Otto Preminger: Movies to Watch

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Otto Preminger (5 December 1905 – 23 April 1986) is one of the most famous directors in the history of cinema. Of Austro-Hungarian origin, he was also a film producer and actor. He has made more than 35 feature films in a career spanning five decades after leaving the theater. It first attracted attention for beautiful film noir such as Laura (1944) and Fallen Angel (1945), while in the 1950s and 1960s he directed major adaptations of novels and plays. 


Many of his films were on the verge of censorship for themes that were later frowned upon Hollywood, such as drug addiction (The Man with the Golden Arm, 1955), rape (Anatomy of a Murder, 1959) and homosexuality (Council and Consent, 1962). He was chosen twice for the Academy Award for Best Director. He also had several leading acting roles.

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The Life of Otto Preminger

Preminger was born in 1905 in Wischnitz in the Austro-Hungarian Empire into a Jewish family. Younger brother Ingwald was later the producer of the film version of M * A * S * H ​​(1970). During the Great War, Russia entered the battle from the Serbian side. Like various other fleeing refugees, Markus Preminger, Otto’s father, saw Austria as a safe haven for his family. He obtained the post of public prosecutor in Graz, the capital of Styria. The following year he moved with his family to Vienna, where Otto later claimed he was born.


Otto Preminger and Cinema

Otto Preminger’s first ambition was to become an actor. Preminger’s most successful exhibition was at the National Library: a funeral oration by Mark Antony for Julius Caesar. After he started doing many plays he started missing an increasing number of college classes.

As his father’s legal profession continued to flourish in postwar Vienna, Otto could afford to think seriously about a profession in theater. In 1923, when Otto Preminger was 17, his future teacher, Max Reinhardt, the prominent Viennese-born director, presented plans to develop a theater studio in Vienna. 

Reinhardt’s announcement was seen as a call of fate by Preminger. He started writing to Reinhardt weekly, asking for an audition. Reinhardt became her mentor, becoming both a confidant and an instructor. When the theater opened on 1 April 1924, Reinhardt staged Carlo Goldoni’s The Servant of Two Masters. Other outstanding alumni Preminger would collaborate with were Mady Christians, who died of a stroke after being blacklisted during the McCarthy period, and Nora Gregor, who would star in Jean Renoir’s La Règle du jeu (1939).


With the arrival of summer, Preminger was no longer satisfied with the second floor seat and decided to leave Reinhardt’s theater. His first film projects as a director in Aussig were comedies ranging from Wedekind Lulu’s intriguing plays, to Sergei Tretyakov’s melodramatic comedy Roar China.

In 1930, a wealthy producer from Graz approached Otto with an offer to direct a film called The Great Love. Preminger did not have the same passion for cinema as he did for theater. However, he accepted the assignment. The film premiered at the Emperor Theater in Vienna on December 21, 1931, with rave reviews. From 1931 to 1935 he directed twenty-six shows.

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Otto Preminger in Hollywood

In April 1935, while Preminger was rehearsing a farce, The King with the Umbrella, he received a summons from American film producer Joseph Schenck to a meeting at the Imperial Hotel. Schenck and his partner, Darryl F. Zanuck, founders of Twentieth Century-Fox, were looking for new talent. Within half an hour of meeting Schenck, Preminger accepted an invitation to work for Fox in Los Angeles.

Preminger’s first real project a Hollywood was to direct a film for Lawrence Tibbett. Preminger worked efficiently, completing the film on budget and even before the scheduled deadline. The film came out with tepid reviews in November 1936. Zanuck gave Preminger the task of directing another outlandish comedy, Danger, Love at the workplace

The story tells of 8 members of an eccentric and wealthy family who inherited their grandfather’s land, and the protagonist is a lawyer tasked with encouraging family members to hand over the land to a company that thinks there is oil. 

In November 1937 Zanuck chose Preminger to direct Kidnapped, which was to be one of Twentieth Century-Fox’s most expensive films. Zanuck himself had adapted Robert Louis Stevenson’s novel. After reading Zanuck’s manuscript, Preminger realized that he would be left in trouble because a foreign director would be directing in a foreign environment. 


While filming Kidnapped, in a private screening with Zanuck, the studio chief accused Preminger of making changes to a scene; specifically, one with child star Freddie Bartholomew and a dog. Preminger claimed that he shot the scene exactly as it was written. Zanuck urged him to respect his own script. 

