Stanley Kramer


Producer
Stanley Kramer

About

Also Known As
Stanley Earl Kramer, Stanley E Kramer
Birth Place
New York City, New York, USA
Born
September 29, 1913
Died
February 19, 2001
Cause of Death
Pneumonia And Complications From Diabetes

Biography

Stanley Kramer made his reputation during the 1950s and 60s as one of the few producers and directors willing to tackle issues most studios sought to avoid, such as racism, the Holocaust and nuclear annihilation. He came to Hollywood an aspiring writer and hooked on with MGM, working first as a scenery mover and carpenter and then in their research department before spending three years ...

Photos & Videos

Guess Who's Coming to Dinner - Movie Poster
Judgment at Nuremberg - Movie Poster
The Defiant Ones - Movie Posters

Family & Companions

Anne Pearce
Wife
Writer, executive, producer. Married in 1950; divorced; died on December 3, 2000 at age 74.
Karen Kramer
Wife
Producer, former actor. Married in 1977.

Bibliography

"It's a Mad, Mad, Mad, Mad World: A Life in Hollywood"
Stanley Kramer with Thomas m Coffey, Harcourt Brace (1997)

Notes

Some sources list September 23 as Mr. Kramer's birthdate.

"I am not completely conscious of the political or social significance of a film at the time of the selection of material. It may be something which appeals to me very much, perhaps emotionally, and it may be that I am attracted by things which are social in terms of my own emotions. That seems . . . to be the premise on which I start . . . In the last three films we have dealt with the problems of the Negro in America; the problem on the nuclear family, as it's called; and the problem of the right of a schoolteacher to teach freely . . . These have been things which I felt were dramatic because they were a cross section of the times in which we live." --Stanley Kramer, quoted in FILMS AND FILMING, June 1960

Biography

Stanley Kramer made his reputation during the 1950s and 60s as one of the few producers and directors willing to tackle issues most studios sought to avoid, such as racism, the Holocaust and nuclear annihilation. He came to Hollywood an aspiring writer and hooked on with MGM, working first as a scenery mover and carpenter and then in their research department before spending three years there as an editor. He wrote for radio as well as for Columbia and Republic Studios for awhile, but it was as a strong-willed independent producer that Kramer would finally make his mark. Though his first feature ("So This Is New York," 1948) flopped, he hit his stride with his next one, the intense and exciting anti-boxing pic "Champion" (1949), which propelled Kirk Douglas to stardom and launched Mark Robson's career as an important director.

The series of commercially successful economy productions that followed, by turns prestigious and socially responsible and all scripted by "Champion" screenwriter Carl Foreman, established Kramer as bankable in the industry's eyes. Both Robson's "Home of the Brave" (1949), which addressed the persecution of a black soldier by his white comrades, and Fred Zinnemann's "The Men" (1950), a drama about paraplegic war veterans featuring Marlon Brando in his first screen role, were melodramas with provocatively modern and relevant situations and settings. Kramer then took a holiday from the contemporary tracts with "Cyrano de Bergerac" (1950), a film that earned a Best Actor Oscar for Jose Ferrer. By the time the last and best of these, the allegorical Western "High Noon" (1952), won an aging Gary Cooper a Best Actor Oscar (among the four it received), Kramer had already made his deal with the devil, having agreed to produce 30 films over a five year period for Columbia.

Money spoiled the look Kramer had managed to give his independent pictures. The films he oversaw for Columbia were glossier and closer in "production values" to other big-studio productions but lacked the do-it-yourself excitement of his earlier work, and all but the last one lost money. Edward Dmytryk's hugely successful screen version of Herman Wouk's "The Caine Mutiny" (1954) would cover the losses of the other nine, but Columbia had already seen enough and bought out his contract before the film's release, opening the door for him to fulfill a long-standing ambition to direct as well as produce his films. Although his films for Columbia fell below the standards he had set on his own, most boasted fine acting and probably deserved better than they got, but adaptations of "Death of a Salesman" (1951) and "Member of the Wedding" (1952) proved too highbrow for the public while the remarkable cult children's film "The Five Thousand Fingers of Dr T" (1953), a fantasy devised by Dr Seuss, was just a little too "out there" for the times.

