Alexander Korda


Director, Executive, Producer
Alexander Korda

About

Also Known As
Sandor Korda, Sandor Laszlo Kellner, Sir Alexander Korda, Sursum Corda
Birth Place
Hungary
Born
September 16, 1893
Died
January 23, 1956
Cause of Death
Heart Attack

Biography

As one of the preeminent filmmakers from England, director and producer Alexander Korda - who emigrated to the Isles from Hungary - was instrumental in putting British cinema on the international map. With his production company, London Films, Korda found success after a decade of making movies in Vienna, Berlin and Hollywood with "The Private Life of Henry VIII" (1932), which launched t...

Family & Companions

Maria Farkas
Wife
Actor. Married 1919-30.
Merle Oberon
Wife
Actor. Divorced 1945.
Alexandra Boycum
Wife
Married 1953.

Bibliography

"Charmed Lives: A Family Romance"
Michael Korda, Random House (1979)
"Alexander Korda - The Man Who Could Work Miracles"
Karol Kulik, Arlington House (1975)

Notes

Knighted in 1943.

"Alex was a genius, a genuinely talented fake." --director Andre de Toth

Biography

As one of the preeminent filmmakers from England, director and producer Alexander Korda - who emigrated to the Isles from Hungary - was instrumental in putting British cinema on the international map. With his production company, London Films, Korda found success after a decade of making movies in Vienna, Berlin and Hollywood with "The Private Life of Henry VIII" (1932), which launched the career of Charles Laughton as well as his own. From there, he produced successes like "The Scarlet Pimpernel" (1934) and "The Ghost Goes West" (1935), before directing Laughton in "Rembrandt" (1936), one of the most acclaimed biopics of all time. With war looming in Europe, Korda did his part in boosting the cinematic image of the British Empire with "Knight Without Armour" (1937), "Drums" (1938) and "The Four Feathers" (1939). He oversaw "The Thief in Bagdad" (1940), one of the all-time great children's classics, while back in Hollywood, he also produced Carole Lombard's final film, the comedy classic, "To Be or Not to Be" (1942). Returning to England, he bought a stake in British Lion Films and produced the Cold War classic, "The Third Man" (1949), and the excellent Shakespeare adaptation, "Richard III" (1955). Over several prolific decades, Korda earned his place in cinema history for playing a significant part in capturing a heroic image of the British Empire on celluloid.

Born on Sept. 16, 1893 in Turkeve, Hungary, Korda moved to Budapest in 1906 after the death of his father, and later left school in 1909 to work fulltime as a journalist. Five years later, he founded the film magazine, MOZIHET, before joining Pedagogical Studios to direct films for various schools. In 1917, he bought the Corvin production company and began making films throughout Europe as a director and producer, turning out such silent titles as "Herren Der Meere" (1922), "Das Unbekannte Morgen" (1923) and "Madame Wunscht Keine Kinder" (1924), which was a showcase for his first wife, actress Maria Corda, whom he married in 1919. He moved to Austria after the overthrow of the Bela Kun regime and formed the Corda Film Consortium with Maria, only to move to Berlin in 1923. He soon attracted the attention of Hollywood in 1927 after signing a contract with First National, but soon realized that his wife's talents were in greater demand than his own. He made a number of inconsequential movies for First National like "Private Life of Helen of Troy" (1927), "The Night Watch" (1928) and his first talkie, "The Squall" (1929), before moving over to 20th Century Fox for "The Princess and the Plummer" (1930) and "Women Everywhere" (1930).

Korda's lack of success in America - along with his divorce from Maria - prompted a move back across the pond to England, where he not only hit his stride as a director and producer, but also became the guiding force behind British cinema for the next three decades. He established his own company, London Films, in 1932 and within two years he was being hailed as the most important figure in British film. Korda directed and produced his first hit, the lavish costume drama, "The Private Life of Henry VIII" (1932), which starred Charles Laughton in his Academy Award-winning performance as Henry. The film also became the first British production to earn an Oscar nomination for Best Picture. Korda stepped into a strict producer's role for successes like "The Scarlet Pimpernel" (1934) and "The Ghost Goes West" (1935), before directing Laughton in "Rembrandt" (1936), a stark look at the 17th century Dutch artist that has long stood as one of the all-time classic biopics. As a producer, he found further acclaim with the adaptation of the H.G. Wells essay, "Things to Come" (1936), "Knight Without Armour" (1937), starring Marlene Dietrich, and the lavish Technicolor epic "Drums" (1938), directed by his brother, Zoltan Korda.