Preminger left the office and slammed the door. Days later, Preminger’s workplace lock was changed and his name was also removed from the door. Later, a Zanuck rep gave Preminger an offer that the director turned down: Preminger wanted to be paid for at least eleven months of his two-year contract. 

He looked for work in other studios, but received no deals: just two years after his arrival in Hollywood, he was unemployed in the film industry. He returned to New York and began to focus on theater again. Success quickly came to Broadway for Preminger, with productions such as Outward Bound starring Laurette Taylor and Vincent Price, My Dear Children, in which Preminger played a Nazi outlaw. Preminger began teaching at the Yale School of Drama and began traveling twice a week to Connecticut to teach acting.

William Goetz, who ran Fox in Zanuck’s absence, was immediately impressed by Preminger and provided him with a new seven-year contract as both director and star. Preminger accepted. He finished the first production on schedule, albeit with an increased budget plan, by November 1942. Before his next tenure with Fox, film mogul Samuel Goldwyn asked Preminger to appear as a Nazi once again, this time around. in a fun Bob Hope film, They Got Me Covered.

Preminger hoped to find workable projects before Zanuck’s return, including Laura Vera Caspary’sBefore production on Laura began, Preminger was given the green light to write and direct Army Wives, another B-grade film that boosted the morale of a warring nation. His emphasis was on revealing the sacrifices made by women as they sent their spouses to the front.


Zanuck returned from the military with her animosity against Preminger intact. Preminger was not allowed to direct Laura, only to serve as a producer. Rouben Mamoulian was chosen to direct. Mamoulian began to ignore Preminger and began revising the script. Although Preminger had no issues with casting Gene Tierney and Dana Andrews, he disagreed with their choice for the film’s villain, Waldo for actor Laird Cregar. Preminger argued with Zanuck that audiences would immediately recognize Cregar as a villain, especially after his role as Jack the Ripper in The Lodger.

Preminger wanted theater star Clifton Webb to play Waldo and encouraged his manager to give Webb an audition. Webb was cast and Mamoulian was fired for creative differences. The set of “Laura” began filming on April 27, 1944, with an estimated budget of $ 849,000. After Preminger took over, shooting on the film continued until the end of June. When it was released, the film was an instant hit with both critics and audiences, giving Preminger his first Oscar nomination for directing.

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Otto Preminger’s Success


Preminger expected Laura’s recognition would advertise him for working with much better films, but his fate lay in the hands of Zanuck, who wanted Preminger to replace Ernst Lubitsch in A Royal Scandal, a remake of Lubitsch’s forbidden paradise (1924), with Pola Negri as Catherine the Great. Preminger chose Tallulah Bankhead, whom he had known since 1938 when he was working on Broadway.

Fallen Angel (1945) was exactly what Preminger was preparing for. In Fallen Angel, a con man and womanizer accidentally ends up in a small California community, where he has a romance with a wealthy spinster and a sexy maid. When the maid is found dead, the drifter, played by Dana Andrews, becomes the prime suspect. Linda Darnell played the waitress. 

Centennial Summer (1946), was Preminger’s next film. Reviews and audiences were enthusiastic when the film was released in July 1946, but by the end of that year Preminger had one of the most outstanding contracts in the film industry, earning $ 7,500 a week.

Forever Amber, based on Kathleen Winsor’s novel Forever Amber, published in 1944, was Zanuck’s next investment. Preminger had read the story and didn’t like it. Preminger had in mind another bestseller aimed at a female target market, Daisy Kenyon. Zanuck vowed that if Preminger had done Forever Amber initially, he could have done Daisy Kenyon later. When Preminger replaced director John Stahl, Forever Amber had already been in production for nearly six weeks. Zanuck had already invested nearly $ 2 million in manufacturing.

Soon after relying on his modified manuscript, Preminger discovered that Zanuck had indeed replaced Linda Darnell. Zanuck was convinced that whoever played Amber was going to be a big star, and he wanted that woman to be among the same in the studio. 

Zanuck had actually bought the book as he believed its credibility ensured big box office gains, and he was also not surprised when the Catholic Legion of Decency condemned the film for depicting a promiscuous heroine having a child out of wedlock; they lobbied 20th Century Fox to make changes to the film. Forever Amber came out in October 1947 and garnered respectable reviews. Preminger called it “the most expensive film I’ve ever made and it was also the worst”.

