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Curt Siodmak

Curt Siodmak

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Also Known As: Kurt Siodmak, Curtis Siodmak Died: September 2, 2000
Born: August 10, 1902 Cause of Death:
Birth Place: Germany Profession: screenwriter, novelist, director, reporter, producer

Biography CLOSE THE FULL BIOGRAPHY

German-born scenarist Curt Siodmak, who also directed several minor movies, distinguished himself writing scripts for imaginative horror pics, as well as visionary science fiction films. The young man from Dresden, with a doctorate in mathematics, came to Berlin, found work as a reporter and, as an extra, became the only journalist with access to Fritz Lang's closed of "Metropolis" (1927). His story (expanded by friend Billy Wilder) was the inspiration for "People on Sunday" (1929), one of the last notable German silents. The film, directed by brother Robert (in association with Edgar Ulmer), became a landmark in the development of the docudrama, using a neo-realistic documentary technique, authentic locations and amateur actors to tell a simple story about a day in the life of two German couples. The hand-held camerawork of cinematographer Eugene Schuftan (assisted by Fred Zinnemann) prefigured both the Italian neorealism of the 1940s and the French New Wave of the 50s.The success of "People on Sunday" led to contracts with UFA studio-head Erich Pommer (producer of "The Blue Angel") for the Siodmaks and their collaborators, and Curt worked alone and with his brother at UFA until 1933 when he fled...

German-born scenarist Curt Siodmak, who also directed several minor movies, distinguished himself writing scripts for imaginative horror pics, as well as visionary science fiction films. The young man from Dresden, with a doctorate in mathematics, came to Berlin, found work as a reporter and, as an extra, became the only journalist with access to Fritz Lang's closed of "Metropolis" (1927). His story (expanded by friend Billy Wilder) was the inspiration for "People on Sunday" (1929), one of the last notable German silents. The film, directed by brother Robert (in association with Edgar Ulmer), became a landmark in the development of the docudrama, using a neo-realistic documentary technique, authentic locations and amateur actors to tell a simple story about a day in the life of two German couples. The hand-held camerawork of cinematographer Eugene Schuftan (assisted by Fred Zinnemann) prefigured both the Italian neorealism of the 1940s and the French New Wave of the 50s.

The success of "People on Sunday" led to contracts with UFA studio-head Erich Pommer (producer of "The Blue Angel") for the Siodmaks and their collaborators, and Curt worked alone and with his brother at UFA until 1933 when he fled Germany to escape fascism. Landing in Hollywood's emigre community in 1938, he found it easy to find work, despite English being his second language, and scored his first success as co-screenwriter of "The Invisible Man Returns" (1939). Siodmak's script for "The Wolf Man" (1941) introduced the legendary creature to the horror genre, and he also penned (alone or in tandem) such literate and engrossing delights as Jacques Tourneur's "I Walked with a Zombie", his brother's "Son of Dracula" (both 1943) and Robert Florey's "The Beast with Five Fingers" (1947), not to mention the post-war spy thriller, "Berlin Express" (1948). As a novelist in exile, unlike many of his fellow countrymen who continued writing in German, Siodmak made the difficult transition to English prose, publishing the seminal sci-fi novel "Donovan's Brain" in 1942. This tale of the first brain transplant spawned a radio adaptation by Orson Welles and four film versions, the best one arguably being "Donovan's Brain" (1953), starring Lew Ayres.

Siodmak made his directorial debut with "The Bride of the Gorilla" (1951) and followed with perhaps his best effort, "The Magnetic Monster" (1953), lifting special effects for its stunning climax from the 1930s German film, "Gold", but his efforts at the helm were decidedly lackluster. It is as a screenwriter that he made his mark on film, combining elements of Gothic tales with German Expressionism, the style of his generation. Many of his stories centered on the concept of Harmatia, the Greek idea that humans must endure the whims of the gods. "We all have Harmatia in us," he wrote in his 1991 introduction to the publication of "The Wolf Man". "Life itself contains the curse of the Wolf Man: suffering without having been guilty." For his contributions to the cinema, the 1998 Berlin Film Festival honored Siodmak (along with his late brother Robert) with a retrospective and presented him with the Berlinale Camera, an award founded in 1986 to express the Festival's gratitude and appreciation for a celebrity to whom it feels particularly indebted.

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Filmographyclose complete filmography

DIRECTOR:

1.
  Ski Fever (1969) Director
2.
3.
4.
  The Magnetic Monster (1953) Director
5.
  Bride of the Gorilla (1951) Director

CAST: (feature film)

1.
 Universal Horror (1998) Interviewee
VIEW THE FULL FILMOGRAPHY

Milestones close milestones

1927:
Hired as an extra on Fritz Lang's "Metropolis"
1929:
Began film career as co-scripter (with Billy Wilder) of "People on Sunday"; co-directed by his brother Robert and Edgar Ulmer
1933:
Left Germany for England, before travelling to the USA in 1937
1934:
Brother Robert directed "The Depression Is Over," which is based on his novel
1937:
Published Last novel in German, <i>Die Macht in Dunklen/The Power in the Dark</i>
1937:
Gestapo confiscated all copies of his books in Germany
1938:
First US credit, penned the story for "Her Jungle Love"
1939:
Collaborated on the screenplay for Joe May's "The Invisible Man Returns"
1941:
Breakthrough screenplay, "The Wolf Man," starring Lon Chaney Jr.
1942:
<i>Black Mask</i> magazine accepted his seminal sci-fi novel, <i>Donovan's Brain</i> for serialization
1943:
Wrote story for "Son of Dracula"; directed by brother Robert
1944:
First of film adaptations of "Donovan's Brain"
1951:
Made directorial debut with "Bride of the Gorilla"; re-teamed with Lon Chaney Jr.
1953:
Wrote and directed, "The Magnetic Monster"
1953:
Second movie adaptation of "Donovan's Brain"
1957:
Produced "Love Slaves of the Amazon"; also wrote and directed
1961:
Directed first 13 episodes (eight which he also scripted) of the syndicated series, "Number 13 Demon Street"; never aired in USA
1965:
Last feature, "Liebsspiele im Schnee/Ski Fever"
1970:
An adaptation of his novel "Hauser's Memory" was aired on NBC
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Education

University of Zurich: -

Notes

Siodmak published many novels in Germany that were banned during the Nazi era.

In 1992, the German government award Siodmak the Bundesverdienstkreuz Erster Klasse, the German equivalent of the Presidential Medal of Freedom. The screenwriter told the Los Angeles Times (September 14, 1997): "They gave that to me because they couldn't catch and kill me back then [in the Nazi era]."

On his Old South Fork Ranch in Three Rivers, California: "Nothing's 100 percent perfect, but this here ... this is as close to 100 percent as you can possibly get. How often, I look over these beautiful California hills and think: Heil Hitler. If it wasn't for that son of a bitch, I wouldn't be sitting here." --Curt Siodmak in Los Angeles Times, September 14, 1997.

Companions close complete companion listing

wife:
Henrietta Siodmak. Swiss; together since the 1920s; married c. 1925.

Family close complete family listing

brother:
Robert Siodmak. Director. Born in 1900; died in 1973.
son:
Geoffrey Siodmak.

Bibliography close complete biography

"Donovan's Brain" Alfred A. Knopf
"Even a Man Who Is Pure in Heart"

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