"Not As a Stranger" (1955), a melodramatic hospital story which critics disparaged as well-acted fluff, started Kramer's directing career off with a commercial bang, but his second film, "The Pride and the Passion" (1957), was the silliest project he ever undertook. "The Defiant Ones" (1958), regarded by many as his best directorial effort, returned to the race card and began his ten-year run as one of the most successful (and certainly the most earnest) directors in Hollywood. Kramer then tackled the problem of The Bomb itself with "On the Beach" (1959), arranging its simultaneous release in 18 cities, including Moscow, to help save the world, before helming two courtroom dramas based on real events, "Inherit the Wind" (1960), the gripping tale of the Scopes' "monkey" trial, and "Judgment at Nuremberg" (1961), his indictment of Nazi war atrocities. Although the subject matter addressed was always important, Kramer's excessive forthrightness stacked the deck to manipulate sentiment, causing many critics to resent his heavy-handedness, no one more than Pauline Kael who repeatedly assailed his "self-righteous, self-congratulatory" tone.

After picking up the 1961 Irving G Thalberg Award from the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences for his social responsibility, Kramer switched to comedy, giving slapstick a black eye with his overly ambitious "It's a Mad Mad Mad Mad World" (1963), before returning to the more serious terrain of Katherine Anne Porter's novel "Ship of Fools" (1995), which he dispatched in an absorbingly well-paced, tidily knit adaptation. Of course, the audience could not possibly miss the point that the world's weakness permitted Hitler's rise since there was an urbane and sardonic dwarf (Michael Dunn) to spell it out for them, yet despite the lack of subtlety exhibited during his heyday, Kramer consistently put great acting on display. His last big success, "Guess Who's Coming to Dinner" (1967), was no exception, offering sterling performances by Sidney Poitier, Spencer Tracy and Katharine Hepburn that overcame a saccharine screenplay which nonetheless dealt with the then relatively taboo subject of interracial marriage. Could any eye stay dry at its end when he sustained that two shot of Tracy in profile on the left foreground of the screen and Hepburn, her eyes brimming with tears, in the right background looking at the love of her life knowing full well he is not long for the world?

Of Kramer's remaining six films, "Oklahoma Crude" (1973), with its careful attention to period detail and fine performances by Faye Dunaway, George C Scott and Jack Palance, was probably the best, but after increasingly negative notices for "The Domino Principle" (1977) and the downright disastrous "The Runner Stumbles" (1979), there were no longer any studios willing to sponsor the man once regarded as the "conscience" of Hollywood. The hostility of the critical establishment towards Kramer is no doubt to some extent a reaction against the excessive praise which greeted his early work, but there can also be little doubt that he achieved his highest quality of artistic expression as an independent producer of the late 40s and early 50s, benefiting from fine scripts by Carl Foreman and the complementary vision of his men at the helm. Though flawed by their lack of even-handedness, his pictures as a producer-director were invariably intelligent, ambitious and well-intentioned efforts striking morally (and commercially) responsive chords for their times. In his later years, Kramer often turned up on TV interview documentaries about Hollywood's past, proving himself a lively raconteur and unabashed fan of the many talented people with whom he had worked. In 1997, he published his memoirs, "It's a Mad, Mad, Mad, Mad World: A Life in Hollywood."

Filmography

 

Director (Feature Film)

The Runner Stumbles (1979)
Director
The Domino Principle (1977)
Director
Oklahoma Crude (1973)
Director
Bless the Beasts & Children (1971)
Director
R. P. M. (1970)
Director
The Secret of Santa Vittoria (1969)
Director
Guess Who's Coming to Dinner (1967)
Director
Ship of Fools (1965)
Director
It's a Mad, Mad, Mad, Mad World (1963)
Director
Judgment at Nuremberg (1961)
Director
Inherit the Wind (1960)
Director
On the Beach (1959)
Director
The Defiant Ones (1958)
Director
The Pride and the Passion (1957)
Director
Not As a Stranger (1955)
Director

Cast (Feature Film)

Grace Kelly: The American Princess (1987)
The Spencer Tracy Legacy (1986)
Journey Into Self (1969)
Intro Spoken by

Producer (Feature Film)

