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Biography

Jump to: Overview (4) | Mini Bio (1) | Spouse (3) | Trade Mark (4) | Trivia (16) | Personal Quotes (13) | Salary (2)

Overview (4)

Date of Birth 26 October 1912Chicago, Illinois, USA
Date of Death 20 April 1991Nipomo, California, USA  (cancer)
Birth NameDonald Siegel
Height 5' 9" (1.75 m)

Mini Bio (1)

Don Siegel was educated at Cambridge University, England. In Hollywood from the mid-'30s, he began his career as an editor and second unit director. In 1945 he directed two shorts (Hitler Lives (1945) and Star in the Night (1945)) which both won Academy Awards. His first feature as a director was 1946's The Verdict (1946). He made his reputation in the early and mid-'50s with a series of tightly made, expertly crafted, tough but intelligent "B" pictures (among them The Lineup (1958), Riot in Cell Block 11 (1954), Invasion of the Body Snatchers (1956)), then graduated to major "A" films in the 1960s and early 1970s. He made several "side trips" to television, mostly as a producer. Siegel directed what is generally considered to be Elvis Presley's best picture, Flaming Star (1960). He had a long professional relationship and personal friendship with Clint Eastwood, who has often said that everything he knows about filmmaking he learned from Don Siegel.

- IMDb Mini Biography By: Otto Oberhauser <Oberhauser@cc.univie.ac.at>

Spouse (3)

Carol Rydall (24 April 1981 - 20 April 1991) (his death)
Doe Avedon (1 February 1957 - 1975) (divorced) (4 children)
Viveca Lindfors (10 August 1949 - 27 May 1954) (divorced) (1 child)

Trade Mark (4)

Frequently cast Clint Eastwood
Known for his extensive preparation and highly efficient shooting style, which were the main influence on the directing style of his protege, Clint Eastwood
Strong male characters and scheming female characters (if there were any major female characters in the stories at all), frequently leading to charges of misogyny
His films were frequently interpreted as having controversial, right-wing political or sociological undertone, which Siegel never commented on

Trivia (16)

Siegel and screenwriter Stephen Geller (The Valachi Papers (1972), Slaughterhouse-Five (1972)) once collaborated on a script of "The First Deadly Sin" (based on the novel), to be directed by Siegel. The project fell through, however, and a different version was filmed several years later.
Father of actor Kristoffer Tabori, born 1952
Was eager to direct movies as early as 1942, but his contract with Warner Brothers kept him restricted to doing editing and montage sequences. Studio chief Jack L. Warner refused to let Siegel out of his contract because he wanted to utilize his exceptional montage skills.
Siegel was the first director to be credited by the Director's Guild of America's universal pseudonym Alan Smithee, for Death of a Gunfighter (1969). Siegel wished to remain uncredited because he felt the film's star, Richard Widmark, ruined the picture by insisting on creative control that usurped Siegel's authority as director, and also because Widmark had fired original director Robert Totten, who completed most of the picture, and Siegel felt that if anyone should be credited for the film it should have been Totten and not him.
Was mentor to Clint Eastwood. Eastwood dedicated his film Unforgiven (1992) to him.
In Telefon (1977), where Houston, Texas, is the location of a subplot in the story, the interior of the Hyatt Regency is not in the one in Houston but actually the one located at 5 Embarcadero Center in San Francisco, which is the same location for the disaster epic The Towering Inferno (1974). San Francisco was also the setting for three other Siegel films: The Lineup (1958), Dirty Harry (1971) and Escape from Alcatraz (1979).
In Charley Varrick (1973) and Telefon (1977), a yellow Lincoln Continental sedan is used as part of a major plot in the film. In both films, the Continental sedan is involved in a front-end collision and subsequently totalled.
During filming of Dirty Harry (1971), Siegel fell ill with the flu, and Clint Eastwood stepped in temporarily as director, during a critical scene involving a suicide jumper. This was Eastwood's first unbilled credit as director.
Father of Anney Siegel-Wamsat.
Biography in: John Wakeman, editor. "World Film Directors, Volume One, 1890-1945." Pages 997-1001. New York: The H.W. Wilson Company, 1987.
He originally intended for Invasion of the Body Snatchers (1956) to end with the hero, Dr. Miles Bennell (Kevin McCarthy) on the highway shouting to the motorists, "You're next! You're next!" but Allied Artists wanted a happier ending that assured the audience the hero's efforts had not been in vain. Siegel subsequently added the opening with Miles in the hospital recounting his story to the other two doctors, who find out at the end of the film that the pod people are real and contact the FBI.
Was Sam Peckinpah's mentor.
Siegel and producer Walter Wanger had been desperately trying to persuade the warden of San Quentin Prison to allow the use of the facility to film Riot in Cell Block 11 (1954), but the warden had adamantly refused. After the final meeting in the prison, when the warden had said there was nothing Siegel or Wanger could do to persuade him to allow filming there, Siegel turned to speak to his assistant, Sam Peckinpah. When the warden heard Peckinpah's name, he asked, "Are you related to Denver Peckinpah?" Sam replied that Denver was his father. It turned out that Denver Peckinpah was a well-known jurist in northern California who had a reputation as a "hanging judge" and the warden had long been an admirer of his. He immediately granted the company permission to shoot the movie in San Quentin.
While filming Flaming Star (1960) starring Elvis Presley, for two weeks he drove Presley's new Rolls-Royce.
He's the son of a mandolin virtuoso.

