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The Q & A on Michael Curtiz with Alan K. Rode on Dec. 12th

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Re: The Q & A on Michael Curtiz with Alan K. Rode on Dec. 12th

Postby Trilby65 » December 12th, 2017, 5:13 pm

I am looking forward to reading your book, especially after reading your comments!

I enjoyed I'LL SEE YOU IN MY DREAMS (1951) on TCM over the weekend and wondered if Curtiz cast his own movies by that time in his career? Did Michael Curtiz feel that Doris Day fulfilled the potential he saw in her?

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Re: The Q & A on Michael Curtiz with Alan K. Rode on Dec. 12th

Postby Alan K. » December 12th, 2017, 5:30 pm

Trilby65 wrote:I am looking forward to reading your book, especially after reading your comments!

I enjoyed I'LL SEE YOU IN MY DREAMS (1951) on TCM over the weekend and wondered if Curtiz cast his own movies by that time in his career? Did Michael Curtiz feel that Doris Day fulfilled the potential he saw in her?

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Curtiz was casting his own movies including the stars when he had his own production company at Warner Bros. in 1947-49. After Warner bought out his company, he entered into an exclusive, profit sharing contract with the studio that ostensibly allowed him to choose one out of every three pictures that the studio offered him. I say "ostensibly" because Jack Warner often ignored the dictates of contracts when they didn't favor his position. He had a lot of input into the entire process at that point, but the stars were controlled by the moguls and producers. Curtiz discovered Doris Day as a movie actress and allowed her natural personality to come through. He refused to allow her to take acting lessons and didn't allow her to watch the rushes of ROMANCE ON THE HIGH SEAS in order to maintain her confidence. I don't believe Day would have developed into the great star she became without Curtiz's tutelage.
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Re: The Q & A on Michael Curtiz with Alan K. Rode on Dec. 12th

Postby moira finnie » December 12th, 2017, 6:16 pm

We all seem to be contradictions but perhaps none appears more so than Michael Curtiz in your biography. His personal life was characterized by a 30 years+ marriage to the formidable & talented film pioneer Bess Meredyth Lucas* as well as non-stop philandering. Curtiz, who could direct scenes of enormous, intimate tenderness between parent & child on screen, also appears to have been an absent father to most of his children, though he was very close to his stepson, John Meredyth Lucas.

Did you draw any conclusions about what drove him in this regard?
**********************************

Also, a friend asks if you could please list five essential Michael Curtiz films?

Could you also list five little known but worthwhile Curtiz movies to seek out?

Thank you.

*More about Bess Meredyth Lucas here: https://wfpp.cdrs.columbia.edu/pioneer/ ... -meredyth/
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Re: The Q & A on Michael Curtiz with Alan K. Rode on Dec. 12th

Postby Alan K. » December 12th, 2017, 6:31 pm

moira finnie wrote:We all seem to be contradictions but perhaps none appears more so than Michael Curtiz in your biography. His personal life was characterized by a 30 years+ marriage to the formidable & talented film pioneer Bess Meredyth Lucas as well as non-stop philandering. Curtiz, who could direct scenes of enormous, intimate tenderness between parent & child on screen, also appears to have been an absent father to most of his children, though he was very close to his stepson, John Meredyth Lucas.

Did you draw any conclusions about what drove him in this regard?
**********************************

Also, a friend asks if you could please list five essential Michael Curtiz films?

Could you also list five little known but worthwhile Curtiz movies to seek out?

Thank you!


Curtiz's total absorption in filmmaking left little time for parenting. His daughter Kitty, from his marriage to actress Lucy Doraine led a very troubled life. Curtiz's other children were conceived out of wedlock with four different women. He doted on his children as best he could, but kept most of them at arm's length with money because he was leery of scandal and wouldn't do anything that might compromise his directorial career. Rather than being driven in this regard, I think he was a master compartmentalizer. His relationship with Bess involved into a social and professional partnership that was integral to his career in movies. He loved Bess, but it was hardly a prototypical marriage.
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Re: The Q & A on Michael Curtiz with Alan K. Rode on Dec. 12th

Postby Alan K. » December 12th, 2017, 6:50 pm

Alan K. wrote:
moira finnie wrote:We all seem to be contradictions but perhaps none appears more so than Michael Curtiz in your biography. His personal life was characterized by a 30 years+ marriage to the formidable & talented film pioneer Bess Meredyth Lucas as well as non-stop philandering. Curtiz, who could direct scenes of enormous, intimate tenderness between parent & child on screen, also appears to have been an absent father to most of his children, though he was very close to his stepson, John Meredyth Lucas.

Did you draw any conclusions about what drove him in this regard?
**********************************

Also, a friend asks if you could please list five essential Michael Curtiz films?

Could you also list five little known but worthwhile Curtiz movies to seek out?

Thank you!