In the late 1930s, Korda's patriotic feelings for his adopted country expressed themselves in filmed warnings of imminent threats from abroad, which was brilliant expressed in the lavish epic, "The Four Feathers" (1939). Released before the outbreak of war in Europe, the film was one of the last flag-waving British Empire films before the Nazis ran rampant across the continent. The war actually forced Korda back to Hollywood in order for him to complete "The Thief of Bagdad" (1940), an extraordinary children's fantasy adventure that had it all - lavish production values, exemplary performances, top-notch storytelling - and served as inspiration for generations of similar films. During the war, Korda maintained his British patriotism by personally financing a propaganda film about the Royal Air Force and allegedly making his North American offices available to members of Britain's intelligence organizations. He stuck around Hollywood for a couple of more years to direct the historical drama, "That Hamilton Woman" (1941), starring Laurence Olivier and Vivian Leigh, and producing the live-action adaptation of Rudyard Kipling's "The Jungle Book" (1942), directed by brother Zoltan. But his most significant Hollywood production was undoubtedly "To Be or Not to Be" (1942), a biting Nazi satire that was comedienne Carole Lombard's final film appearance before her tragic death in a plane crash that same year.

In 1942, Korda returned to England and became head of the newly-formed alliance between London Films and MGM-British, only to resign just a few years later. He returned to directing with "Vacation from Marriage" (1945), with Robert Donat and Deborah Kerr, and an adaptation of Oscar Wilde's sophisticated satire, "An Ideal Husband" (1947), before stepping back exclusively to producing duties for "Anna Karenina" (1948), starring Vivian Leigh in the titular role. Korda had his greatest critical acclaim in his later years with the Cold War espionage classic "The Third Man" (1949), starring Joseph Cotten as a third-rate pulp writer newly arrived in post-war Vienna, who goes in search of the enigmatic and presumably dead Harry Lime (Orson Welles). The film won a BAFTA for Best British Film. After buying a controlling share of British Lion Films, he produced a number of classics that included "Cry, the Beloved Country" (1952), "The Sound Barrier" (1952), "The Heart of the Matter" (1954), and "Summertime" (1955), starring Katherine Hepburn and directed by David Lean. He had one of his final great successes with "Richard III" (1955), which starred Laurence Olivier as the malicious Richard, who takes out those obstructing his path to the throne, only to suffer a tragic fall when he finally becomes king. On Jan. 23, 1956, Korda suffered a fatal heart attack in London at the age of 61. He died as the first producer to ever be knighted and left behind the considerable legacy of putting British cinema on the international map.

By Shawn Dwyer

Filmography

 

Director (Feature Film)

Bonnie Prince Charlie (1948)
Director () Directo) (Uncredited)
An Ideal Husband (1947)
Director
Vacation from Marriage (1945)
Director
That Hamilton Woman (1941)
Director
The Girl from Maxim's (1936)
Director
Rembrandt (1936)
Director
The Private Life of Don Juan (1934)
Director
The Private Life of Henry VIII (1934)
Director
Reserved for Ladies (1932)
Director
Wedding Rehearsal (1932)
Director
Women Everywhere (1930)
Director
The Princess and the Plumber (1930)
Director
Lilies of the Field (1930)
Director
The Squall (1929)
Director
Her Private Life (1929)
Director
Love and the Devil (1929)
Director
The Yellow Lily (1928)
Director
The Night Watch (1928)
Director
The Private Life of Helen of Troy (1928)
Director
The Stolen Bride (1927)
Director
Madame Wunscht keine Kinder (1926)
Director
Der Tanzer meiner Frau (1925)
Director
Tragodie im Hause Hapsburg (1924)
Director
Jedermanns Frau (1924)
Director
Tragodie im Hause Habsburg (1924)
Director
Das Unbekannte Morgen (1923)
Director
Eine Versunkene Welt (1922)
Director
Herren der Meere (1922)
Director
Seine Majestat das Bettelkind (1920)
Director
Aranyember, Az (1918)
Director
Mary Ann (1918)
Director
Szent Peter esernyoje (1917)
Director
Harrison es Barrison (1917)
Director
Magia (1917)
Director
A Golyakalifa (1917)
Director
Faun (1917)
Director
A Nevto Szaszkia (1916)
Director
Egymillio fontos banko, Az (1916)
Director
Vergodo szivek (1916)
Director
Magnas Miska (1916)
Director
Feher ejszakak (1916)
Director
Ciklamen (1916)
Director
A Ketszivu ferfi (1916)
Director
Mesek az irogeprol (1916)
Director
A Nagymama (1916)
Director
Lyon Lea (1915)
Director
Tutyu es Totyo (1915)
Director
A Tiszti kardbojt (1915)
Director () Directio) (Uncredited)
A Becsapott ujsagiro (1914)
Director