The Runner Stumbles (1979)
Producer
The Domino Principle (1977)
Producer
Oklahoma Crude (1973)
Producer
Bless the Beasts & Children (1971)
Producer
R. P. M. (1970)
Producer
The Secret of Santa Vittoria (1969)
Producer
Guess Who's Coming to Dinner (1967)
Producer
Ship of Fools (1965)
Producer
It's a Mad, Mad, Mad, Mad World (1963)
Presented By
A Child Is Waiting (1963)
Producer
It's a Mad, Mad, Mad, Mad World (1963)
Producer
Pressure Point (1962)
Producer
Judgment at Nuremberg (1961)
Presented By
Judgment at Nuremberg (1961)
Producer
Inherit the Wind (1960)
Producer
On the Beach (1959)
Producer
On the Beach (1959)
Presented By
The Defiant Ones (1958)
Producer
The Defiant Ones (1958)
Presented By
The Pride and the Passion (1957)
Producer
Not As a Stranger (1955)
Producer
The Caine Mutiny (1954)
Producer
The Wild One (1954)
Producer
The Four Poster (1953)
Executive Producer
The Juggler (1953)
Producer
The 5000 Fingers of Dr. T (1953)
Producer
Cyrano de Bergerac (1951)
Producer
The Men (1950)
Producer
Home of the Brave (1949)
Producer
Champion (1949)
Producer
So This Is New York (1948)
Producer
The Moon and Sixpence (1942)
Associate Producer

Film Production - Main (Feature Film)

Journey Into Self (1969)
Adv
Lucy Gallant (1955)
Script Supervisor
So Ends Our Night (1941)
Production Assistant

Production Companies (Feature Film)

R. P. M. (1970)
Company
Guess Who's Coming to Dinner (1967)
Company
Ship of Fools (1965)
Company
Invitation to a Gunfighter (1964)
Company
It's a Mad, Mad, Mad, Mad World (1963)
Company
Pressure Point (1962)
Company
The Caine Mutiny (1954)
Company
The Member of the Wedding (1953)
Company
The Four Poster (1953)
Company
The 5000 Fingers of Dr. T (1953)
Company
Death of a Salesman (1952)
Company
The Happy Time (1952)
Company
The Sniper (1952)
Company
High Noon (1952)
Company
Eight Iron Men (1952)
Company

Misc. Crew (Feature Film)

Hotel Terminus: The Life and Times of Klaus Barbie (1988)
Assistant
Marlene (1984)
Other

Director (Special)

Guess Who's Coming to Dinner (1975)
Director

Cast (Special)

AFI Salute to Sidney Poitier (1992)
Performer
Anthony Quinn (1990)
Montgomery Clift: His Place in the Sun (1989)
Cary Grant: The Leading Man (1988)

Writer (Special)

Guess Who's Coming to Dinner (1975)
From Film ("Guess Who'S Coming To Dinner")

Producer (Special)

Guess Who's Coming to Dinner (1975)
Producer

Special Thanks (Special)

Guess Who's Coming to Dinner (1975)
From Film ("Guess Who'S Coming To Dinner")

Life Events

1934

Worked in MGM's editing department for three years (dates approximate)

1936

Joined a short film unit at MGM headed by Jack Chertok; worked as a production assistant

1941

Was a production assistant on the feature, "So Ends Our Night", directed by John Cromwell

1942

Was an associate producer of "The Moon and Sixpence", directed by Albert Lewin

1948

Produced first film, "So This Is New York", based on Lardner's "The Big Town"

1949

Scored first commercial success as producer with "Champion" (also based on a Lardner tale), which brought stardom to Kirk Douglas, Ruth Roman and Lola Albright and launched Mark Robson's career as an important director

1949

Began addressing social issues with "Home of the Brave"

1951

Production unit became the Stanley Kramer Company, committed to producing 30 films in five years for Columbia

1952

Garnered first Academy Award nomination as producer of "High Noon"

1954

Columbia bought out his contract before release of "The Caine Mutiny", reacting to heavy losses incurred by its predecessors; film earned Kramer an Oscar nomination

1955

First film as director, "Not as a Stranger", a smash hit which critics decried as a trashy trifle

1958

Helmed "The Defiant Ones", regarded by most critics as his best directorial effort; Kramer earned Academy Award nominations for Best Picture (as producer) and Best Director

1959

Depicted the world facing nuclear destruction in "On the Beach", arranging for it to open simultaneously in 18 cities, including Moscow; the noted scientist and anti-nuclear advocate Linus Pauling speculated, "It may be that some years from now we can look back and say that 'On the Beach' is the movie that saved the world."