Curtiz's total absorption in filmmaking left little time for parenting. His daughter Kitty, from his marriage to actress Lucy Doraine led a very troubled life. Curtiz's other children were conceived out of wedlock with four different women. He doted on his children as best he could, but kept most of them at arm's length with money because he was leery of scandal and wouldn't do anything that might compromise his directorial career. Rather than being driven in this regard, I think he was a master compartmentalizer. His relationship with Bess involved into a social and professional partnership that was integral to his career in movies. He loved Bess, but it was hardly a prototypical marriage.


Five Essential Curtiz films: ANGELS WITH DIRTY FACES, THE ADVENTURES OF ROBIN HOOD, CASABLANCA, MILDRED PIERCE, THE BREAKING POINT

Five little-known, but worthwhile Curtiz films: THE RED HEELS, GOODBYE AGAIN, MANDALAY, ROUGHLY SPEAKING, BRIGHT LEAF.
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Re: The Q & A on Michael Curtiz with Alan K. Rode on Dec. 12th

Postby Sue Sue Applegate » December 12th, 2017, 7:11 pm

Thanks for your response, Alan.

I'm glad you brought up Doris Day. :D

How did Curtiz shepherd her career along? Did he help much after Romance on the High Seas? And their other films?
Are there other actors or actresses that he helped blossom?
Also, is it true Day absolutely refused to do The Helen Morgan Story? Can you give us any background information on that?
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Re: The Q & A on Michael Curtiz with Alan K. Rode on Dec. 12th

Postby Alan K. » December 12th, 2017, 7:49 pm

Sue Sue Applegate wrote:Thanks for your response, Alan.

I'm glad you brought up Doris Day. :D

How did Curtiz shepherd her career along? Did he help much after Romance on the High Seas? Are there other actors or actresses that he helped blossom?
Also, is it true Day absolutely refused to do The Helen Morgan Story? Can you give us any background information on that?


Curtiz auditioned Doris Day for ROMANCE ON THE HIGH SEAS and subsequently signed her to a contract with his production company. I detail all of the circumstances of how she came to Curtiz's attention, her audition, and his mentorship of her in the book. He cast her in MY DREAM IS YOURS immediately thereafter. Although Day was a natural on screen, she learned a lot from Curtiz and co-star Jack Carson. Among his other notable "discoveries" were:
Victor Varconi (back in his earliest days of filmmaking in Hungary), Walter Slezak (then a svelte young bank clerk) in SODOM UN GOMORRA, Lili Damita (also in Europe), Errol Flynn (who got his start at WB more of a result of Jack Warner's prodding of Hal Wallis to use him), John Garfield (Curtiz saw his screen test and pushed for him in FOUR DAUGHTERS), Alexis Smith, Ann Blyth (who became a lifelong friend), Dick Erdman, Fred Clark among others.
Day was wary about what the darker side of HELEN MORGAN might do to her screen image and she already played a somewhat similar role as a torch singer as tragedian in LOVE ME OR LEAVE ME. Susan Hayward also declined because of the similarity of her portrayal in I'LL CRY TOMORROW.
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Re: The Q & A on Michael Curtiz with Alan K. Rode on Dec. 12th

Postby moira finnie » December 12th, 2017, 8:10 pm

Image

One of the figures whose relationship with Michael Curtiz is usually characterized as contentious is Errol Flynn. You describe some of their repeated clashes over 12 collaborations, as well as a particularly poignant final meeting. Curtiz helped to make Flynn a star and helped to burnish his lasting power. Did he regret their conflicts?
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Re: The Q & A on Michael Curtiz with Alan K. Rode on Dec. 12th

Postby Sue Sue Applegate » December 12th, 2017, 8:28 pm

Thanks so much Alan for all your wonderful responses! :D
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Re: The Q & A on Michael Curtiz with Alan K. Rode on Dec. 12th

Postby clore » December 12th, 2017, 8:58 pm

One of my favorites of the religious epics of the 50s is THE EGYPTIAN which Curtiz helmed. It gets a bad rap, Brando walked out on it and Zanuck's squeeze Bella Darvi took a beating. I think she's fine as the ice-blooded femme fatale, it may be that she's limited but for me she fits the demands of the role.

I'm just curious as to why Curtiz landed on this one now that he was gone from WB. Was it the Zanuck connection from the 30s, were there other studios competing for his talents?

I thank you for your willingness to respond to us here and wish you the best of luck with the book. About 20 years ago I was given a gift subscription to Entertainment Weekly as a gift. A few months later they had an article on "The 100 Best Directors of All-Time." Curtiz didn't get a mention. I sent a lengthy letter pointing out his achievements and also took a jab at them as it was still a bit too soon to consider the likes of Tarentino and Linklater among the best of all time. I enclosed the shipping label from the cover and told them to cancel the subscription.