Writer (Feature Film)

Der Tanzer meiner Frau (1925)
Screenwriter
Das Unbekannte Morgen (1923)
Screenwriter
Feher ejszakak (1916)
Screenwriter
Mesek az irogeprol (1916)
Screenwriter
Egymillio fontos banko, Az (1916)
Screenwriter
A Nagymama (1916)
Screenwriter
A Tiszti kardbojt (1915)
Screenwriter

Producer (Feature Film)

The Epic That Never Was (I, Claudius) (1965)
Producer ("I, Claudius")
Smiley (1957)
Presented By
Storm Over the Nile (1956)
Producer
The Deep Blue Sea (1955)
Presented By
The Constant Husband (1955)
Producer
Raising a Riot (1955)
Producer
Marianne de ma jeunesse (1955)
Producer
The Teckman Mystery (1955)
Producer
I Am a Camera (1955)
Producer
Richard III (1955)
Producer
The Fighting Pimpernel (1954)
Executive Producer
The Man Who Loved Redheads (1954)
Producer
Hobson's Choice (1954)
Producer
The Heart of the Matter (1954)
Producer
The Green Scarf (1954)
Producer
The Belles of St. Trinian's (1954)
Producer
Devil Girl From Mars (1954)
Producer
Aunt Clara (1954)
Producer
The Man Between (1953)
Producer
Twice Upon a Time (1953)
Producer
The Story of Gilbert and Sullivan (1953)
Producer
Captain's Paradise (1953)
Producer
The Wild Heart (1952)
Executive Producer
The Holly and the Ivy (1952)
Producer
Home at Seven (1952)
Producer
La Fete A Henriette (1952)
Producer
Who Goes There! (1952)
Producer
The Sound Barrier (1952)
Producer
Folly to Be Wise (1952)
Producer
Cry, the Beloved Country (1952)
Producer
Lady Godiva Rides Again (1951)
Producer
The Tales of Hoffmann (1951)
Producer
Flesh and Blood (1951)
Producer
Miracle in Milan (1951)
Producer
Outcast of the Islands (1951)
Producer
Mr. Denning Drives North (1951)
Producer
Gone to Earth (1950)
Executive Producer
My Daughter Joy (1950)
Producer
The Happiest Days of Your Life (1950)
Producer
The Wooden Horse (1950)
Producer
State Secret (1950)
Producer
Seven Days to Noon (1950)
Producer
The Third Man (1949)
Presented By
Saints and Sinners (1949)
Producer
Hour of Glory (1949)
Producer
That Dangerous Age (1949)
Producer
Hour of Glory (1949)
Producer
The Cure For Love (1949)
Producer
Interrupted Journey (1949)
Producer
The Winslow Boy (1948)
Producer
Bonnie Prince Charlie (1948)
Producer
The Fallen Idol (1948)
Producer
Anna Karenina (1948)
Producer
An Ideal Husband (1947)
Producer
A Man About the House (1947)
Producer
Night Beat (1947)
Producer
Mine Own Executioner (1947)
Producer
Panique (1946)
Producer
The Shop at Sly Corner (1946)
Producer
Vacation from Marriage (1945)
Producer
To Be or Not to Be (1942)
Presented By
Rudyard Kipling's Jungle Book (1942)
Producer
New Wine (1941)
Executive Producer
That Hamilton Woman (1941)
Producer
Lydia (1941)
Producer
The Lion Has Wings (1940)
Producer
The Thief of Bagdad (1940)
Presented By
Over the Moon (1940)
Producer
21 Days Together (1940)
Producer
The Thief of Bagdad (1940)
Producer
Old Bill and Son (1940)
Producer
Conquest Of The Air (1940)
Producer
The Challenge (1939)
Executive Producer
The Four Feathers (1939)
Presented By
The Four Feathers (1939)
Producer
The Rebel Son (1939)
Producer
The Drum (1938)
Producer
The Gaiety Girls (1938)
Producer
Action for Slander (1938)
Presented By
South Riding (1938)
Producer
Murder on Diamond Row (1937)
Presented By
The Man Who Could Work Miracles (1937)
Producer
Fire over England (1937)
Presented By
Storm in a Teacup (1937)
Presented By
Dark Journey (1937)
Presented By
Men Are Not Gods (1937)
Presented By
Murder on Diamond Row (1937)
Producer
Things to Come (1936)
Producer
The Girl from Maxim's (1936)
Producer
I Stand Condemned (1936)
Executive Producer
Sanders of the River (1935)
Producer
The Scarlet Pimpernel (1935)
Producer
The Private Life of Don Juan (1934)
Producer
The Rise Of Catherine The Great (1934)
Producer
The Private Life of the Gannets (1934)
Producer
Counsel's Opinion (1933)
Producer
Strange Evidence (1933)
Producer
Wedding Rehearsal (1932)
Producer
A Kis lord (1918)
Producer
Karoly Bakak (1918)
Producer
A Testor (1918)
Producer
Piros bugyellaris (1917)
Producer
A Csikos (1917)
Producer
A Ketlelku asszony (1917)
Producer
A Peleskei notarius (1917)
Producer
A Riporterkiraly (1917)
Producer