Preminger maintained a hectic schedule, working with the writers on 2 planned projects, Daisy Kenyon (1947) and The Dark Wood; the latter was not realized. Joan Crawford starred in Daisy Kenyon alongside Dana Andrews, Ruth Warrick and Henry Fonda. Variety proclaimed the film “a powerful, infallible melodrama for the female market”. 

After Daisy Kenyon’s small success, Preminger sees That Lady in Ermine another opportunityBetty Grable was cast opposite Douglas Fairbanks, Jr. The film had previously been another Lubitsch work, but after Lubitsch’s untimely passing in November 1947, Preminger took over. His next film was based on Lady Windermere’s fan. During the spring and early summer of 1948, Preminger turned Oscar Wilde’s play into The Fan (1949), starring Madeleine Carroll. The film had problems with censorship.

Numerous of his films dealt with taboos and controversial motives, thus irritating both the Motion Picture Association of America’s Production Code of Censorship and the Hollywood blacklist. The Catholic Legion of Decency condemned the comedy The Moon Is Blue (1953) by ethical standards. The film was based on a Broadway play that had inspired mass demonstrations for the use of the words “virgin” and also “waiting”. 

Refusing to get rid of the irritating words, Preminger actually launched the film without the production code seal of approval. Based on Nelson Algren’s novel, The Man with the Golden Arm (1955) was among the first Hollywood films to address heroin addiction.

Later, Anatomy of a Murder (1959), with its honest courtroom conversations about rape and sexual intercourse, led censors to oppose the use of words like “rape”, “sperm”, “sexual orgasm” and ” penetration “. However, Preminger gave in to requests for cuts and the image was released with approval. 

With Exodus (1960) Preminger struck a first blow against the Hollywood blacklist, giving space to the forbidden screenwriter Dalton Trumbo. The film is an adaptation of Leon Uris’ bestseller about the beginning of the state of Israel. Preminger has also starred in a few films, including the role of WWII Luft-Stalag commander Oberst von Scherbach of the German POW camp Stalag 17 (1953), directed by Billy Wilder.

Since the mid-1950s, many Preminger films used animated titles created by Saul Bass, and many had jazz soundtracks. At the New York City Opera, in October 1953, Preminger conducted the American premiere of Gottfried von Einem’s Der Prozeß, based on Franz Kafka’s novel The Trial. Preminger also adapted two works for the screen over the course of the decade. Carmen Jones (1954) is a reworking of Bizet’s opera Carmen in a wartime African-American setting while Porgy and also Bess (1959) is based on the work of George Gershwin. His 2 early 1960s films were Advise & Consent (1962), a political drama from Allen Drury’s bestseller with a homosexual sub-theme, and The Cardinal (1963), a drama set in the Vatican hierarchy for which Preminger received his second Oscar nomination.


Subsequent Films


Beginning in 1965, Preminger made a number of films in which he attempted to create original stories, including In Harm’s Way (1965) and Tell Me You Love Me, Junie Moon (1970), a critical and economic flop. . Hurry Sundown (1967) is a great drama set in the southern United States and was partly designed to break racial and sex-related taboos. The film was badly received and ridiculed for its heavy-handed approach and Michael Caine’s dubious casting for the role of a South American.

Hurry Sundown marked a decline in Preminger’s reputation, as it was followed by many other films that were commercial and critical failures, including Skidoo (1968), a fruitless effort in a trendy 1960s comedy, and Rosebud (1975). , a thriller about terrorism that has also been criticized negatively. Numerous controversies with the stars further damaged Preminger’s career. His latest film, an adaptation of Graham Greene’s spy novel The Human Factor (1979), ran into financial problems.

Otto Preminger’s Style

Both as a director and as a producer of his own films, Preminger has continually explored new territory, testing established standards and taboos in Hollywood. He was also known for his effectiveness as a director: for most of his career he regularly finished his films on schedule and within budget. He regularly enjoyed long shots, dialogue often recorded with two cameras. 

John Ford was known for similar methods, such as shooting as many takes as possible and “cutting directly into the camera,” and it is also likely that Preminger preferred these methods for the same reasons as Ford, who had learned from hard experience that capturing. as few scenes as possible reduces costs, while also minimizing the studio executives’ ability to crop their films while mutilating the director’s original idea.

