Creator: Otto Preminger

Otto Preminger was an Austrian-American director and film producer.

Preminger was born in 1905 in Bukovina or Galicia (exactly which town is unclear), though his Jewish family moved to Vienna by the time he was ten. His interests in theater and literature lead him to take up acting, and in 1923 he became an assistant to Max Reinhardt, the famous Berlin stage director who was opening a new theater in Josefstadt, Vienna. In the mid-1920s, his acting career faltered as he started to go bald, and he took up directing instead, becoming director at the Theater in der Josefstadt in 1931 (the year of his first marriage and his first film-directing experience), and succeeded Reinhart as its manager two years later.

In April 1935, Preminger was invited by Joseph M. Schenck, chairman of Twentieth Century Fox, to come to Hollywood and direct movies. That October, Preminger sailed for New York, where he stayed to direct a play before moving to Beverly Hills in January 1936 and beginning directing work under Darryl F. Zanuck. After completing two unimportant and uncharacteristic films, Preminger was assigned to direct an adaptation of Kidnapped, which was even less characteristic for him. A quarrel with Zanuck in January 1938 threw him out of the production and seemingly ended his Hollywood career.

Preminger had no intention of returning to Austria, even before the events of March 1938 forced his brother and parents to flee to the United States, where Tallulah Bankhead (the actress who would later star in A Royal Scandal) helped them get refugee visas. He returned to New York for three years to direct plays, including vehicles for aging stars Laurette Taylor and John Barrymore. Ironically, his unexpected acting turn as the Nazi villain in the play Margin for Error helped restart his film career through Type Casting.

20th Century-Fox bought the film rights to Margin for Error on the request of Ernst Lubitsch, who intended to direct Otto in the film version. After Lubitsch decided not to make it, Preminger himself ended up directing the film version on an actor's salary under a short-term contract (already extended before shooting finished) with William Goetz, who had temporarily become head of production when Zanuck went into military service. (The dour Preminger would go on to replace the jovial Lubitsch as director on three more productions: the never-filmed Romantic Comedy All Over Arlene, A Royal Scandal and That Lady in Ermine, the last of these upon Lubitsch's death. Another director whom Preminger replaced more than once was Rouben Mamoulian on Laura and Porgy and Bess.)

Preminger had three further films in preproduction at Fox (including an abandoned Bio Pic of William Dodd, U.S. ambassador to Germany) when Zanuck returned and told him he could produce these films but not direct them. Nevertheless, Preminger eventually replaced both of the directors whom Zanuck had originally assigned on the first two films he produced.

In 1951, Preminger directed the Broadway hit The Moon Is Blue, and announced plans to independently produce a film version. The Moon is Blue would not merely be Preminger's first American film without a major studio backing it; it would also be released without Production Code approval (despite attempts to settle differences with Joseph Breen). The Man with the Golden Arm raised eyebrows not only for its candid treatment of drug use, which also failed to pass the Code, but for its spotlight-stealing credit, "A Film by Otto Preminger."

Films directed by Preminger (also produced by Preminger, except as noted):

  • Die grosse Liebe (1931; produced by Emmerich Taussig)
  • Under Your Spell (1936; produced by John Stone)
  • Danger—Love at Work (1937; produced by Harold Wilson)
  • Margin for Error (1943; produced by Ralph Dietrich)
  • In the Meantime, Darling (1944)
  • Laura (1944)
  • A Royal Scandal (1945; produced by Ernst Lubitsch)
  • Fallen Angel (1945)
  • Centennial Summer (1946)
  • Forever Amber (1947; produced by William Perlberg)
  • Daisy Kenyon (1947)
  • That Lady in Ermine (1948; produced by Ernst Lubitsch)
  • The Fan (1949)
  • Whirlpool (1950)
  • Where the Sidewalk Ends (1950)
  • The 13th Letter (1951)
  • Angel Face (1953)
  • The Moon Is Blue (1953)
  • River of No Return (1954; produced by Stanley Rubin)
  • Carmen Jones (1954)
  • The Court-Martial of Billy Mitchell (1955; produced by William Sperling)
  • The Man with the Golden Arm (1955)
  • Saint Joan (1957)
  • Bonjour Tristesse (1958)
  • Porgy and Bess (1959; produced by Samuel Goldwyn)
  • Anatomy of a Murder (1959)
  • Exodus (1960)
  • Advise and Consent (1962)
  • The Cardinal (1963)
  • In Harm's Way (1965)
  • Bunny Lake Is Missing (1965)
  • Hurry Sundown (1967)
  • Skidoo (1968)
  • Tell Me That You Love Me, Junie Moon (1970)
  • Such Good Friends (1971)
  • Rosebud (1975)
  • The Human Factor (1979)

Characters played by Preminger in movies and television shows:

  • Major Diessen in The Pied Piper (1942)
  • Fauscheim in They Got Me Covered (1943)
  • Consul Karl Baumer in Margin for Error (1943)
  • General Rahl in Where do We Go from Here? (1945)
  • Oberst von Scherbach in Stalag 17 (1953)
  • Mr. Freeze in Batman (1966)
  • Elven King in The Hobbit (1977)