Friday, December 2, 2011

Top Ranked Films of Michael Curtiz

Michael Curtiz
3 titles, 69th in points with 12,398

Born Manó Kertész Kaminer in Budapest, Hungary in 1886. After acting in then directing films there, Kaminer moved the the U.S. in 1926 to begin directing movies in Hollywood, and of course, created a stage name. He directed films first as Kertész Mihály, then in the U.S. as Michael Kertész. He has 173 film titles to his credit as director overall, with around 110 of those in the U.S. Probably the first film of his everyone knows is The Kennel Murder Case (1933), with William Powell in one of his earliest detective films, followed by Captain Blood with Errol Flynn in 1935.

These are all the films of classic (Hungarian) American director Michael Curtiz that made the top 1000 in our 2011 update of the Top Ranked 1000 Films on the Net, all polls.

1. Casablanca (1942) bw#55
2. The Adventures of Robin Hood (1938) w. Wm Keighley #227
3. Mildred Pierce (1945) #599

Out of the top 1000
4. Yankee Doodle Dandy (1942) #1511

Of course, the top two here are classics, one could argue that Casablanca is the best romance in cinema, it certainly wins popular polls for that title. It seems to have found the perfect spot between sentimentality and cynicism, all mirrored in Bogart’s face. How they don’t award Oscars® for cinema-defining moments like this is beyond my comprehension; they reward Bogart later for the far inferior performance in The African Queen, which was almost a parody of Bogart and Huston’s real personalities during the making of this film according to Katharine Hepburn – they never got dysentary like everyone else because they were so tanked up on alcohol that not even bacteria could survive. Now that’s funnier than anything in the African Queen.

I guess if you watch Casablanca enough times, it can seem a little corny, but it was during the war, and millions of spouses were missing their mates, and this also spoke to those who’d never reunite. I think it definitely belongs on nearly every all-time top 100 list, somewhere – I suppose a consensus ranking of around #55 where it is now is pretty accurate.

His version of Robin Hood remains one of the most lively and colorful; it playfully captures the feel of the original legendary myth – after all, it’s a band of merry men cavorting in the woods in tights! These are the people who invented the phrase ‘derring-do’, that pretty well sums it up. It’s a film of fluff and derring-do, all with gusto and tongue-in-cheek. For it’s time, this was some of the best technicolor ever put on film, it’s a beautiful palette to behold, one of my favorites (I’m a painter and a photographer, with a degree in Painting and Drawing).

The other two here are ok for one viewing, but mostly forgettable, though Joan Crawford did win a best actress Oscar® for Mildred Pierce, her performance is enough to make this a must see classic film, but it’s not a very powerful film.

The one film of Curtiz’ missing here is the better and more faithful version of Ernest Hemingway’s To Have and Have Not, The Breaking Point (1950) bw, starring an understated John Garfield and a smoothe as silk Patricia Neal, at an age when she was most tempting. This was Hemingway’s own favorite film adaptation of any of his works, and is definitely worth seeing. To Have and Have Not is the Hollywood version, and is still more entertaining thanks to it’s stars, Bogart, Bacall, in her first film, and Walter Brennan (“Was ya ever bit by a dead bee?”), but Breaking Point may actually be the better film, it's the more credible version.

See the full list of top ranked 100 directors here: Top Ranked 100 Directors, 2011 Edition

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