However, despite his liberal social vision, Preminger ended up being famous for his overbearing and unpleasant personality, his explosive character, so much so that labels such as “Otto the Terrible” and even “Otto the Ogre” were sewn on him, although he is It has been speculated that Preminger’s despotic temper and violent behavior was to some extent a calculated pose, designed to get promotions, keep his actors and team under his control, and even keep interfering studio executives out of the way.

Preminger has had a couple of conflicts with the main stars he has worked with. Lana Turner (originally cast for the role that would ultimately be Lee Remick) gave up on Anatomy of a Murder a month before filming began, due to a conflict over her wardrobe, with Turner telling the press. who couldn’t stand Preminger’s bullying, and even famed British star Paul Schofield apparently left Saint Joan after being embroiled in a heated disagreement with Preminger during his first reading of the script.

Laurence Olivier, who played a councilor of authority in the British-filmed thriller Bunny Lake Is Missing (1965), recalled in his memoir Confessions of an Actor that he discovered Preminger a “bully”. Adam West, who played the lead in the 1960s Batman television series, echoed Olivier’s point of view. He kept in mind Preminger, who played Mr. Freeze, as rude as well as unbearable.

Preminger became famous for his bullying and abusive behavior towards his crew, and was also particularly intolerant of less experienced stars: he is said to have fully memorized every line of each script before filming began, and he would have angry at any actor who struggled to keep their lines in mind. Musician Elmer Bernstein, who collaborated on The Man with the Golden Arm, recalled: “He was a scary character. I thought he was going to throw me out of the office when I told him what I had in mind was to do a soundtrack. based on jazz “. Yet it was the character quality that Preminger had been hired by the studios for, it was what they needed.

Linda Darnell was another frequent target of Preminger’s mood – she reportedly yelled at her almost every day for two months while filming Forever Amber. She hated him, and the mix of long hours of filming, heavy weight loss, and constant arguments with Preminger broke Darnell twice during filming, and she was persuaded to take ten days off from a doctor. During rehearsal for Herman Wouk’s comedy “A Modern Primitive”, Preminger yelled so loudly at an actor that the man suffered a nervous breakdown, and even a witness later commented: “I have never seen such terrifying anger. in anyone “, describing the director as having” blood vessels protruding on the forehead “and” foam at the mouth “.

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Otto Preminger’s Movies Not to Be Missed

Laura – 1944

Otto Preminger’s first true classic, “Laura” is a blend of film noir, melodrama and investigative tale, with one of the most iconic soundtracks of the 1940s (The Laura theme by composer David Raksin “is now a jazz classic). Focused on the case of the murder of Laura (Gene Tierney) by Investigator Mark (Dana Andrews, in the first of 4 films for Preminger), the cast of the film includes Vincent Price, Judith Anderson (known for role in Alfred Hitchcock’s “Rebecca”), and Clifton Webb, whose overt homosexuality involved that Preminger defended her casting. Laura was a great success: Oscar for best director with a launch of Preminger for one of the most varied and engaging filmographies in Hollywood. 

Fallen Angel – 1945

An elegantly direct, engaging noir and full of twists and turns, starring Dana Andrews, one of Preminger’s best stars who would appear in four of his early films. “Laura” is generally considered to be the best Preminger film of the 1940s, but “Fallen Angel” is at the same level. The film begins with a destitute con man (Andrews) who arrives in a sleepy town outside San Francisco and meets some crooks (John Carradine) who try to rob ignorant citizens of their money with a séance. 

Preminger tells a story in an acute and engaging way thanks to the winning plot of the screenwriter Kleiner. A gripping film noir, Preminger at its peak, with a beautiful black and white photograph by Joseph LaShelle (Oscar for “Laura”).

Daisy Kenyon – 1947

“I’m not glamorous. There is no melodrama in my life …” says Joan Crawford’s Daisy Kenyon, among her most measured and successful film performances. How can we forget Crawford as an interpreter, in his most exciting moments? Locked in a mutually destructive relationship with a louse at the top of the bar profession, Daisy’s life is turned upside down when she begins a delicate courtship of Fonda, a man in the military. The intertwining of the love triangle is currently the narrative structure in any type of soap opera, the accuracy of Preminger’s understated style adds to the film’s tension. Although it does not exhibit exactly the same compulsive obsession as Douglas Sirk’s cheeky and hysterical melodramas, “Preminger’s second portrait of a woman after” Angel Face “is one of his most sought-after works. 