Production Companies (Feature Film)

Vacation from Marriage (1945)
Company
Lydia (1941)
Company
Prison Without Bars (1939)
Company
The Drum (1938)
Company
The Return of the Scarlet Pimpernel (1938)
Company
The Divorce of Lady X (1938)
Company
Knight Without Armor (1937)
Company
Elephant Boy (1937)
Company
Rembrandt (1936)
Company
The Ghost Goes West (1936)
Company
The Scarlet Pimpernel (1935)
Company
Reserved for Ladies (1932)
Company

Misc. Crew (Feature Film)

The Rise Of Catherine The Great (1934)
Other

Life Events

1906

Moved to Budapest after death of father

1909

Left school and worked full-time as a journalist

1914

Founded film magazine, MOZIHET

1917

Bought Corvin production company

1919

Moved to Austria after overthrow of the Bela Kun regime

1923

Moved to Berlin

1927

Signed contract with First National and moved to Hollywood

1930

Made one film for Fox before contract was cancelled; moved back to Europe

1931

Signed contract with Paramount-British and moved to England

1932

Formed London Film Production

1939

Formed Alexander Korda Productions/Alexander Korda Films Inc.

1940

Moved to USA

1941

Formed Gloria Pictures and Romaine Film Productions

1942

Moved back to England

1943

Made head of newly formed alliance between London Films and MGM-British

1945

Resigned from MGM-Britsh

Photo Collections

The Private Life of Henry VIII - Movie Poster
Here is an original American-release movie poster for the Korda production The Private Life of Henry VIII (1933), starring Charles laughton.

