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Jean Negulesco Poster

Biography

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Overview (3)

Born in Craiova, Dolj, Romania
Died in Marbella, Andalusia, Spain  (heart failure)
Birth NameIoan Negulescu

Mini Bio (1)

Jean Negulesco made his reputation as a director of both polished, popular entertainments as well as critically acclaimed dramatic pictures in the 1940s and 1950s. Born in Craiova, Romania, he left home at age 12, ending up in Paris. He earned some money washing dishes, which paid for his art tuition, on the way to fulfilling his dream of becoming a painter. World War I intervened, and he found himself in the French army working in a field hospital on the Western Front. Returning to Paris unscathed, he embarked on a more serious study of the arts, learning to paint under the guidance of his émigré compatriot Constantin Brâncusi (1876-1957), and subsequently returned home to Romania. Proving himself an adept pupil, Negulesco sold 150 of his paintings at his very first exhibition. Back in Paris by the early 1920s, he discovered another outlet for his creativity by working as a stage decorator.

In 1927, Negulesco took some of his paintings to New York in the hope of finding a wider audience. He liked it and decided to stay. Travelling across the US to California--all the while making money by painting portraits--Negulesco took years to arrive at his destination. In 1932, he was hired by Paramount Pictures (working for producer Benjamin Glazer) for his first job in the movie industry, as a sketch artist and technical advisor, notably designing the rape scene in The Story of Temple Drake (1933) without violating the Hays Code. Persuaded by an art critic, Elie Faure, to throw himself whole-heartedly into film work, Negulesco then financed and directed his own experimental project, "Three and a Day", starring Mischa Auer. Studio executives liked the picture and Negulesco advanced up the ladder to second-unit director, working on A Farewell to Arms (1932) and (on loan to Warner Brothers) Captain Blood (1935). He served in diverse capacities during the remainder of the decade, including associate director, scenarist and original story writer. In 1940, he was approached by Warner Brothers and signed to a contract (until 1948) to direct shorts. Between 1941 and 1944, Negulesco turned out a string of shorts, generally of a musical nature and often featuring popular big bands, including those of Joe Reichman, Freddy Martin and Jan Garber.

Negulesco's road to directing feature films was a tortured one. He was replaced by John Huston two months into shooting The Maltese Falcon (1941) and suffered a similar fate with Singapore Woman (1941). His big break came when he landed the directing job for The Mask of Dimitrios (1944), a tale of international intrigue, based on the novel "A Coffin for Dimitrios" by Eric Ambler. The film was unusual in that it starred two character actors instead of romantic leads. The story, already convoluted by many flashbacks, was therefore not muddied further by built-in romantic angles not integral to the plot. The two films noir experts at the center of the action, Sydney Greenstreet and Peter Lorre, contributed greatly to the success of the venture. Likewise did Negulesco's experience as an artist, which had provided him with a keen eye for effective shots and the ability to set a scene to create atmosphere. Critic Pauline Kael aptly commented that the picture "had more mood than excitement". "The Mask of Dimitrios" was a financial boon for Warner Brothers and led to further assignments for its director.

Continuing in the same genre, Negulesco was tasked with two more films starring Greenstreet and Lorre, The Conspirators (1944) and Three Strangers (1946). He also directed John Garfield and Joan Crawford in the brilliantly moody melodrama Humoresque (1946). This picture was in many ways a victory of style over content. The maudlin tale of an up-and-coming young violinist and his stormy, ultimately, ill-fated relationship with an unhappily married alcoholic socialite, could have been hackneyed soap opera under a lesser talent. However, Negulesco not only elicited electrifying performances from his stars, but also gave the film an edgy look, as well as effectively juxtaposing the ghetto background of the Garfield character with the lush, high-society settings of Crawford's. Aided by Ernest Haller's photography, a bitingly clever screenplay conceived by Clifford Odets and Zachary Gold, and with Franz Waxman's lavish orchestration of music by Antonín Dvorák and Richard Wagner, "Humoresque" was another major hit with critics and public alike.