Crawford, Andrews and Fonda are as unknowable and fickle as the director’s aesthetic palette of chiaroscuro, and while it is usually mistakenly placed on the list of film noir Preminger has made with 20th Century Fox, it’s a classification that ignores the film’s true theme: a Odyssey in the messy world of relationships.

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Whirlpool – 1949

“Whirlpool”, although a well-told story, struggles with “Laura” and the director’s various other works, much more remembered. Tierney, who plays a society’s delicate lady suffering from kleptomania is, in some ways, a precursor character to Hitchcock’s “Marnie.” One day, taking a pin from over the counter of a store, Ann Sutton (Tierney), a seemingly quiet woman on the verge of neurosis living in the shadow of her partner, is rescued by a “humble astronomer” named David Korvo. 

In true noir style, Korvo is the villain, just as Jose Ferrer seems to have a lot of fun highlighting his nefarious perversions. Although the screenplay of Ben Hecht’s film resolves in a subdued way that involves all kinds of deus ex-machina and nonsensical spells, the tale seems quite appropriate for a film about the evil of hypnotherapy, magical, bewitching, and trance-like. . In the hands of Preminger it becomes a lucid madness. 

Where the Sidewalk Ends – 1950

Written by two-time Oscar-winning screenwriter Ben Hecht (“Ms. Friday”, “Some Like It Hot”, Hitchcock’s “Spellbound”, “Notorious”). “Where the Sidewalk Ends” is not as well known as the rest of Preminger’s work, but it is, regardless, a traditional film noir. Once again played by two of the earliest muses, “Laura” is played by Dana Andrews and the charming Gene Tierney, Hecht asks a grim question that Preminger is happy to structure in the darkest and most gritty way: you are simply the product of your own nature. ? 

Andrews plays Dixon, a callous and cynical detective, known by all for his terrible ways. He hates criminal offenses because his father was a criminal and even now he has a monstrous sized splinter on his shoulder from certain thugs. Dixon inadvertently kills a cheap gambler in self-defense. Panicked as well as thinking the worst, he attempts to throw the body away but accidentally gets the murder of an innocent taxi driver (Tom Tully). 

Karl Malden plays the character of Andrews, a boy who is convinced that the driver of the vehicle is sick and also guilty of Andrew’s brutal methods. Although it is a small film, what makes “Sidewalk” unique is the psychology behind its protagonist; the moral situation that haunts him, his desperate plea to be more than his father and the remaining misanthropic feeling that he’s just not okay. Furthermore, the fear that transpires from his mind as he tries to redeem himself, not to get caught and even not to hang an innocent man is a gripping noir-style tale. 

Angel Face – 1952

“Angel Face” is in what is normally considered the peak period of Preminger’s film production while he was under contract with 20th Century Fox, however he had been sought after by RKO. Howard Hughes, who owned RKO, asked Preminger for the script, which at the time had the groundbreaking title of “Murder Story,” based on real-life murders in which two young men were accused of blowing up the woman’s parents. 

Jean Simmons (the future “angel face”) was under contract with RKO for only another 18 days of filming, plus Hughes and Simmons had recently had a fight, a fierce argument that led to Simmons to cut all the hair. This film was Hughes’ way of taking revenge: he gave Preminger free rein on the film (including the script), stipulating only that Simmons had to wear a long black wig throughout the film. Preminger agreed. 

Although several stories of quarrels between Robert Mitchum, Preminger and Simmons, it was Simmons and Hughes who finally appeared as winners: “Angel Face” is one of the best roles of his career, unlike Mitchum. A relatively forgotten mainstream noir that includes Simmons as Diane Tremayne, the typical femme fatale, and Mitchum as a charming, equally ambiguous anti-hero, Frank Jessup. Their employment relationship, based on erroneous beliefs, ends up in conflict.


Carmen Jones – 1954

There is something really curious about this little film. Based on the 1940s Broadway play, Preminger chooses the wonderful Dorothy Dandridge to play the titular seductress who finds herself playing with a number of fools (including a military officer and a well-known boxer), which ultimately leads to the his death. Chock full of engaging dramatizations, the film is actually more of a whimsical bewilderment than a blockbuster. Choosing a female lead was definitely against the tide, as was putting a black actor in the cast.

