Michael Curtiz.

Did any other director have such a varied output as Michael Curtiz.I wonder. This is the man who did Casablanca, Robin Hood, Yankee Doodle Dandy, Angels with Dirty Faces, Mildred Pierce, The Sea Hawk, White Christmas , The Best Things in Life Are Free. 

A fantastic career. Silents, swashbucklers, social drama, musicals, gangster movies , comedies. He did it all .

In a 2020 auction ( oak auctions.com), 22 letters written by celebrities to Curtiz’s daughter, Candace ,were auctioned.

There was to be a biography of the great director, but,for whatever reason, the book never materialised. I don’t know what the letters sold for.

Some of the comments ( written in the mid 1970s):

Ingrid Bergman :  “ Curtiz and Wallis fought over the story every lunch break…..he was extremely nice to me during the shooting of “Casablanca.”


Olivia De Havilland:  “As I know you understand, working with your father could be exigent, emotional and even harsh.”

(I confess to looking up the meaning of ‘exigent’ – demanding, exacting. That seems to sum up the director’s manner.)


Lauren Bacall: “He was a character indeed, and a genius with the camera.”


Kirk Douglas: “He was a man of tremendous vitality…..how many of the movies were typically American films by someone who was not born here.”


Michael Wilding: “ Suddenly he screamed, ‘Ze man in the white clothes, what the hell do you think you are doing!’

500 of us whirled around in panic in case one of us had caused his rage. Such was his power, and ,curiously, his charm.”

(Anyone know what film is being referred to?)


  • Ronald Reagan: “On ‘Santa Fe Trail’, much of the story concerning John  Brown  in that picture was gleaned from a book called ‘God’s Angry Man’.
    Guess what your father was named before the picture was finished!  Yes, the title of the book. But,  believe me, this was always done with affection.”




A fine biography of Michael Curtiz (1886-1962) was written by Alan K. Rode.

12 responses »

  1. I think I first became aware of Curtiz through his films with Flynn, and then later as I explored cinema further I came to realize just how versatile and accomplished a director he was.
    I really must look into picking up a copy of that Alan Rode bio.
    The film with Wilding would have to be The Egyptian

    • A great director and Warner Brothers rightly appreciated his talents. I remember Curtiz for one of my favourite musicals, “The Best Things in Life are Free.”
      Thanks for confirming the film Michael Wilding was in. I haven’t seen The Egyptian.

      • The Egyptian is a sumptuous looking production. If you like epics at all, it is worth checking out.

  2. I heard that Curtiz had a reputation for balling and shouting at his actors and actresses on the set and in 1958, when Alan Ladd and his eleven years old son David were about to start filming “The Proud Rebel” under Curtiz’s direction, Alan went up to him on the first day of filming and told him menacingly and quietly: “Before we start, I want to get one thing straight. If you ball and shout at David just once, I’m walking off this picture and I’m taking David with me. Understand?” After that, Curtiz didn’t get angry with David at all during the entire shoot.

  3. Good for Alan Ladd!
    Considering his reputation, Curtiz still managed to get great performances from his actors.

    • I knew there was something wrong somewhere with my comment but couldn’t quite put my finger on it. Now I’ve just noticed what it was. I should have typed bawl instead of ball.

  4. What a career. Cagney said there was no Curtiz the man, only Curtiz the director. And boy, that Olivia de Havilland had some good vocabulary!

  5. Addititional information to my comment about “The Proud Rebel”. The first day of filming was on Tuesday, September 10th, 1957, when David Ladd would have been 10 years old. The film was completed in November, 1957 and released in the USA in May, 1958, and in the UK in October, 1958.

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