriport company, he became Phõnix's director

Altogether he would make fourteen movies, many featuring his first spouse, Lucy Dorraine. When Hungary went communist in 1919 he went to the rest of Europe for work, Sweden, France, Austria and Germany making twenty-one more, especially notable was his Sodom and Gomorrah introducing Walter Slezak.

I'm So Glad I'm Livin' In the USA

He finally made it to the United States in 1926, bringing second wife, actress Lili Damita1 on Warner Brothers invite. They would not be disappointed monetarily (though 1926's Noah's Ark floundered), he stayed resigned, and prolific to the 'studio system' --even until that Hollywood dominated world declined in the late '50's. He had a policy of starting a good film with a good script, and thought most of the 'editing' should be initiated with the camera. His personal life was rife with reports of siring illegitimate children, and some theorize that is why some of his movies were lucre-loving cop-outs, (like Night and Day). He would go on to direct many famous movies until his death on April 10, 1962 from cancer in Hollywood, California. He had just finished the year before his John Wayne western vehicle, The Commancheros for his last hurrah.


White Christmas a top box-office bonanza in the Fifties was a full length music video of the Irving Berlin Noel rendition that highlighted crooners Bing Crosby, Dannye Kaye, and Rosemary Clooney; and Vera-Ellen's dancing.

Interestingly, Casablanca's accolades were a surprise considering the daily re-writes and the actor's dismissal of the efforts. Of course, this movie also titled in the original script "Everybody Comes to Rick's," was star-studded with Humphrey Bogart, Ingrid Bergman, Claude Rains, Sydney Greenstreet, and Peter Lorre: about a sacrificial love story set in 'neutral' Morocco at the American club owner's place. He won Oscar nominations for Angels With Dirty Faces, Four Daughters, which, with John Garfield and Claude Rains was a melodrama, and that George M. Cohan story featuring the unforgettable patriotic strutting Jimmy Cagney, Yankee Doodle Dandy, also featuring John Huston.

Some consider the 1950 oeuvre The Breaking Point as his best work rendering the Hemingway novel excellently with strong efforts by Patricia Neal, John Garfield and the others.

U.S. Directed Films

The Third Degree (1926) Goldene Schmetterling, Der (1926) - or The Golden Butterfly (1926) (US) - or The Road to Happiness (1926)
A Million Bid (1927)
The Desired Woman (1927)
Good Time Charley (1927)
Tenderloin (1928)
Glad Rag Doll (1929)
Noah's Ark (1929)
Madonna of Avenue A (1929)
The Gamblers (1929)
Hearts in Exile (1929)
Mammy (1930)
Under a Texas Moon (1930)
The Matrimonial Bed (1930) - or A Matrimonial Problem (1930) (UK)
Bright Lights (1930) - or Adventures in Africa (1930)
A Soldier's Plaything (1930) - or A Soldier's Pay (1930) (UK)
River's End (1930)
Demon of the Sea (1931)
God's Gift to Women (1931) - or Too Many Women (1931) (UK)
The Mad Genius (1931)
The Woman from Monte Carlo (1932)
Alias the Doctor (1932)
The Strange Love of Molly Louvain (1932) - or Molly Louvain (1932)
Doctor X (1932) (cr. as Mihály Kertész)
The Cabin in the Cotton (1932)
20,000 Years in Sing Sing (1932)
Mystery of the Wax Museum (1933) - or Wax Museum (1933)
The Keyhole (1933)
Private Detective 62 (1933)
The Mayor of Hell (1933) (no film credit)
Goodbye Again (1933)
The Kennel Murder Case (1933)
Female (1933)
From Headquarters (1933) (no film credit)
Mandalay (1934)
Jimmy the Gent (1934)
The Key (1934) - or High Peril (1934) (for US TV)
British Agent (1934) - or Brutal Agent (1934)
Black Fury (1935)
The Case of the Curious Bride (1935)
Go Into Your Dance (1935) (no film credit) - or Casino de Paree (1935) (UK)
Front Page Woman (1935)
Little Big Shot (1935)
Captain Blood (1935)
The Walking Dead (1936)
Anthony Adverse (1936) (no film credit)
The Charge of the Light Brigade (1936)
Stolen Holiday (1937)
Marked Woman (1937) (no film credit)
Mountain Justice (1937)
Kid Galahad (1937) - or The Battling Bellhop (1937) (for US TV)
The Perfect Specimen (1937)
The Adventures of Robin Hood (1938)
Gold Is Where You Find It (1938)
Four Daughters (1938)
Four's a Crowd (1938) - or All Rights Reserved (1938) (US)
Angels with Dirty Faces (1938)
Blackwell's Island (1939) (no film credit)
Dodge City (1939)
Sons of Liberty (1939)
Daughters Courageous (1939) - or American Family (1939) - or A Family Affair (1939) - or Family Reunion (1939)
The Private Lives of Elizabeth and Essex (1939) - or Elizabeth and Essex (1939) - or Elizabeth the Queen (1939) (for US TV)
Four Wives (1939)
Virginia City (1940)
The Sea Hawk (1940)
Santa Fe Trail (1940)
The Sea Wolf (1941)
Dive Bomber (1941)
Captains of the Clouds (1942)
Yankee Doodle Dandy (1942)
Casablanca (1942)
Mission to Moscow (1943)
This Is the Army (1943)
Passage to Marseille (1944)
Janie (1944)
Roughly Speaking (1945)
Mildred Pierce (1945)
Night and Day (1946)
Life with Father (1947)
The Unsuspected (1947)
Romance on the High Seas (1948) - or It's Magic (1948) (UK)
My Dream Is Yours (1949)
Flamingo Road (1949)
The Lady Takes a Sailor (1949)
Young Man with a Horn (1950) - or Young Man of Music (1950) (UK) - or Young Man with a Trumpet (1950) (Australia)
Bright Leaf (1950)
The Breaking Point (1950)
Force of Arms (1951) - or A Girl for Joe (1951) (US)
Jim Thorpe -- All-American (1951) - or Man of Bronze (1951) (UK)
I'll See You in My Dreams (1951)
The Story of Will Rogers (1952)
The Jazz Singer (1952)
Trouble Along the Way (1953) - or Alma Mater (1953)
The Boy from Oklahoma (1954)
White Christmas (1954)
The Egyptian (1954)
We're No Angels (1955)
The Vagabond King (1956)
The Best Things in Life Are Free (1956)
The Scarlet Hour (1956)
The Helen Morgan Story (1957) - or Both Ends of the Candle (1957) (UK) ... or Why Was I Born? (1957) (USA)
The Proud Rebel (1958)
King Creole (1958)
The Hangman (1959)
The Man in the Net (1959)
The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn (1960)
- or Mark Twain's 'The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn' (1960) (US)
A Breath of Scandal (1960)
Francis of Assisi (1961)
The Comancheros (1961)

Curtiz's oft used star, Errol Flynn would later marry Lili Damita, and Curtiz married Bess Meredyth for his last wife.