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River of No Return – 1954

While Frank Fenton’s structure is loosely obtained from “The Bicycle Thief”, there’s virtually no chance you’ll make the link unless you check those details somewhere. . Set in Canada during the 19th century gold rush, a burly Marilyn Monroe plays a radiant singer / dancer in a story of adventure and revenge shot in CinemaScope.

Preminger’s 1954 western action film has 3 main characters: (Rory Calhoun), a farmer who was duped by a scoundrel (Robert Mitchum) and an illogically quiet wife (Marilyn Monroe ). A couple (Monroe, Calhoun) are rescued on a raging river by a farmer. (Mitchum). The farmer is robbed by the gold-hungry man under the threat of a gun. With the Indians on their heels and no weapons to protect themselves, the father, the singer and his son must go after the man who took their steeds, weapons and money. 

The Man with the Golden Arm – 1956

A 1950s drama starring Frank Sinatra as a heroin addict. While many are created every year independent movies on drug abuse, Preminger’s serious look at addiction was groundbreaking at the time. Sinatra’s Frankie “Machine” leaves prison as a new man with a dream of becoming a drummer. The moment he steps out, he finds himself surrounded by the thugs he used to hang out with in the past and his wheelchair-bound wife Zosh. Frankie falls back into bad habits.

Sinatra is a little too clean and good-looking to look like a junkie, but his manic cravings are well interpreted and the director’s refusal to sweeten the story is good for the film. Otto is still above his peers in this film: whether he is capturing a scene with a unique take or letting a character linger at the end of a scene, this director had a very introspective vision, while his contemporary colleagues they were more likely to realize the use of camera movements or hasty crossfades the moment a character stopped speaking. 


Bonjour Tristesse – 1958

Preminger’s first film with his Jean Seberg discovery, “St. Joan”, was both a monetary and critical failure. Preminger gave her a second chance with “Bonjour Tristesse”, based on Francois Sagan’s French bestseller of the same name. Shot in Cinemascope with long takes, the film shows 5 characters, their changing relationships and desires, giving a glimpse of the devastating effects of idleness. Preminger uses black and white with the classic references of the Cote d’Azur with a hyper-realistic and dazzling Technicolor, in stark contrast to the dark black and white. 

“Bonjour Tristesse” famously brought Seberg to the interest of Jean-Luc Godard, who chose her for his first film “Breathless”. He was quoted as claiming that Seberg’s Patricia in “Breathless” comes from where Cecile left off in “Bonjour Tristesse”.

Anatomy of a Murder – 1959

It is peculiar that “Anatomy of a Murder” is not being made today, but it is probably much more astounding that it was made in 1959. A large 160-minute courtroom case, with a more explicit representation of sexuality than has been seen in Hollywood for years. Perhaps Preminger’s most valuable film, it garnered seven Oscar nominations, rave reviews and box office success. Now, half a century later, it stands as a gangster movie, a thriller like never before. Focusing on Stewart’s protection of a military lieutenant (Ben Gazzara) who killed a bartender who claimed to have raped his wife (Lee Remick), it risks sounding like a dry film, yet Preminger balances the facets of the trial with Duke’s music. Ellington, with the best series of titles by Saul Bass.

Remick’s character is lively and promiscuous: much of the plot focuses on whether he consented to sex or not, yet it is the intense ethical uncertainty that makes the film so unforgettable: as in a real situation, there are no simple answers to discover. And even the cast, which includes a cameo from real-life lawyer Joseph Welch, the man who practically harmed Joe McCarthy, as president of the court, is superb across the board. In particular Stewart, who almost never played a part more suited to his identity, as well as George C. Scott, whose role as a big city district attorney ushered in his arrival in the world of film in a fantastic way (he had an Oscar nomination).

Exodus – 1960

What happens when Otto Preminger directly approaches what he really wants to do is “Exodus”. The story of Israel’s genesis was close to the heart of the Jewish director, whose family escaped directly from Hitler to Austria in 1937. However, his boring 212 minutes are too long. MGM hired Leon Uris to write the story, with the intent of turning it directly into a movie, but Preminger, with the help of his brother Ingo and United Artists cash, bought the rights from MGM and developed the himself the script as producer / director / writer, collaborating openly with blacklisted author Dalton Trumbo.