1960

First of four movies with Spencer Tracey, the screen adaptation of "Inherit the Wind", about the 1925 Scopes' "monkey" trial

1961

Returned to the courtroom with "Judgment at Nurenberg", a fictionalized account of the prosecution of German War criminals following WWII; Oscar nominated as producer (Best Picture) and Best Director

1963

Turned to comedy for "It's a Mad Mad Mad Mad World", achieving mixed results

1964

Last feature producing credit on a film he did not also direct, "Invitation to a Gunfighter", directed by Richard Wilson

1965

Returned to more serious fare with film version of Katherine Anne Porter's "Ship of Fools"; film nominated for Best Picture Oscar

1967

Last film with Tracy (and Tracy's last film), "Guess Who's Coming to Dinner", was also Kramer's last major success; earned Academy Award nominations for Best Picture and as Best Director

1967

Appeared on the NBC documentary special, "Bogart", a portrait of Humphrey Bogart

1968

Was an interviewee on the ABC documentary special, "Sophia", a biography of Sophia Loren

1974

Directed the three ABC-TV documentary specials, "Judgment: The Trial of Julius and Ethel Rosenberg", "Judgment: The Court-Martial of the Tiger of Malaya, General Yamashita" and "Judgment: The Court-Martial of Lt. William Calley"; Kramer also produced and narrated

1975

Created, produced and directed the ABC comedy pilot, "Guess Who's Coming to Dinner", based on his 1967 feature film

1979

Last feature directing and producing credit to date, "The Runner Stumbles"

1982

Was the subject of the TV documentary, "Stanley Kramer on Film"

1997

Published autobiography, "It's a Mad Mad Mad Mad World: A Life in Hollywood", written with Thomas M Coffey

Photo Collections

Guess Who's Coming to Dinner - Movie Poster
Here is the American one-sheet movie poster for Guess Who's Coming to Dinner (1967). One-sheets measured 27x41 inches, and were the poster style most commonly used in theaters.
Judgment at Nuremberg - Movie Poster
Here is the American one-sheet movie poster for Judgment at Nuremberg (1961), directed by Stanley Kramer. One-sheets measured 27x41 inches, and were the poster style most commonly used in theaters.
The Defiant Ones - Movie Posters
Here are a few original-release movie posters for Stanley Kramer's The Defiant Ones (1958), starring Tony Curtis and Sidney Poitier.
The Men - Lobby Card
Here is a lobby card from The Men (1950), starring Marlon Brando. Lobby Cards were 11" x 14" posters that came in sets of 8. As the name implies, they were most often displayed in movie theater lobbies, to advertise current or coming attractions.

