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Jeannot Szwarc

Jeannot Szwarc

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Also Known As: Died:
Born: November 21, 1939 Cause of Death:
Birth Place: Paris, FR Profession: director, producer, production assistant, screenwriter, second unit director

Biography CLOSE THE FULL BIOGRAPHY

The French-born Jeannot Szwarc honed his craft on TV, helming episodes of numerous series before segueing to the big screen. His features have often been overshadowed by similarly-themed movies, but his "Somewhere in Time" (1980) has developed a cult following.After earning a master's degree in political science, Szwarc, a lifelong cinema buff, decided to pursue a career in features in lieu of obtaining a doctorate from Harvard. Settling in Paris, he landed work at a production company that specialized in documentaries and commercials. Working his way up the ranks from production assistant to second unit director, Szwarc gained enough confidence to relocate to the US in the early 1960s. Supporting himself as a freelance screenwriter, he perfected his English. A temporary job at Universal led to a spec script that caught the attention of NBC. Put under contract by the network, Szwarc first served as an associate producer on "Chrysler Theatre" and "Ironside." During his stint on the latter, he made his TV directing debut. Throughout most of the late 60s and early 70s, Szwarc worked constantly, helming episodes of such shows as "Marcus Welby, M.D.," "The Virginian" and "Alias Smith and Jones." In 1971,...

The French-born Jeannot Szwarc honed his craft on TV, helming episodes of numerous series before segueing to the big screen. His features have often been overshadowed by similarly-themed movies, but his "Somewhere in Time" (1980) has developed a cult following.

After earning a master's degree in political science, Szwarc, a lifelong cinema buff, decided to pursue a career in features in lieu of obtaining a doctorate from Harvard. Settling in Paris, he landed work at a production company that specialized in documentaries and commercials. Working his way up the ranks from production assistant to second unit director, Szwarc gained enough confidence to relocate to the US in the early 1960s. Supporting himself as a freelance screenwriter, he perfected his English. A temporary job at Universal led to a spec script that caught the attention of NBC. Put under contract by the network, Szwarc first served as an associate producer on "Chrysler Theatre" and "Ironside." During his stint on the latter, he made his TV directing debut. Throughout most of the late 60s and early 70s, Szwarc worked constantly, helming episodes of such shows as "Marcus Welby, M.D.," "The Virginian" and "Alias Smith and Jones." In 1971, he was hired as a resident director for Rod Serling's anthology "Night Gallery," where he directed nearly two thirds of the series' episodes.

Szwarc moved to the big screen in 1973 with "Extreme Close-Up." Scripted by Michael Crichton, the film was a then-topical look at voyeurism. Unfortunately, it pales in comparison with contemporary films that shared its themes of invading privacy (Francis Ford Coppola's "The Conversation" 1973) and pushing the sexual limits (Bernardo Bertolucci's "Last Tango in Paris" 1973). He followed with the laughable, yet profit-making "Bug" (1975), about marauding insects released after an earthquake which in turn led to his overseeing "Jaws 2" (1978), a well-crafted but unnecessary sequel to Steven Spielberg's blockbuster. Most of Szwarc's other big screen ventures have contained elements of fantasy and can be categorized as pretentious ("Supergirl" 1984), innocuous ("Santa Claus--The Movie" 1985) or forgettable ("Honor Bound" 1990).

Of all of Szwarc's films, however, "Somewhere in Time" (1980), has become a cult favorite. Starring Christopher Reeve and Jane Seymour, it shared a time traveling theme not unlike Nicholas Meyer's "Time After Time" (1979) but the lead performances and the dream-like quality of the film (helped along in no small measure by John Barry's lilting score and its production and costume designs) have charmed audiences, despite critical brickbats.

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Filmographyclose complete filmography

DIRECTOR:

1.
  Les Soeurs soleil (1997) Director
3.
  Hercule et Sherlock (1996) Director
5.
6.
  Honor Bound (1990) Director
8.
  Santa Claus: The Movie (1985) Director
9.
  Supergirl (1984) Director
10.
  Enigma (1983) Director

CAST: (feature film)

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Milestones close milestones

:
Formed theater group while in college
:
Founded cinema club in college
:
Decided to pursue career in film instead of attending a doctoral program at Harvard
:
Worked in Paris first as production assistant, later as a second unit director
:
Moved to Hollywood in the early 1960s
1967:
Hired by Universal as temporary worker; wrote 70 page speculative script
:
Pitched script to NBC; network bought idea and put Szwarc under contract
:
Served as associate producer on "Chrysler Theatre"
1967:
Named as associate producer on NBC's "Ironside", starring Raymond Burr
:
TV directing debut, episode of "Ironside"
:
Worked as TV director on series like "The Men From Shiloh", "The Virginian", "Marcus Welby, M.D." and others
1971:
Directed about 20 episodes of "Night Gallery"
1972:
First TV-movie "Night of Terror" (ABC)
1973:
First feature film, "Extreme Close-up/Sex Through a Window"; script by Michael Crichton
1978:
Helmed sequel "Jaws 2"
1980:
Directed "Somewhere in Time"
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Notes

"I'm obsessed with enchantment"--Szwarc in CINEFANTASTIQUE, Volume X, Number 4 (1980)

"Television is a great way of learning your craft because you have to make decisions very quickly, and hope the decisions are right. You have to be strong on concept, since there's no time to try things and change your mind later. Television is really the art of walking away. You're never going to get a scene perfect; it's impossible. What you have to do is be realistic and say, 'this is the best we can get.' But you can do good work"--Jeannot Szwarc

Companions close complete companion listing

wife:
Cara de Menual. Production coordinator.

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