The Man Who Would Be King
Published by: The University Press of Kentucky
Imprint: The University Press of Kentucky
Sales Date: 10/26/2021
592 Pages, 6.00 x 9.00 in, 128 b&w halftones
- Published: October 2021
Nothing about Otto Preminger was small or trivial—from his privileged upbringing in Vienna as the son of an improbably successful Jewish lawyer to his work in film and theater in Europe and, later, in America. His range as a director was remarkable: romantic comedies, musicals, courtroom dramas, adaptations of classic plays, political melodrama, war films, and film noir. He directed everything from sweeping sagas to small-scale pictures.
In Otto Preminger: The Man Who Would Be King, Foster Hirsch reveals the genius and torture behind the renowned director and producer. Known as "Otto the Terrible," Preminger brought to the screen a balanced style and steadfast belief in his actors' underacting that was at odds with his hot-tempered personality. Yet it was this fire and determination to get his way that allowed this native European to become one of America's most progressive directors. He undermined the Production Code of the Motion Picture Association of America and the Catholic Legion of Decency in some of his most important films, defying their demands for changes that betrayed his artistic vision. He broke many social barriers by becoming the industry's leading employer of both African American and blacklisted performers and, later, by shooting America's first-ever scene set in a gay bar.
In this full-scale biography of the controversial, underrated, yet greatly admired movie titan, Foster Hirsch shows us the man—enraging and endearing—and his brilliant work.
Prologue: An Encounter
Chapter One: Ring from the Emperor
Chapter Two: Rise and Fall
Chapter Three: Seizing the Day
Chapter Four: On the Job (1)
Chapter Five: On the Job (2)
Chapter Six: The Declaration of Independence
Chapter Seven: Lightning Strikes Twice
Chapter Eight: "Chicago"
Chapter Nine: Miss Iowa
Chapter Ten: Censored!
Chapter Eleven: On Trial
Chapter Twelve: In the Promised Land
Chapter Thirteen: Playing Washington
Chapter Fourteen: The Prodigal
Chapter Fifteen: Location/ Location
Chapter Sixteen: In Klan Country
Chapter Seventeen: Father and Son
Chapter Eighteen: Endgames
Chapter Nineteen: After the Fall
Directed by Otto Preminger
Preminger (1905—1983) could not have asked for a more assiduous or generous biographer than Hirsch (Film/Brooklyn College; Kurt Weill on Stage: From Berlin to Broadway, 2002, etc.), who has visited the archives, studied the films, interviewed the principals, walked the ground and read all relevant documents. The result will endure as the definitive life of one of film's most intriguing and volcanic personalities... Executed with the conviction and meticulousness of a Preminger production.~Kirkus Reviews (starred)
Meticulously researched with nearly 100 new interviews with family members and coworkers, this epic biography offers a multifaceted portrait of the Viennese-born filmmaker and reappraisal of his filmsFilm buffs will enjoy the candid looks behind his volatile productions (including Laura, Anatomy of a Murder, Hurry Sundown). Historians will appreciate Preminger's belated recognition for breaking the blacklist.... This is a long-overdue critical biography of the temperamental titan with a genius for self-promotion.~Publishers Weekly
In Otto Preminger: The Man Who Would Be King, Brooklyn College film historian Foster Hirsch weaves interviews with industry players and family members into a straightforward chronology of Preminger's wide-ranging career. This comprehensive biography of the redoubtable impresario is the first since Preminger's ghostwritten account in 1977 Hirsch does not position Preminger as 'an artistic renegade determined to dismantle the system's visual codes,' but he takes the director's films seriously, offering cogent analyses not only of the classics but also of the underrated (1979's 'The Human Factor') and the unratable (1975's 'Rosebud') What ultimately emerges from the many voices and extensive quotes in this book is not so much a portrait of the man as of his reflection flickering in the eyes of the people who loved and feared him.~Los Angeles Times Reviews
Mr. Hirsch proves a good guide through the perplexing duality of Preminger's lifeFoster Hirsch has written a balanced, intelligent, compelling biography of a very erratic director.~Scott Eyman, The Observer
Foster Hirsch's massive, sympathetic new biography Otto Preminger: The Man Who Would Be King nakedly aspires to rehabilitate Preminger's tattered reputation. Hirsch's prolonged defense of Preminger's eclectic, oft-maligned oeuvre is comprehensive and scholarly.~Nathan Rabin, AV Club
In the updated edition of his book about the movie titan, Otto Preminger: The Man Who Be King, author and film historian Foster Hirsch crafts a first-rate biography on Preminger's early days as a stage actor (and later playing many screen villains) to his now-famous status as a groundbreaking filmmaker.... A great and interesting read indeed.~Cinema Sentries
[Otto Preminger] affords many revealing glimpses into the workings of old Hollywood, whose dictates the director was willing to challenge by introducing controversial subjects (drug addiction, a murderer who goes free) unusual for his time.~Shepherd Express