Jump to: Overview (3) | Mini Bio (1) | Spouse (2) | Trivia (15) | Personal Quotes (3) | Salary (5)

Overview (3)

Date of Birth 17 September 1904Olmütz, Moravia, Austria-Hungary [now Olomouc, Czech Republic]
Date of Death 30 September 1972Woodland Hills, Los Angeles, California, USA
Birth NameEdgar George Ulmer

Mini Bio (1)

Edgar G. Ulmer was born on September 17, 1904 in Olmütz, Moravia, Austria-Hungary as Edgar George Ulmer. He was a director and writer, known for The Black Cat (1934), Detour (1945) and People on Sunday (1930). He was married to Shirley Ulmer and Joan Warner. He died on September 30, 1972 in Woodland Hills, Los Angeles, California, USA.

Spouse (2)

Shirley Ulmer (? - 30 September 1972) (his death)
Joan Warner (? - ?)

Trivia (15)

Father of Arianne Ulmer.
Historian/critic/director Peter Bogdanovich praises Ulmer's directorial work on low-budget movies like The Naked Dawn (1955) and The Cavern (1964), which he considers "classics", adding that "the astonishing thing is that so many of Ulmer's movies have a clearly identifiable signature [despite being] accomplished with so little encouragement and so few means...". Ulmer worked in set design beginning as a teenager for Austrian director Max Reinhardt. He came with Reinhardt to the US in 1923 with the play "The Miracle", which opened on Broadway. He was blackballed from Hollywood work after he had an affair with Shirley Castle (he eventually married her and she became known as Shirley Ulmer), who at the time was the wife of B-picture producer Max Alexander, a nephew of powerful Universal Pictures president Carl Laemmle. Ulmer spent the bulk of his remaining career languishing at PRC, the lowest rung on the ladder of Hollywood's poverty row studios. He signed a long term contract there in October, 1943 after directing the "big budget" (by PRC standards anyway) Jive Junction (1943), becoming the outfit's #1 director. Today, Ulmer remains the principal reason PRC is mentioned in Hollywood history at all.
Biography in: John Wakeman, editor. "World Film Directors, Volume One, 1890-1945." Pages 1107-1112. New York: The H.W. Wilson Company, 1987.
Many of his films involved pure geometric patterns.
Despite being the resident "artist" at PRC, after signing his long-term contract with the studio it immediately assigned Ulmer to direct a series of short subjects produced by the R. Wolff Advertising Agency for Coca-Cola. The project took some five months and kept him busy while the studio was involved in a substantial upgrade resulting from its purchase of various bankrupt properties along "Poverty Row".
Ulmer's wife Shirley Ulmer discusses the life and career she shared with him in an interview in Tom Weaver's book "I Was a Monster Movie Maker" (McFarland & Co., 2001). Their daughter Arianne Ulmer shares her memories of Ulmer in Weaver's "Science Fiction and Fantasy Film Flashbacks" (McFarland & Co., 1998).
While at the poverty row Producers Releasing Corporation (PRC), he became the de facto head of production, overseeing productions by other directors and aiding the president of the company in planning the year's production schedule.
Actor Peter Marshall reminisces about the making of Ulmer's final film The Cavern (1964) in the book "A Sci-Fi Swarm and Horror Horde" (McFarland & Co., 2010) by Tom Weaver.
Ulmer's father was a soldier in the Austro-Hungarian army during World War I and was killed in battle in 1916, when Ulmer was just 12 years old.
Cousin of Gustav H. Heimo.
Profiled in John Belton's "American Directors, Vol. 1".
Profiled in Lizzie Francke's "Retrospective".
Spent the first three years of his career in the U.S. (1930-33) as an art director. Began to direct features from late 1933. Except for brief stints at Universal in the mid-30's and United Artists (1946-47), was primarily associated with 'poverty row' studios, such as PRC.
After his success with The Black Cat (1934) for Universal, Fox wanted to borrow Ulmer for a Shirley Temple musical. The director walked out on his contract rather than do it, consigning himself to Poverty Row studios like PRC, where he could choose his own subject matter, for his career.

Personal Quotes (3)

I really am looking for absolution for all the things I had to do for money's sake.
[explaining how the studio ruined Hannibal (1959)] My nicest scene, they cut out. I could not find any documentation or any explanation why Hannibal didn't take Rome after he defeated the Roman army at Cannae. Hannibal represented a dying civilization, the Carthaginians, and he was tremendously well-educated, knew that his civilization was moribund, was dying, and he also knew that the idea of democracy of the Roman republic was the coming thing, and couldn't get himself to destroy that . . . that was the future, and that's why Carthage did not let him come back. That's why he had to commit suicide five years later. The story actually should have been the tragedy of a man at that point in history when he sees his society dying and can see with his eyes what good will come--he cannot destroy it. But Warner Brothers threw it out--"much too philosophical". It was foolish.
[explaining why he refused offers to direct at the big Hollywood studios and instead stayed at lowly PRC] I didn't want to be ground up in the Hollywood hash machine.

Salary (5)

The Border Sheriff (1926) $300
Thunder Over Texas (1934) $300
Natalka Poltavka (1937) $35 /week
The Strange Woman (1946) $250 /week
The Man from Planet X (1951) $300

See also

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