Personal Quotes (13)

Most of my pictures, I'm sorry to say, are about nothing. Because I'm a whore. I work for money. It's the American way.
I once told [Jean-Luc Godard] that he had something I wanted--freedom. He said, "You have something I want--money".
[on editing] If you shake a movie, ten minutes will fall out.
[on working with Bette Midler in Jinxed! (1982)] I'd let my wife, children and animals starve before I'd subject myself to something like that again.
[on Walter Wanger] He was a rarity among producers. He encouraged creativity. He wasn't only interested in protecting himself, which is what most producers do.
[on working with Steve McQueen on Hell Is for Heroes (1962)] He walked around with the attitude that the burden of preserving the integrity of the picture was on his shoulders and all the rest of us were company men ready to sell out, grind out an inferior picture for a few bucks and the bosses. Eventually, we grew to like each other.
[on Walter Matthau] One of the funniest men I ever worked with and didn't understand a thing about the movie [Charley Varrick (1973)] at all. When I showed him the first cut all he said was, "Well, I got to admit it's a picture but can anyone tell me what the hell it's all about?"
[on Clint Eastwood] Hardest thing in the world is to do nothing and he does it marvelously.
[on Charles Bronson] He is a very helpful actor in planning or staging a scene. He gets wonderful ideas, good practical suggestions and I enjoy his contributions. He's a positive force for the good in this grinding work of making a film. He's patient when the work is difficult and he's never satisfied until he's convinced what's been done is right. He's my kind of actor, you might say. He's a true loner.
I think in America I'm looked upon as the equivalent of a European director -- which is quite laughable. I've never had a personal publicity man working for me. So all this came out of the blue -- all this publicity. The cult was not engineered. It festered, in a sense. And erupted. And it did me a lot of good.
When I refused to take directing credit for the film [Death of a Gunfighter (1969)], as did [Robert Totten], the Directors' Guild made up a pseudonym for Totten and myself, 'Allen Smithee". As the picture was well received, I told my young friends who wanted to be directors to change their name to Smithee and take credit for direction of the picture. I don't know if anyone did this. I still think under certain circumstances, they might have cracked the "magic barrier" and become directors.
[on Eli Wallach'] Eli Wallach is a great actor, but like all great actors--he has so much to give--he must be watched carefully by the director, or he'll overact. This isn't because he's a bad actor, but because he can call on such reservoirs of talent.
On The Verdict (1946), I was working with Sydney Greenstreet, who knew every period, every comma, every dotted "i" in the script, and the only thing he would beg was that his lines should not be changed. Peter Lorre would walk on the set, and his first remark would be, not "What picture am I doing?" or "What scene am I doing?", but "What studio am I in? What country am I in?" Apparently, he'd never seen the script before. We would stumble through three rehearsals. [He] was the fastest study I have ever seen in my life, and these two people, these two incredibly different people, from opposite worlds and with the opposite approach to their work, would make poetry together.

Salary (2)

The Shootist (1976) $250,000
Escape from Alcatraz (1979) $2,000,000

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