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Douglas Sirk DIRECTOR
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DOUGLAS SIRK BIOGRAPHY & FILMOGRAPHY:

Douglas Sirk was born Hans Detlef Sierck on April 26, 1897 in Hamburg, Germany to Danish parents. He was raised in Denmark, but moved back to Germany in his teens. Here he discovered theater and learned to love the cinema. From 1922 to 1937 he directed the stage, putting on shows by writers such as Shakespeare, Moliere, and Shaw. Sirk’s reputation built up, and he turned into one of the leading theatrical directors in the Weimar Republic. In 1934 UFA Studios hired him, and he released his first short, “Zwei Genies”. A year later he made his feature film debut with “April, April” (1935). Soon after, he began writing his own scripts, beginning with the musical drama “Final Accord” (1936). The director would continue to write many of his own screenplays, not stopping until his final film.

In 1937, at the peak of Hitler’s power and Nazi dictatorship, Sirk and his Jewish wife left the country. Following brief stays in various countries, as well as a few movies later, he settled down in Hollywood, California. Two years after his arrival in 1941 Sirk made his first American film, “Hitler’s Madman” (1943). Throughout the remainder of the 1940's he put out works for Columbia and United Artists, proving himself to be a reliable filmmaker. He took on works like the Chekhov adaptation “Summer Storm” (1944), crime adventure “A Scandal in Paris” (1946), Lucille Ball film-noir “Lured” (1947), and musical comedy “Slightly French” (1949). However, it was his work with Universal Pictures in the fifties that really got him noticed.

Sirk’s involvement with Universal lasted from 1951 until 1959, and during this time he managed to, most notably, release a number of hit melodramas. Still, his range was incredibly wide and he directed comedies like “Week-End with Father” (1951) and “Take Me to Town” (1953), the adventure “Captain Lightfoot” (1955), and even a 3D western titled “Taza, Son of Cochise” (1954), which starred Hollywood icon Rock Hudson, and CinemaScope feature called “Sign of the Pagan” (1954). However, it was another Rock Hudson movie that transformed Sirk into a huge moneymaking top Tinseltown director. “Magnificent Obsession” (1954) was about a changed player’s (Hudson) relationship with a blind widow (Jane Wyman), and turned out to be a box-office success. As well, it established a powerful collaborative group made up of Sirk, Hudson, cinematographer Russell Metty, and producer Ross Hunter. They would go on to create successful pictures, either all together, or with most in attendance.

All That Heaven Allows” (1955) followed a much older widow who falls in love with a man many years her junior, despite disapproval from her peers and children. “Written on the Wind” (1956) focused on an alcoholic playboy who falls in love with his best friend’s secret love, only to be hunted by the friend’s sexually crazed sister.  Sirk’s next major hit, “A Time to Love and a Time to Die” (1958), was a love story about a war veteran and a daughter of a political prisoner’s survival together in an insane world full of hate. The director’s subsequent film, and final picture for Universal, ending up becoming his and the studio’s most lucrative feature yet. “Imitation of Life” (1959) takes a look at the life of a struggling actress and her need to thrive at any cost, even neglecting her child, while also illuminating her African American housekeeper’s daughter’s insecurity with her own race. It was an intensely emotional film that featured racism and exploited the true price of American ambition. It so well done that two of its actresses, Juanita Moore and Susan Kohner, won Oscars.

Following “Imitation of Life”, Sirk retired from filmmaking and returned to Europe. While in Germany he made a few shorts, the last one being “Bourbon Street Blues” (1979), but officially put away his director’s chair after that. Less than ten years later, on January 14, 1987, Sirk passed away while in Lugano, Ticino, Switzerland. Unfortunately, he did not get to experience his greatest fame, as it is still growing every day now that his films are more closely studied and appreciated.

Throughout his career, his work was looked down upon by many European critics. However, in the 1970s academic scholars reexamined his films and found that there was more to his efforts that met the eye. For one, they were masterpieces of irony. They discovered that under the façade of his features, especially melodramas, there were hints of criticism and insults to the American culture. The great director actually admitted to this hidden degradation, stating “So slowly in my mind formed the idea of melodrama, a form I found to perfection in American pictures. They were naive, they were that something completely different. They were completely Art-less.” In addition, his efforts displayed excellent visuals. From the lighting to the furniture to the walls to the costumes, symbolism was ever present in his features, if only you looked. Messages were concealed in the confines of the physical aspects of each film, waiting to be uncovered and dwelled upon. Sirk even implied this once when he said: “A thought has gone into every angle. There is nothing without an optical reason.”

Even without the understanding of his deep and complex filming style, many still understood the merit of his pictures for pure entertainment. For this reason, he has been honored with three awards from different organizations, including an Honorary Award from the German Film Awards for his “continued outstanding individual contributions to the German film over the years”. As well, in his life he was nominated for six more, not limited to a DGA Award for his work in “Imitation of Life” (1959). Sirk was furthermore named Entertainment Weekly’s 38th Greatest Director of all time.
 

Filmography

1979       Bourbon Street Blues

1978       Silvesternacht - Ein Dialog 

1976       Sprich zu mir wie der Regen 

1959       Imitation of Life

1958       A Time to Love and a Time to Die

1957       The Tarnished Angels

1957       Interlude

1957       Battle Hymn

1956       Written on the Wind

1956       Never Say Goodbye (uncredited)

1956       There's Always Tomorrow

1955       All That Heaven Allows

1955       Captain Lightfoot

1954       Sign of the Pagan

1954       Magnificent Obsession

1954       Taza, Son of Cochise

1953       All I Desire

1953       Take Me to Town

1953       Meet Me at the Fair

1952       Has Anybody Seen My Gal

1952       No Room for the Groom

1951       Week-End with Father

1951       The Lady Pays Off

1951       Thunder on the Hill

1951       The First Legion

1950       Mystery Submarine

1949       Slightly French

1949       Shockproof

1948       Sleep, My Love

1947       Lured

1946       The Strange Woman  

1946       A Scandal in Paris

1944       Summer Storm

1943       Hitler's Madman

1939       Wilton's Zoo 

1938       Accord final 

1938       Triad 

1937       Liebling der Matrosen

1937       La Habanera 

1937       To New Shores 

1936       Das Hofkonzert 

1936       Final Accord

1936       't was een april 

1936       La chanson du souvenir

1935       Stützen der Gesellschaft 

1935       April, April! 

1935       The Girl from the Marsh Croft 

1935       Der eingebildete Kranke

1935       Dreimal Ehe 

1934       Zwei Genies  





Matinee Classics - Director Douglas Sirk
Matinee Classics - Written on the Wind starring Rock Hudson, Lauren Bacall, Robert Stack, Dorothy Malone, Robert Keith, Grant Williams and Edward Platt
Matinee Classics - Magnificent Obsession starring Jane Wyman, Rock Hudson, Barbara Rush, Agnes Moorehead, Otto Kruger, Gregg Palmer, Sara Shane, Paul Cavanagh, Judy Nugent, Richard H. Cutting, Robert Williams, Will J. White, Helen Kleeb, Rudolph Anders and Fred Nurney
Matinee Classics - Mystery Submarine starring Macdonald Carey, Marta Toren, Robert Douglas, Carl Esmond and Ludwig Donath
Matinee Classics - Taza, Son of Cochise starring Rock Hudson, Barbara Rush, Gregg Palmer, Rex Reason, Morris Ankrum, Eugene Iglesias, Richard H. Cutting, Ian MacDonald, Robert Burton, Joe Sawyer, Lance Fuller, Bradford Jackson, James Van Horn, Charles Horvath, Robert F. Hoy and Jeff Chandler


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