'Mood" was again at the center of the success pf Johnny Belinda (1948), the story of a deaf-mute who is raped, has a child and later kills her assailant. Negulesco tackled what was at the time a taboo subject in films (considered box-office poison) with restrained sentimentality. Bosley Crowther pondered in his review why Warners had undertaken the project in the first place, but gave both it and its director an excellent appraisal (October 2, 1948). Unfortunately, Warners did not concur and, though "Johnny Belinda" made the studio $4 million, Negulesco was unceremoniously fired. He did have the last laugh, however, being nominated for an Academy Award for Best Director and seeing his star, Jane Wyman, walking away with a Best Actress Oscar.

Between 1948 and 1958, Jean Negulesco became a contract director for 20th Century-Fox, a studio where he found the pace more to his liking. His first assignment was Road House (1948), another robust film noir with a good cast, headed by Ida Lupino and Richard Widmark. He then helmed the realistic war drama Three Came Home (1950), which enjoyed good reviews by both "Variety" and the "New York Times". After a brief interlude in England, directing the idiosyncratic comedy The Mudlark (1950) with Alec Guinness, Negulesco had a less successful outing with his version of the sinking of the Titanic (1953).

From 1953, Negulesco effectively reinvented himself as a director of more commercial, glossy entertainments, beginning with the expensively made and deliriously enjoyable comedy How to Marry a Millionaire (1953). With Marilyn Monroe at the peak of her career, this was also one of the first pictures to be shot in CinemaScope. Not necessarily a critical hit but a hugely popular success was the Oscar-nominated Three Coins in the Fountain (1954), which was filmed on location in Rome and became another major hit for its director. This was followed, in a similar vein, by the excellent all-star Woman's World (1954). Negulesco's variable output during the remainder of the decade ranged from the CinemaScope musical Daddy Long Legs (1955) to the colorful Boy on a Dolphin (1957), which introduced Sophia Loren to American audiences. Among Negulesco's notable failures during this period were The Rains of Ranchipur (1955) and The Gift of Love (1958).

In the late 1960s he moved to Marbella, Spain, to paint and to collect art. He made three more films after 1963, The Pleasure Seekers (1964), The Invincible Six (1970) and Hello-Goodbye (1970), which are best forgotten.

Jean Negulesco reminisced about his Hollywood experiences in an autobiography in 1984, "Things I Did...and Things I Think I Did". He died in Marbella of a heart attack at the respectable age of 93.

- IMDb Mini Biography By: I.S.Mowis

Spouse (1)

Dusty Anderson (21 July 1946 - 18 July 1993) ( his death) ( 2 children)

Trivia (9)

