A Life in Film
Published by: The University Press of Kentucky
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.
PrologueA River Runs Through ItActor to DirectorTransylvanian IdyllPhönix RisingA Stirred-up AnthillCity of FilmMonumental-FilmeExodus in Red HeelsA Family BusinessHungarian in the Promised LandA Loving CollaborationHollywood's Great DelugeGeneral ForemanPre-Code in Synthetic FleshRegime ChagneHome on the RangeThe Dream TeamThe Reason WhyFalling FruitCash CowReaching Their MajorityThe Swash and BucklerThe Pinochle of His CareerFundamental ThingsThose fine patriotic Americans, the Warner BrothersVictory GardenA Michael Curtiz ProductionVanished DreamsDoomed MasterpieceNerve EndingOnly in HollywoodDégringoladeOut on His ShieldAcknowledgementsFilmographyNotesBibliographyIndex
"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
"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
"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
"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
"Rode's book is entertaining and informative as it takes measure of a director who has received less credit than he deserves." -- Milwaukee Express
"Rode's evenhanded, impressively researched, engrossing book amply conveys its subject's "incandescent mania for filmmaking." -- Film Comment
"[The book is] spry and confident, pulsing with tasty quotes and catchy prose anecdotes, side-shots, insights, ironies. An abundant, 698-page, six-course meal." -- Hollywood Elsewhere
"In the impressive and entertaining new book Michael Curtiz: A Life in Film, author Alan K. Rode illustrates why Curtiz has been undervalued for so many years. I can't imagine a more thorough account of any director's life and work. I devoured this book and give it my highest recommendation." -- Leonard Maltin's Movie Crazy
"Alan K. Rode's Michael Curtiz: A Life in Film is engaging from the start and doesn't let up. With a sure hand, good research and a knack for amusing ironies, author Rode really brings Curtiz to life.
Michael Curtiz: A Life in Film puts Alan K. Rode in with today's best writers on film. The book is a keeper that will go on the "read again soon" shelf." -- CineSavant
"This biography (the first about Curtiz) is thorough and vastly entertaining." -- Roundup Magazine
"After years of neglect and even scorn, [director] Michael Curtiz is finally getting some respect. Michael Curtiz: A Life in Films [is] a thoroughly researched biography by Alan K. Rode." -- Los Angeles Times
"With thorough knowledge of film history, telling anecdotes, and interviews, the author illuminates Curtiz's colorful career while also providing insightful portraits of actors, writers, and studio heads. Highly recommended." -- Library Journal
"Rode isn't here to bury Curtiz or to unconditionally praise him but to convey a fully rounded portrait of a highly complex -- even contradictory -- personality who made his mark. To that end, he has succeeded admirably. A Life in Film is so thoroughly, assiduously researched that it's hard to fathom a more comprehensive, or compelling, biography of Michael Curtiz than this." -- YES! Weekly
"Rode's research into the director's films is quite impressive." -- History News Network
"A treat for classic film buffs who have waited a long time for a book-length biography on this director." -- Ann Blyth blog
"It's a serious, critically acclaimed survey of the director's long career. Some in Hollywood loved [Curtiz]; some hated him. But one thing's for sure -- without him, Hollywood would have been a much less interesting place." -- Beverly in Movieland blog
"I have never read a more interesting, thoroughly researched study of a director, ever. Never once does the author get bogged down by his meticulous research. Rode is such a good writer that his narrative flows and his very readable style makes all the information easy to absorb. He has written a terrific biography that should be a model for film historians. His impeccable research is coupled with fine knowledge and writing ability. He really sets the bar high and I am in awe of his achievement." -- Classic Images
"Film historian Alan K. Rode, in his massive and hugely enjoyable biography, describes the decisive role his subject played in a host of much-loved films -- Captain Blood (1935), The Adventures of Robin Hood (1938), Yankee Doodle Dandy (1942), Mildred Pierce (1945) -- and lets Curtiz's work do most of the arguing." -- Sight & Sound
"Rode's 600-page biography on Curtiz is a must-read for anyone who enjoys great books and Hollywood history.[This] book is a masterwork. Michael Curtiz: A Life in Film isn't just one of the best biographies, it's one of the best books about Old Hollywood." -- Journeys in Classic Film
"[A] magnificent biography." -- New York Review of Books
" Michael Curtiz: A Life In Film is the definitive, comprehensive story of one of Hollywood's greatest filmmakers. This effortless read is full of rich details about Curtiz's career in Europe before Warner Brothers brought him to the US in the mid-1920s. There is never a dull moment in the 600-plus pages." -- Times Quotidian