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Michael Curtiz: A Life in Film

by Alan K. Rode

Availablecloth$50.00s 978-0-8131-7391-7
Availableepub$50.00s 978-0-8131-7396-2
Availableweb pdf$50.00s 978-0-8131-7397-9
Screen Classics
704 pages  Pubdate: 11/17/2017  6 x 9  76 b/w images

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Academy Award–winning director Michael Curtiz (1886–1962)—whose best-known films include Casablanca (1942), Yankee Doodle Dandy (1942), Mildred Pierce (1945) and White Christmas (1954)—was in many ways the anti-auteur. During his unprecedented twenty-seven year tenure at Warner Bros., he directed swashbuckling adventures, westerns, musicals, war epics, romances, historical dramas, horror films, tearjerkers, melodramas, comedies, and film noir masterpieces. The director’s staggering output of 180 films surpasses that of the legendary John Ford and exceeds the combined total of films directed by George Cukor, Victor Fleming, and Howard Hawks.

In the first biography of this colorful, instinctual artist, Alan K. Rode illuminates the life and work of one of the film industry’s most complex figures. He begins by exploring the director’s early life and career in his native Hungary, revealing how Curtiz shaped the earliest days of silent cinema in Europe as he acted in, produced, and directed scores of films before immigrating to the United States in 1926. In Hollywood, Curtiz earned a reputation for his explosive tantrums, his difficulty communicating in English, and his disregard for the well-being of others. However, few directors elicited more memorable portrayals from their casts, and ten different actors delivered Oscar-nominated performances under his direction.

In addition to his study of the director’s remarkable legacy, Rode investigates Curtiz’s dramatic personal life, discussing his enduring creative partnership with his wife, screenwriter Bess Meredyth, as well as his numerous affairs and children born of his extramarital relationships. This meticulously researched biography provides a nuanced understanding of one of the most talented filmmakers of Hollywood’s golden age.

Writer and film scholar Alan K. Rode is the author of Charles McGraw: Film Noir Tough Guy. He is the host and producer of the Arthur Lyons Film Noir Festival in Palm Springs, California, and director-treasurer of the Film Noir Foundation.

Michael Curtiz is the best director most people have never heard of. Yet until now nobody has taken up the case for Curtiz in a soup-to-nuts biography. The good news is that Alan Rode's massive book is exhaustively researched, well written and frequently witty.

[Curtiz] amassed a body of work without parallel at a great movie studio [Warner Bros.]. His films are his best advocate of that, but Alan Rode's book is a close second. -- Wall Street Journal

A superbly researched, highly compelling account of one of cinema’s most gifted and underrated directors, Rode provides a vivid description of Curtiz’s personality and working methods. It is difficult if not impossible to imagine a more complete account of his life. -- Steven C. Smith, author of A Heart at Fire's Center: The Life and Music of Bernard Herrmann

Alan K. Rode’s intensely personal biography provides the reader with a complete, well-researched, comprehensive, and critical career study of a brilliant yet complicated artist. A wonderful read and an accurate source for future reference, Michael Curtiz: A Life in Film is thoroughly satisfying, highly intelligent, and a delicious, rich dessert for any serious lover of film and film history. Indulge. -- Stephen Michael Shearer, author of Patricia Neal: An Unquiet Life

Finally! In Alan K. Rode’s deeply researched and compelling biography, Michael Curtiz gets long overdue recognition as one of the cinema’s greatest storytellers. Casablanca is merely the most renowned of the man’s many masterpieces, and Rode does the director justice by leaving no stone unturned in his examination of Curtiz’s life and career. This book is a significant addition, and at times a valuable corrective, to existing scholarship on Hollywood, the studio system, and the auteur theory. Bravo! -- Eddie Muller, author and Turner Classic Movies host