Shot in Greece and Israel, the film follows Ari Ben Canaan (Paul Newman), an activist who frees a ship of European Jewish immigrants bound for Palestine from a British detention camp in Cyprus, and then falls in love with an American widow (Eva Marie Saint) who volunteers as a nurse in the detention camp. By far the best performance and most compelling storyline is that of Dov Landau (Sal Mineo), a teenage Auschwitz survivor who joins the Israeli terrorist group Irgun. Mineo is fascinating (as well as earning an Oscar nomination) as the performer of a distressed and angry young man. Preminger makes perfect use of camera movement to bring the characters and the story together. Unforgettable is the scene in which, in a long, uninterrupted take, Landau goes from tearfully admitting his wartime trauma to briskly swearing his allegiance to Irgun on the Torah.

Likewise, an almost dialogue-free sequence is masterfully executed, inspiring audiences to want the film to be almost Landau and Irgun without all of the confrontational romance and political speech. It’s a well-told story, but not as legendary as various other films of its size. It’s worth watching for the performances and beautiful locations, but it’s more intriguing as part of Preminger’s bio as a multitasking producer / director working around the studio system to make his personal projects come true.

Advise & Consent – 1962

While superficially, it may not be one of the most dynamic films and not even one with the sexiest topic in the world: Congressional votes on whether to promote an aide to the president to secretary of state , Otto Preminger’s 1964 political drama becomes rather an examination of vindictive and amoral national politics and also of internal wrangling in Congress.

Based on a Pulitzer Prize winning novel, it’s a frighteningly complex, yet enjoyable story thanks to an exceptional cast including Henry Fonda, the wonderful Charles Laughton in his latest role, Peter Lawford, Walter Pidgeon , Burgess Meredith and also the best interpretation of future “Knots Landing” celebrity Don Murray.

Always ahead of his time, Preminger was one of the first directors to freely run the investigation into homosexuality, as well as having Fonda play a personality with a Communist background, whenever many were still blacklisted for such associations. Perhaps he is driven even more by the problems of “Anatomy of a Murder”, often letting the drama take second place. However, as in that film, it is the moral misery and the absence of simple solutions that make the film meaningful. An unfairly overlooked film.

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Bunny Lake Is Missing – 1965

“Bunny Lake is Missing” encompasses all the unwanted aspects of Preminger’s directorial identity. The story describes a young American woman in London, Anne, who discovers that her daughter, Bunny, has disappeared from the institution. Nobody seems to remember Bunny, and the inspector (Laurence Olivier) wonders if Bunny exists outside of her mother’s imagination. Shot in immaculate black and white, exuding that true British trademark of 1960s surreality (London locations are used for eerie effects) and opened with a string of notable Saul Bass titles, the film is jaw-dropping. Lynley’s performance stabilizes later in the film, providing Anne with subtleties that perhaps a star might not have had.

Considering that this is Preminger, there are murky undercurrents: the brother / sister relationship is incestuous and the character of Noel Coward, who later shows his collection of whips to the authorities, appears there just to increase sexual deviance. There are also some wonderful British actors in the supporting characters and Denys N. Coop’s brilliant photography.

Hurry Sundown – 1967

Based on a then-current bestseller by the couple Katya and Bert Gilden, “Hurry Sundown” must have seemed like a hit in the making. Who better than him can tackle this drama with a healthy and balanced dose of desire and even racism? Angelic cousin Rad (John Phillip Law) struggles with the unethical machinations of dodging the draft, abusing children, and playing the saxophone of cousin Henry (Michael Caine).

Henry wants priceless land, a story told by Rad, who has returned home from the war. Reeve is a hard working black male who doesn’t trust white people. Preminger directs with skill, but the film eludes him in some sequences. In the long run, “Hurry Sundown” most likely looked really dated when it launched and now it looks absolutely ancient. A minor film in the last period of the director’s career.

Skidoo – 1968

When Timothy Leary collaborates with Alejandro Jodorowsky, “The Holy Mountain” is released. When he introduces to LSD Otto Preminger and Groucho Marx (who here plays a criminal called God), we are left with this film that sounds like an excuse for hippy analysis. The cast includes Carol Channing, Frankie Avalon, George Raft, Mickey Rooney and “Batman” villains Cesar Romero, Burgess Meredith and Frank Gorshin. “Skidoo” ends disconcertingly, with Harry Nilsson singing the biggest drug ad the world has ever produced: If expanding your mind does this, we all stay in it for the rest of our lives. 



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