Michael Curtiz Overview:

Legendary director, Michael Curtiz, was born Man? Kert?sz Kaminer on Dec 24, 1886 in Budapest, Austria-Hungary (now Hungary). Curtiz died at the age of 75 on Apr 10, 1962 in Hollywood, CA and was laid to rest in Forest Lawn (Glendale) Cemetery in Glendale, CA.


Despite never mastering the English language, Michael Curtiz became one of the finest and most reliable directors of Hollywood's golden years.  Although something of an autocrat on set, not greatly liked by most actors and technicians, Curtiz extracted performances from his stars that have left some of the most indelible impressions on our minds from the 1930s and 1940s: Flynn and Rathbone duelling it out against vast shadows on the castle walls in The Adventures of Robin Hood; a doomed Spencer Tracy saying goodbye to Bette Davis at the end of 20,000 Years in Sing Sing; Cagney going to the chair a coward in Angels with Dirty Faces; Joan Crawford's great liquid eyes suffering their way to an Oscar in Mildred Pierce; Bogart and Bergman giving each other up in Casablanca (the film for which Curtiz won his only Oscar).

Curtiz was already a veteran of dozens of films in Hungary, Denmark, Germany and Austria before studio boss Jack Warner saw one of his Austrian films and brought him to Hollywood and the Warner Brothers studio. At first, inevitably the darker side of Curtiz's Magyar-Germanic flair was expressed in horror films. But he soon proved adept at all genres popular at the studio and his gift for orchestrating crowd scenes was never put to better use than in his films with Errol Flynn, which began properly with Captain Blood. The action scenes here and in subsequent Flynn-Curtiz films involve hundreds of men fighting on screen at once; no other big-scale action sequences have ever matched them. The contrasting nature of these two men regrettably split the partnership in 1941. Curtiz remained at his peak as a director until the end of the 1940s.

(Source: available at Amazon Quinlan's Film Directors).



Michael Curtiz was nominated for four Academy Awards, winning one for Best Director for Casablanca in 1943.

Academy Awards

YearAwardFilm nameRoleResult
1935Best DirectorCaptain Blood (1935)N/ANominated
1938Best DirectorAngels with Dirty Faces (1938)N/ANominated
1942Best DirectorYankee Doodle Dandy (1942)N/ANominated
1943Best DirectorCasablanca (1942)N/AWon

He was honored with one star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame in the category of Motion Pictures.

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The Adventures of Robin Hood (1938, and William Keighley)

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Angels with Dirty Faces (1938, )

By Andrew Wickliffe on Mar 16, 2015 From The Stop Button

Angels with Dirty Faces runs less than ninety minutes, but doesn’t really fill them. The first fifteen minutes of the film are flashbacks, tracking James Cagney’s character from troubled boyhood to juvenile detention to prison. Once the present action starts, Cagney immediately reunites ... Read full article

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Michael Curtiz Facts
His adopted son, John Meredyth Lucas, said he spoke 5 languages, all of them badly. His thick Hungarian accent often made it difficult for cast and crew to understand him when he spoke English. During the filming of Casablanca (1942), for instance, he asked a set dresser for a "poodle", and when the dresser brought him a small poodle dog, Curtiz exploded at the man--he had meant that he wanted a "poodle" of water. On the set of The Cabin in the Cotton (1932), Curtiz made a speech to the actors on how he wanted them to act like "woodpeckers" when the script described them as "peckerwoods". A number of Curtiz' other misstatements were mistakenly attributed to producer Samuel Goldwyn, who was also famous for verbal slips.

Biography in: John Wakeman, editor. "World Film Directors, Volume One, 1890-1945". Pages 172-181. New York: The H.W. Wilson Company, 1987.

After directing Elvis Presley in King Creole (1958) Curtiz was set to direct Presley's first post-Army film, G.I. Blues (1960) but for unknown reasons the film was eventually directed by Norman Taurog. Hal B. Wallis produced both of these films.

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