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Re: The Q & A on Michael Curtiz with Alan K. Rode on Dec. 12th

Postby moira finnie » December 12th, 2017, 10:01 pm

Do you have any favorite Mike Curtiz malapropisms?

In reading your book I laughed out loud at several interesting turns of phrase, including calling the rather remote and powerful Bing Crosby "Binkie" on the set of WHITE CHRISTMAS, guiding Elvis Presley in one of his best films in KING CREOLE while calling him "Elvy", and coaching child actor Billy Gray, who was playing Jim Thorpe as a boy in JIM THORPE, ALL-AMERICAN, to "Don’t do what I say, do what I think."
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Re: The Q & A on Michael Curtiz with Alan K. Rode on Dec. 12th

Postby Sue Sue Applegate » December 12th, 2017, 10:56 pm

Those are great, Moira! Good question. And clore, I was just thinking about Bella Darvi and The Egyptian earlier. Thanks!
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Re: The Q & A on Michael Curtiz with Alan K. Rode on Dec. 12th

Postby Alan K. » December 13th, 2017, 12:16 am

moira finnie wrote:Image

One of the figures whose relationship with Michael Curtiz is usually characterized as contentious is Errol Flynn. You describe some of their repeated clashes over 12 collaborations, as well as a particularly poignant final meeting. Curtiz helped to make Flynn a star and helped to burnish his lasting power. Did he regret their conflicts?


Curtiz understood and was nurtured by the star system that held sway in Hollywood during his career. Errol Flynn was one of the most emblematic of movie stars with his career inexorably intertwined with that of Curtiz over their 12 pictures together. Curtiz had little patience with some of Flynn's foibles such his inability to remember lines but he appreciated his talent and understood that Errol's stardom established him as a top director at Warner Bros. For his part, Flynn hated Curtiz, hated being directed by him, but when he had that last meeting with Goldwyn Jr. and Curtiz shortly before his death, he gestured at his old adversary and said to Goldwyn, "This man was my career." I think that sums it up.
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Re: The Q & A on Michael Curtiz with Alan K. Rode on Dec. 12th

Postby Alan K. » December 13th, 2017, 12:30 am

clore wrote:One of my favorites of the religious epics of the 50s is THE EGYPTIAN which Curtiz helmed. It gets a bad rap, Brando walked out on it and Zanuck's squeeze Bella Darvi took a beating. I think she's fine as the ice-blooded femme fatale, it may be that she's limited but for me she fits the demands of the role.

I'm just curious as to why Curtiz landed on this one now that he was gone from WB. Was it the Zanuck connection from the 30s, were there other studios competing for his talents?

I thank you for your willingness to respond to us here and wish you the best of luck with the book. About 20 years ago I was given a gift subscription to Entertainment Weekly as a gift. A few months later they had an article on "The 100 Best Directors of All-Time." Curtiz didn't get a mention. I sent a lengthy letter pointing out his achievements and also took a jab at them as it was still a bit too soon to consider the likes of Tarentino and Linklater among the best of all time. I enclosed the shipping label from the cover and told them to cancel the subscription.


Curtiz directed THE EGYPTIAN because Darryl Zanuck offered it to him. Zanuck was his close friend and mentor; Curtiz wouldn't turn down an offered project from him. At the time, he had no reason not to. The EGYPTIAN was the biggest picture in Hollywood. In a 1958 magazine interview, Curtiz selected the people he professionally respected the most: Darryl F. Zanuck, Hal Wallis, Henry Blanke and Jack Warner. In the case of THE EGYPTIAN, Curtiz's foster son John Meredyth Lucas wryly observed that "friendship was a fault of Mike's." THE EGYPTIAN was a bad picture for its time and a box office flop. Seen today, it is well-crafted and quite interesting although I don't share your opinion of Darvi's performance as the Babylonian temptress. Why would Purdom select Darvi over Jean Simmons, for goodness sakes!
Thanks a lot for your questions and kind words about the book. And yes, any list of the 100 best directors that doesn't include Curtiz should be immediately shredded!
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Re: The Q & A on Michael Curtiz with Alan K. Rode on Dec. 12th

Postby Alan K. » December 13th, 2017, 12:36 am

moira finnie wrote:Do you have any favorite Mike Curtiz malapropisms?

In reading your book I laughed out loud at several interesting turns of phrase, including calling the rather remote and powerful Bing Crosby "Binkie" on the set of WHITE CHRISTMAS, guiding Elvis Presley in one of his best films in KING CREOLE while calling him "Elvy", and coaching child actor Billy Gray, who was playing Jim Thorpe as a boy in JIM THORPE, ALL-AMERICAN, to "Don’t do what I say, do what I think."



I liked his summation of his situation of being nominated for Best Director four times and never winning until CASABLANCA: "Always the bridesmaid and never the Mother"
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