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Biography

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Overview (3)

Date of Birth 15 April 1899Worms, Rhineland-Palatinate, Germany
Date of Death 22 February 1981Pacific Palisades, California, USA
Birth NameKurt Bernhardt

Mini Bio (1)

If Curtis Bernhardt is a relative unknown, it's because he didn't direct his first Hollywood feature until 1940 at the age of 41. Bernhardt worked for years in Germany until his Jewish heritage made living there impossible by 1933-- he was arrested by the Gestapo and made a harrowing underground escape to France. With Europe plunging into war, he left for America in 1939. Despite his limited grasp of the English language, he was offered seven-year contracts at both Warner Bros. and MGM, largely on the strength of Carrefour (1938)-- which proved so enduring that it was remade as Dead Man's Shoes (1940) in the UK and as Crossroads (1942) by MGM. Most émigrés would have jumped an offer to work at MGM-- considered the "Tiffany" of film studios-- but Berhardt went with Warners, favoring that studio's reputation for hard-boiled realism. His career in Hollywood began with a false start; after working on his first assignment he fell ill and was reassigned an Olivia de Havilland vehicle, My Love Came Back (1940), that gained him good notices. Bernhardt rapidly achieved a reputation as a woman's director with occasional forays into suspense with varied results. He directed one of Humphrey Bogart's least popular films, Conflict (1945), which was burdened by ludicrous plot contrivances, but he snapped back the next year with a winner: My Reputation (1946), a melodrama starring Barbara Stanwyck. He had another misfire, however, with the critically panned Devotion (1946) and would end his contract with the studio after three more films in 1947, after which he moved briefly to MGM. Ironically, he would later look back fondly upon Warners' assembly-line production methods compared to his days at MGM, where he felt compelled to bend to the whims of its stars and serve at the behest of studio chief Louis B. Mayer. Berhardt managed to make two above-average films during his short stay at Metro, however--the suspenseful High Wall (1947) starring 'Robert Taylor (I)_ in one of his best mid-career roles, and The Doctor and the Girl (1949), starring the likable Glenn Ford.

Bernhard soon moved to RKO, which was entering its final chaotic decade, directing The Blue Veil (1951), a remake of a French film. He did a one-shot gig at Columbia, directing Bogie once again in the hopelessly set-bound Sirocco (1951), and rounded out the remainder of the 1950s back at MGM, ending his Hollywood career with the middling comedy Kisses for My President (1964) at Warners.

He retired from directing due to illness in the mid-'60s and died in 1981, age 81, at his home in Pacific Palisades, California.

- IMDb Mini Biography By: Jack Backstreet (qv's & corrections by A. Nonymous)

Spouse (2)

Pearl Argyle (1936 - 29 January 1947) (her death) (2 children)
Annemarie Bernhardt (? - ?)

Trivia (4)

Father of Steven Bernhardt.
Father of 'Tony Bernhardt'.
Granddaughter is 'Emily Bernhardt'.
Directed 4 actors to Oscar nominations: Joan Crawford (Best Actress, Possessed (1947)), Jane Wyman (Best Actress, The Blue Veil (1951)), Joan Blondell (Best Supporting Actress, The Blue Veil (1951)), and Eleanor Parker (Best Actress, Interrupted Melody (1955)).

Personal Quotes (1)

[on his arrival in Hollywood]: The first thing that hit me here, and hit me hard, was that I no longer had the authority that I had had before. In Germany, France and Italy before World War II, the director was in charge of the whole artistic side of the film, including the script and the choice of the story. The producer had very little influence on actual film-making; he was only the business head of the organization. In America, I found that the producer was the number one man and that the director was supposed to take a script, make a few changes if he felt like it, and then shoot it.

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