The Golden Age of Hollywood

He was tyrannical, yet intelligent, speaking five languages - all of them badly. His English was mangled to when he wanted a puddle on the set, someone brought him a dog. But he knew how to make films. Ten performers were nominated for their perfomances in Michael Curtiz's films, two of the winning.

Casablanca . . The Adventures of Robin Hood . . Life With Father . .
Mildred Pierce . . Yankee Doodle Dandy . . Dodge City. And many more. Michael Curtiz could make any type film, and turn it into something we'd be watching decades down the line.

What Curtiz films are among your favorites?

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One of my favorite Curtiz films is We're No Angels, an atyipcal Bogart film. It's a refreshing change of pace, and everyone in the film is wonderful. But Adolph, who's never seen, steals the show.
Adolph is the snake, and you have Bogart's characterization down pat. Peter Ustinov and Aldo Ray are the other two convicts. Leo G. Carroll, Joan Bennett, & Basil Rathbone are also in it.
Curtiz was extremely hard-bitten. Errol Flynn hated him, which was why Raoul Walsh was given the assignment of They Died With Their Boots On. Curtiz and Flynn, who'd made some of their best films together, just couldn't work together anymore.

Yet, on Yankee Doodle Dandy, during Walter Huston's death scene - Which the Epstein twins wrote as a joke, btw - Curtiz openly wept during the filming.
The Cabin in the Cotton
The Kennel Murder Case
Mildred Pierce
Romance on the High Seas - probably my favorite of his. :)
Angels with Dirty Faces
Yankee Doodle Dandy
Favorite? I like them all, but if I have to pick one, I'd go with Mildred Pierce. Of course the movie was a vehicle for Crawford, but I'm always blown away by Ann Blyth's performance. Vida has to be one of the nastiest most heartless characters in movie history.

really, what Curtiz film ISN'T a favorite? Captain Blood, Light Brigade, Robin Hood, Casablanca, Angels with Dirty Faces. I could go on but we all know his films.

No wonder the studio gave him picture after picture. Give him the script and let him run with it. This guy may not have been an "auteur" like Ford, Capra, etc but he was great. He has never really gotten the credit from the masses that he deserves. I think that the average person who may not be into these classic films as those of us on these boards would be astounded to know how many of these films are his. I bet they couldn't even name the director.  

I will say overall "Mildred Pierce" is my favourite but some of his

films from the early thirties gave Warner's their snappy style

"Mystery of the Wax Museum" , "The Keyhole", "The Kennel Murder

Case" and "Female" - all from 1933.

Michael Curtiz was, is and always will be my favourite director.  I have already warned readers of this forum that I have a tendency to be somewhat verbose, and when it comes to Curtiz I could write an entire essay, right here, right now.  Almost every film Curtiz directed has something in it to admire, even if for a fleeting moment. 

By the time Curtiz arrived in Hollywood in 1926, he had already spent a dozen or more years directing pictures firstly in his native Hungary, and then in Vienna - as well as a short spell in Denmark - honing his craft, taking his influences from all aspects of European cinema, including the German expressionism so beloved by fellow emigrée Fritz Lang.  One can see elements of these techniques in pretty much all of his Hollywood pictures.

Goodness me, Curtiz was prolific.  Between 1927 and 1961, he directed 102 pictures - all of them for Warner Bros. until he left the studio in 1953 - thereafter he worked for whichever studio would have him.  These 102 films were not low-budget quickie westerns, either.  They were for the most part the major productions that Warner's released each year.  Some of his early thrillers - i.e. Doctor X (1932) and Mystery of the Wax Museum (1933) give us the opportunity to see Curtiz's European influences most clearly - lighting from below, shadows on the walls, that sort of thing.  Oh, and Curtiz was not snobby about genre either; he directed just about every single one during his career: musicals, horror, comedy, costume dramas, epics, westerns, and everything in between.  

Off the top of my head, I think Curtiz directed around 12 Errol Flynn movies, and of course it is well known that the two men did not get on.  Why, I hear you ask.  Well, it could simply be that their personalities clashed - it happens in all walks of life - or perhaps it might have something to do with the fact that both men were married to Lili Damita at some point.  Just sayin'.

So, to sum up: I would like to list, in chronological order of course, some of my favourite Curtiz movies:

Noah's Ark (1928), Doctor X (1932), The Cabin in the Cotton (1932), Mystery of the Wax Museum (1933), Captain Blood (1935), The Charge of the Light Brigade (1936), Kid Galahad (1937), The Adventures of Robin Hood (1938 - my all-time favourite film), Four Daughters (1938), Angels With Dirty Faces (1938), Dodge City (1939), Sons of Liberty (1939), The Private Lives of Elizabeth & Essex (1939), The Sea Hawk (1940), Yankee Doodle Dandy (1942), Casablanca (1942), Mildred Pierce (1945), Night & Day (1946), Life With Father (1947), Young Man With a Horn (1950), Trouble Along the Way (1953), White Christmas (1954), The Proud Rebel (1958), King Creole (1958), The Comancheros (1961).  

I hope I haven't bored anyone, but Curtiz was a great director, because he worked with whatever assignment he was given and added a touch of class to it.  He worked within the studio system - indeed, some have called him the archetypal studio director - yet was able to create works of art which gave audiences a sense of his own personality and in some cases, emotion.  Take care, cheers!

Excellent discussion! Thank you for the wealth of information, Stephen!

You are very welcome.  It was a pleasure for me, as you can tell.  Perhaps there was a bit of von Stroheim in him - that tendency to be incredibly rude to actors because of a combination of ego and a desire to get the best out of the actors.  The performances many of the actors gave for him!  Even Errol Flynn!  He produced Joan Crawford's most refined piece of acting in Mildred Pierce.  He got the best out of Elvis Presley in King Creole.  He was sensitive to those such as Presley for whom acting was not necessarily their strongest suit.  During his Warner years, he was head and shoulders the best director at the studio.  He was often called in to rescue other pictures, such as Anthony Adverse and, perhaps the most famous example of all, The Adventures of Robin Hood.   I'm always worried that I ramble on too much, but I hope you enjoy some of this information anyway.  Take care!

Don't worry about rambling on! It's deeply gratifying to me to be able to talk with people who have a knowledge of and passion for classic films. Before I discovered this site, I felt very isolated in my classic film-nerdiness. I was dying to talk with someone about them, but I didn't know a single soul who knew or cared anything about them.

This site is a real treasure. It just needs some more activity. Thanks for contributing!

Indeed - the same goes for me.  I have been a classic film fan since 1978 and my room is filled with books and DVDs on the subject.  However, I don't consider myself as one who 'knows everything' and I love to learn more on the subject, which you often get from reading or listening to people's perspectives on things.  If you're looking for a fellow nerd, you've found him.  

Curtiz is my favourite director, as I mentioned before.  Sadly, because I have a large problem, the only way I can watch a season of Curtiz - or anyone else for that matter - films on TV is if I play a series of DVDs.  The problem I have is called 'Being British.'  There is no television outlet here in the UK that supports a classic film geek like myself.  TCM went down the toilet about 17 years ago and has never recovered in the UK.  And there is nothing else.  To end on a cheerful note, I'm going to list my Top Five Michael Curtiz films (I just did a similar list on an Olivia de Havilland thread).  I'll list them in reverse order in order to build up excitement and tension:

5) Noah's Ark (1928)

4) Angels With Dirty Faces (1938)

3) Mystery of the Wax Museum (1933)

2) The Sea Hawk (1940)

1) The Adventures of Robin Hood (1938)

Cheers!  And Take Care!



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