|Birth Day:||December 24, 1886|
|Death Date:||Apr 10, 1962 (age 75)|
Won an Academy Award in 1943 for directing the classic film Casablanca.
As per our current Database, Michael Curtiz died on Apr 10, 1962 (age 75).
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Michael Curtiz competed in the 1912 Olympics as a member of the Hungarian fencing team.
Curtiz was born Manó Kaminer to a Jewish family in Budapest, Austria-Hungary, in 1886, where his father was a carpenter and his mother an opera singer. In 1905, he Hungaricised his name to Mihály Kertész. Curtiz had a lower-middle-class upbringing. He recalled during an interview that his family's home was a cramped apartment, where he had to share a small room with his two brothers and a sister. "Many times we are hungry," he added.
He worked as Mihály Kertész at the National Hungarian Theater in 1912. and was a member of the Hungarian fencing team at the Olympic Games in Stockholm. Kertész directed Hungary's first feature film, Today and Tomorrow (Ma és holnap, 1912), in which he also had a leading role. He followed that with another film, The Last Bohemian (Az utolsó bohém, also 1912).
Curtiz began living in various cities in Europe to work on silent films in 1913. He first went to study at Nordisk studio in Denmark, which led to work as an actor and assistant director to August Blom on Denmark's first multireel feature film, Atlantis (1913).
After World War I began in 1914, he returned to Hungary, where he served in the army for a year, before he was wounded fighting on the Russian front. Curtiz wrote of that period:
He was assigned to make fund-raising documentaries for the Red Cross in Hungary. In 1917, he was made director of production at Phoenix Films, the leading studio in Budapest, where he remained until he left Hungary. However, none of the films he directed there survive intact, and most are completely lost.
By 1918, he had become one of Hungary's most important directors, having by then directed about 45 films. However, following the end of the war, in 1919, the new communist government nationalized the film industry, so he decided to return to Vienna to direct films there.
When he left for the United States, Curtiz left behind an illegitimate son and an illegitimate daughter. Around 1918, he married actress Lucy Doraine, and they divorced in 1923. He had a lengthy affair with Lili Damita starting in 1925 and is sometimes reported to have married her, but film scholar Alan K. Rode states in his 2017 biography of Curtiz that this is a modern legend, and there is no contemporary evidence to support it. Their obituaries make no mention of such a marriage.
The Moon of Israel (1924) was a spectacle of the enslavement of the children of Israel and their miraculous deliverance by way of the Red Sea. Shot in Vienna with a cast of 5,000, it had for its theme the love story of an Israelite maiden and an Egyptian prince. Paramount Pictures in the U.S. bought the rights to the film to compete with Cecil B. DeMille's The Ten Commandments. However, The Moon of Israel caught the attention of Jack and Harry Warner, and Harry went to Europe in 1926 just to meet Curtiz and watch him work as director.
On a visit to Hollywood in 1927, Ilya Tolstoy, Leo Tolstoy's son, who had been a friend of Curtiz's in Europe, wanted him to direct several films based on his father's novels. He chose Curtiz because he already knew the locale and its people. During this period, Warner Bros. began experimenting with talking films. They assigned two part-silent and part-talking pictures for Curtiz to direct: Tenderloin (1928) and Noah's Ark (1928), both of which also starred Costello.
In 1930, Curtiz directed Mammy (1930), Al Jolson's fourth film after being in Hollywood's first true talking picture, The Jazz Singer (1927). During the 1930s, Curtiz directed at least four films each year.
Nevertheless, Bette Davis, who was little known in 1932, made five more films with him, although they argued consistently when filming The Cabin in the Cotton (1932), one of her earliest roles. He had a low opinion of actors in general, saying that acting "is fifty percent a big bag of tricks. The other fifty percent should be talent and ability, although it seldom is." Overall, he got along well enough with his stars, as shown by his ability to attract and keep some of the best actors in Hollywood. He got along very well with Claude Rains, whom he directed in ten films.
In 1933, Curtiz became a naturalized U.S. citizen. By the early 1940s, he had become fairly wealthy, earning $3,600 per week and owning a substantial estate, complete with polo pitch. One of his regular polo partners was Hal B. Wallis, who had met Curtiz on his arrival in the country and had established a close friendship with him. Wallis' wife, the actress Louise Fazenda and Curtiz's third wife, Bess Meredyth, an actress and screenwriter, had been close since before Curtiz's marriage to Meredyth in 1929. Curtiz had numerous affairs; Meredyth once left him for a short time but they remained married until 1961, when they separated. They remained married until his death. She was Curtiz's helper whenever his need to deal with scripts or other elements went beyond his grasp of English and he often phoned her for advice when presented with a problem while filming.
Until then, it was a genre in which Warners' had assumed they could never succeed, owing to its higher production budgets, during the years of the Great Depression. However, in March 1935, Warners announced it would produce Captain Blood (1935), a swashbuckler action drama based on the novel by Rafael Sabatini, and directed by Curtiz. It would star a then unknown extra, Errol Flynn, alongside the little-known Olivia de Havilland.
Curtiz had left Europe before the rise of Nazism: other members of his family were less fortunate. He once asked Jack Warner, who was going to Budapest in 1938, to contact his family and help them get exit visas. Warner succeeded in getting Curtiz's mother to the U.S., where she spent the rest of her life living with her son. He could not rescue Curtiz's only sister, her husband, or their three children, who were sent to Auschwitz, where her husband and two of the children died.
Noah's Ark included two parallel stories, one recounting the biblical flood, and the other a World War I-era romance. It was the first epic film attempted by Warner Bros., and in handing production over to Curtiz, they were hoping to assure its success. The climactic flood sequence was considered "spectacular" at the time, notes historian Richard Schickel, while biographer James C. Robertson said it was "one of the most spectacular incidents in film history." Its cast was made up of over 10,000 extras. However, the reissue of the film in 1957 cut an hour off the original time of 2 hours and 15 minutes. The story was an adaptation written by Bess Meredyth, who married Curtiz a few years later.
The final film that Curtiz directed was The Comancheros, released six months before his death from cancer on April 10, 1962. Curtiz was ill during the shoot, but star John Wayne took over directing on the days Curtiz was too ill to work. Wayne did not want to take a co-director credit.
Curtiz died from cancer on April 11, 1962, aged 75. At the time of his death, he was living alone in a small apartment in Sherman Oaks, California. He is interred in the Forest Lawn Memorial Park Cemetery in Glendale, California.
Currently, Michael Curtiz is 135 years, 6 months and 5 days old. Michael Curtiz will celebrate 136th birthday on a Saturday 24th of December 2022.
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