Videos

Movie Clip

Things to Come (1936) - Stand to Arms The citizens of "Everytown" are both warned and reassured as they prepare for attack, while Cabal (Raymond Massey) and wife (Sophie Stewart) muse about their future in H.G. Wells Things to Come, 1936.
Things to Come (1936) - Opening, 1940, War The ominous credit and opening sequence from Things to Come, 1936, from H.G. Wells' screenplay and novel, produced by Alexander Korda and directed by famed production designer William Cameron Menzies.
To Be Or Not To Be (1942) - Do We Not Bleed? Pilot Stanislav (Robert Stack) with actress Maria in her Warsaw dressing room, news of the Nazi invasion, her husband Joseph (Jack Benny) confused, director Ernst Lubitsh's documentation resumes, actors Greenberg and Bronski (Felix Bressart, Tom Dugan) reflecting, in To Be Or Not To Be, 1942.
To Be Or Not To Be (1942) - August 1939 Director Ernst Lubitsch's famous opening, Tom Dugan as the German chancellor, stopping traffic in Warsaw, Jack Benny as the Nazi colonel, Charles Halton tangling with actor Felix Bressart, revealing the narrative device, in To Be Or Not To Be, 1942.
To Be Or Not To Be (1942) - I Love My Slippers! Bachelor pilot Stanislav (Robert Stack) on a secret mission back from England, discovered by actor Joseph (Jack Benny) in his apartment in occupied Warsaw, his actress wife Maria (Carole Lombard) returning with news of the suspected traitor, in Ernst Lubitsch's To Be Or Not To Be, 1942.
That Hamilton Woman (1941) - My Dear Captain Lady Hamilton (Vivien Leigh) thriving as the wife of Sir William (Alan Mowbray), the British ambassador to Naples, grapples with a social problem and meets young Captain Nelson (Laurence Olivier) for the first time, in Alexander Korda's That Hamilton Woman, 1941.
That Hamilton Woman (1941) - By The Queen's Own Hand At odds with history but smartly dressed by designer Rene Hubert, Lady Hamilton (Vivien Leigh) visits her old friend now Admiral Nelson (Laurence Olivier) aboard the Vanguard, shocked at his condition but bearing good news of her influence with the queen of Naples, in Alexander Korda's That Hamilton Woman, 1941.
That Hamilton Woman (1941) - Such Godlike Simplicity The flashback begins, introducing Sir William Hamilton (Alan Mowbray), the British ambassador to Naples, and a dazzling double entrance, first by portrait, of young Emma (Vivien Leigh), accompanied by her mother (Sara Allgood), in Alexander Korda's That Hamilton Woman, 1941, also starring Laurence Olivier.
That Hamilton Woman (1941) - Emma, Lady Hamilton Nothing inaccurate in this opening scene, Vivien Leigh as the now dissolute Lady Hamilton, who died in poverty in Calais in 1815, clashing with French authorities, rescued by English Mary (Heather Angel), in Alexander Korda's That Hamilton Woman, 1941, co-starring Laurence Olivier.
That Hamilton Woman (1941) - My Only Idea Of Happiness Still giddy over her social achievements (and reflecting on her disreputable former fiancè) Emma (now-Lady) Hamilton (Vivien Leigh) is awakened in her Naples bedroom, with her excited mother (Sara Allgood) and her fussy ambassador husband (Alan Mowbray) as the leading man (Laurence Olivier, Leigh’s husband, as Captain Nelson) is introduced, in Alexander Korda’s That Hamilton Woman, 1941.
That Hamilton Woman (1941) - What Mood Is This? Now-admiral Nelson (Laurence Olivier), bored with his hero’s welcome in Naples is now evading celebrations, indulging his interest in the title character (Vivien Leigh, Mrs. Olivier, as Emma, Lady Hamilton, wife of the British ambassador), in a tavern when his junior officers (Ronald Sinclair as Josiah) appear, Alexander Korda directing from the original screenplay by Walter Reisch and R.C. Sherriff, in That Hamilton Woman, 1941.
Four Feathers, The (1939) - Plenty For Other Men The four young officers introduced as adults, Ralph Richardson as Captain John, John Clements, Jack Allen and Donald Gray as lieutenants Harry, Willoughby and Peter, tension as their mission to Egypt is revealed, in Zoltan Korda's version of the A.E.W. Mason novel, The Four Feathers, 1939.

Trailer

Promo

Family

Zoltan Korda
Brother
Director, producer.
Vincent Korda
Brother
Production designer.
Michael Korda
Son

Companions

Maria Farkas
Wife
Actor. Married 1919-30.
Merle Oberon
Wife
Actor. Divorced 1945.
Alexandra Boycum
Wife
Married 1953.

Bibliography

"Charmed Lives: A Family Romance"
Michael Korda, Random House (1979)
"Alexander Korda - The Man Who Could Work Miracles"
Karol Kulik, Arlington House (1975)

Notes

Knighted in 1943.

"Alex was a genius, a genuinely talented fake." --director Andre de Toth