Top 5 Michael Curtiz Movies
Who’s Michael Curtiz, you ask? He directed Casablanca, silly. While classic film fans and people who neglect their children to have more TCM watching time know this and know it well, Michael Curtiz is a little of an unsung directorial hero. This man made movies – 50 in Europe, over 100 in the US, spanning 50 years – but he remains lesser known as a personality than other auteurish directors. But Michael Curtiz made some serious classic films while laboring in the studio system. Get to know Curtiz with these…
Top 5 Michael Curtiz Movies
5. Captain Blood (1935)
This swashbuckling epic set on the high seas was a bit of a risk for Warner Bros. since it started a then little known fella named Errol Flynn. But under the direction of Curtiz and with oodles of charm from Flynn, the movie was a critical and commercial success, earning Academy Award noms for Best Picture, Best Director, Best Writing, and Best Sound Editing. And – arrgh! – it’s a fun today as it was in 1935.
4. The Cabin in the Cotton (1932)
This pre-code classic set in the Deep South is best know to audiences for a rather funny line uttered by lead Bette Davis. But in Hollywood lore it’s really known for just how much Michael Curtiz hated Bette Davis. When told he was to cast her, Curtiz famously fumed, “Are you kidding? Who would want to go to bed with her?” and during filming proclaimed, “God-damned-nothing-no-good-sexless-son-of-a-bitch!” We can’t all be right all of the time, and you’ll find Bette scintillating as a vampish Southern Belle.
3. Angels with Dirty Faces (1938)
So far in the Curtiz lineup, we have a swash buckler and a Pre-Code, so why not toss in the studio staple gangster flick. Angels with Dirty Faces, with a riveting performance from none other than Jimmy Cagney, was a critical and box smash then and a favorite classic now. No word on Curtiz’s opinion on Cagney’s sex appeal.
2. Mildred Pierce (1945)
Poor Joan Crawford – she can never escape the Bette Davis parallels. Curtiz wanted Barbara Stanwyck for the role of Mildred, but Joan lobbied hard and the difficult director relented after viewing her screen tests. We should all be thankful – this is Joan at her sterling best and I mark it as not only one of Michael Curtiz’s greatest films, but one of my all time favorites.
1. Casablanca (1942)
What is there to say about Casablanca that has not been said a million times? I log this entry to prove a point – Michael Curtiz was not an auteur. He was a studio director. While Casablanca had an A-list cast, a healthy budget, and full support of the studio promotion machine, it was just another movie, in a long line of movies cranked out in 1942. Nobody expected it to be special. Yet it is, maybe the most special movie ever, and it was directed by Michael Curtiz.