Former painter, stage designer, 2nd-unit director, assistant director
Biography in: John Wakeman, editor. "World Film Directors, Volume One, 1890-1945." Pages 827-832. New York: The H.W. Wilson Company, 1987.
After working as a technical advisor, production assistant and assistant producer for nearly a decade, Negulesco was finally offered a chance at directing. Jack L. Warner wanted his newest series of moderately budgeted films to be directed by his newest crop of directors. Although Negulesco received directorial credit for his first film, Singapore Woman (1941), he was fired in mid-production. He was also removed from his next assignment, The Maltese Falcon (1941) after working on that film for 2 months and replaced by John Huston as reward for his successful adaptation of High Sierra (1941). Dejected, Negulesco's friend, director Anatole Litvak suggested a book by Eric Ambler, "The Coffin of Dimitrios" and pitched the story to producer Henry Blanke. Retitled as The Mask of Dimitrios (1944), it remains one of the best films ever made by a novice director.
Was approached to direct Adventures of Don Juan (1948).
Like David Lean, he directed for a few days on "The Greatest Story Ever Told" (without being credited) whilst George Stevens was enduring difficulties during location shooting.
In early 1940, the Ballet Russe de Monte Carlo dance company was located in Paris, France, performing their repertoire. With the German threat of war, the company hastily returned and remained in New York City. The dance company's American and South American tour had ended in late 1939. With the unstable world conditions focused in England, France, Poland and the Nazi-European war expansion, the Ballet Russe company directors's decision was to keep the company members safe in the United States. Completing the two WB feature film shorts, the ballet group returned to New York City to ponder their fate. The Ballet Russe impresario Rene Blum returned to Paris. Blum was arrested December 12, 1941 in his Parisian home. Among the first Jews to be arrested in Paris by the French police after France was defeated and occupied by the German Regime, he was held in the Beaune-La-Ronde camp, then in the Drancy deportation camp. On September 23, 1942, he was shipped to the Auschwitz concentration camp where he was later killed by the Nazis.
Film Director Jean Negulesco was usually paired with a sixty three year old WB Production Designer, Art Director Charles Martin Novi, born in Milan, Italy, on June 30, 1889. Charles Novi was part of the Jack L. Warner Brothers' feature film studio's stable of art department staff in 1940. Charles Novi was active with the WB Studio from 1936 to 1945. Charles Novi was nominated by the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences (AMPAS) for an Academy Award in the category "ART DIRECTION (COLOR)" for the WB film "The Desert Song" in 1945. Charles Novi's feature film short studio production design assignments represent his principal focused detailed designer style showcase.. Novi's artistic talents had a very Euorpean theatrical design style in his architectural analysis. These two feature film shorts illustrate Novi's approach to stage set design, and as a testimonial in the two Ballet Russe de Monte Carlo film shorts: "Gay Parisian" and "Spanish Fiesta".
Ironic that the "Gay Parisian" (a feature WB film short released to movie theaters in 1941) would be paired as a bonus with "The Maltese Falcon" (the WB feature film released to theaters in 1941) - on their WB-DVD; The director of the two WB feature film dance shorts assignments - "Gay Parisian" and "Spanish Fiesta," were filmed after one of Jean Negulesco's first film directorial assignment at Warner Brothers' Film Studio - directing "The Maltese Falcon." Previously Negulesco had been working as a second unit director on loan to Warner Brothers from Paramount Film Studios, Negulesco signed a WB contract, in 1940 until 1948, to direct short features. Between 1941 and 1944, Negulesco turned out a staple of shorts, generally of a musical nature and often featuring popular big bands, like those of Joe Reichman, Freddy Martin and Jan Garber. Negulesco's first feature film directing assignment was "The Maltese Falcon," replaced after two months with John Huston, coincidentally Huston's first directing job! John Huston had written the screen play adaption of "The Maltese Falcon," with back room politicking, replacing Negulesco. Warner Bros. added their feature-film short "Spanish Fiesta," paired with the WB/Bette Davis film DVD collection, as a bonus on the "This Is Our Life" DVD disc.
Jack L. Warner was a visionary in 1940, who had the authority to be totally inspired to bring the entire Frenchman's founding director Rene Blum's "Ballet Russe de Monte Carlo" ensemble dance troupe from their New York City temporary company based headquartered location to his California Burbank Studio after the ballet company's impresario Sol Hurok's American and South American international 1938-1939/40 tour had concluded. Jack Warner had seen the Rene Blum dance company's live performances in Los Angeles' Shrine Auditorium during the impresario Sol Hurok's Rene Blum produced "The Ballet Russe de Monte Carlo" sponsored American and South American Tour. Jack Warner's determined sponsorship for presenting filmed stage theatricals as part of his prestigious film catalogue causing his impetus to produce two "WB feature-film shorts" using the ballet company's featured international Russian and French principal soloists and ensemble. Jack L. Warner demanded - new "film costumes" for his two "film shorts" - replacing all the original ballet company's worn and shabby tour costume wardrobe, originally designed and built by Madam Barbara Karinska in either her Paris, London, and New York City costume shops. The Ballet Company's wardrobe trunks had been delivered to Warner Brothers' Burbank film studio prior to the Ballet Russe Dance Company's personnel and management arrival at the film studio. The Warner Brothers' costume-wardrobe department meticulously copied every costume for the two short featurettes. The dance company's original ballet costumes were supervised and maintained by Barbara Karinska, who had toured with the ballet company's whirl-wind American and South American International Tour as the company's wardrobe mistress. Although Tamara Tormanova had been featured in the company's tour repertoire in "the glove role", she did not perform the role in this "Gay Parisian" film short. Tormanova performed in the Warner's second feature film short "Spanish Fiesta". Both film shorts were filmed in 1941, with the studio releasing "Gay Parisian" first in January, 1942, and the second short "Spanish Fiesta" in March, 1942.

Personal Quotes (2)

[on Marilyn Monroe] She's the girl you'd like to double-cross your wife with.
[on Peter Lorre] Lorre was the most talented man I have ever seen in my life.

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