Videos

Movie Clip

Wild One, The (1954) - Whadda Ya Got? Scene which maybe over-emphasizes the famous line in which Johnny (Marlon Brando) is asked what he and the Black Rebels are rebelling against, in The Wild One, 1954, Brando more interested in waitress Kathie (Mary Murphy).
Wild One, The (1954) - This Is The Main Event Improbably articulate Chino (Lee Marvin) has led his rival bike gang into town and is itching for a fight with ex-pal Johnny (Marlon Brando), leader of the Black Rebels, in The Wild One, 1954.
5,000 Fingers Of Dr. T - Go Back To Your Cell! Mom (Mary Healy) and the plumber (Peter Lind Hayes) chat as Bart (Tommy Rettig) dreams his way into the world run by his evil piano teacher (Hans Conried) in the "Dr. Seuss" movie, The 5,000 Fingers Of Dr. T, 1953.
5,000 Fingers Of Dr. T (1953) - Not My Instrument Strangeness right from the top, the opening to the only movie ever written by "Dr. Seuss" (Ted Geisel), The 5,000 Fingers Of Dr. T, 1953, starring Hans Conried and Tommy Rettig, directed by Roy Rowland.
5,000 Fingers Of Dr. T - Beat The Bushes! Dr. T (Hans Conried) panics as Bart (Tommy Rettig) has escaped, his enslaved mother (Mary Healy) helping search, thugs chasing, in the only movie written by "Dr. Seuss" (Ted Geisel), The 5,000 Fingers Of Dr. T. 1953.
5,000 Fingers Of Dr. T - Dungeon For Scratchy Violins Fleeing Bart (Tommy Rettig) has come upon the "Dungeon For Scratchy Violins" (etc.) and a big musical number as staged by Eugene Loring, in director Roy Rowland's "Dr. Seuss" movie, The 5,000 Fingers Of Dr. T, 1953.
5,000 Fingers Of Dr. T - One Extra Boom Busted by the singing guards, Bart (Tommy Rettig) and August (Peter Lind Hayes) are ushered to the elevator by Dr. T (Hans Conried), where the attendant (Alan Aric) does a strange song, in The 5,000 Fingers Of Dr. T, 1953.
Ship Of Fools (1965) - Don't Bother Getting Up Widow Mary (Vivien Leigh) meets ex-ballplayer Tenny (Lee Marvin), then anti-Semite Rieber (Jose Ferrer) is joined by Dr. Schumann (Oskar Werner), then misfits Glocken (Michael Dunn) and Lowenthal (Heinz Rumann) on board a German liner off Mexico, 1933, in Ship Of Fools, 1965.
Sniper, The (1952) - Open, Law Enforcement Is Helpless Journalistic and inflammatory, the dramatized quasi-factual prologue, and the introduction of Arthur Franz as the title character, in producer Stanley Kramer and director Edward Dmytryk’s first collaboration, The Sniper, 1952, also starring Adolphe Menjou and Richard Kiley, shot largely in San Francisco.
Sniper, The (1952) - Find Me And Stop Me Digging into the psycho material now, Arthur Franz as Eddie (title character) seems to know he’s finding it too easy to get away with killing women with his rifle, makes a cry for help then goes after sexy May (Marlo Dwyer), whom he met the night of the first murder, in The Sniper, 1952.
Sniper, The (1952) - They Said I Was Looking In Their Windows Big set piece by director Edward Dmytryk, Ralph Peters the snarky cop at the podium as suspects John Pickard, Byron Foulger and Ralph Smiley are shredded, then Richard Kiley’s first scene as shrink Kent, discouraging chief cop Anderson (Frank Faylen) and Lt. Kafka (Adolphe Menjou) in The Sniper, 1952.
Sniper, The (1952) - Getting Tough With Women Kind of chance meeting at San Francisco Chinese joint, cop Kafka (Adolphe Menjou) meets getting-jaded criminologist Kent (Richard Kiley) who holds forth what we already know is spot-on reasoning about the thus-far unsuspected perp, in director Edward Dmytryk’s The Sniper, 1952.

Trailer

Pride and The Passion, The - (Original Trailer) A British naval officer (Cary Grant) helps Spanish peasants haul a large cannon cross-country to battle Napoleon in The Pride and The Passion (1957).
Guess Who's Coming To Dinner - (Original Trailer) Spencer Tracy's last film and last with Katharine Hepburn was this story of a liberal couple tested when their daughter brings home a black fiancee.
Cyrano de Bergerac (1951) - (Original Trailer) The Best Actor award went to Jose Ferrer for his portrayal of Cyrano de Bergerac (1951).
On The Beach - (Original Trailer) After a nuclear war, U.S. sailors stationed in Australia deal with the death of humanity in Stanley Kramer's On The Beach (1959).
5,000 Fingers of Dr. T, The - (Teaser Trailer) A young boy dreams that his piano teacher (Hans Conreid) is a super-villain out to rule the world. The first movie based on the wild imagination of Dr. Seuss.
Inherit the Wind -- (Original Trailer) In the twenties, a schoolteacher creates a national furor by teaching evolution in his class in Inherit the Wind (1960), directed by Stanley Kramer and starring Spencer Tracy and Fredric March.
Defiant Ones, The - (Original Trailer) Two convicts, a white racist and an angry black, escape while chained to each other. Starring Sidney Poitier and Tony Curtis.
Judgment at Nuremberg -- (Original Trailer) Eleven Academy Award nominations went to this all-star Stanley Kramer production Judgment At Nuremberg (1961).
It's a Mad, Mad, Mad, Mad World - (Original Trailer) A group of greedy clowns tear up the countryside in search of buried treasure in It's a Mad, Mad, Mad, Mad World (1963) featuring an all-star cast including Spencer Tracy, Sid Caesar, Milton Berle & Jonathan Winters.
Child is Waiting, A - (Original Trailer) An emotionally fragile woman takes a job teaching mentally handicapped children in A Child is Waiting (1963),directed by John Cassettes and starring Judy Garland and Burt Lancaster.

Family

Casey Kramer
Daughter
Mother, Anne Pearce; acted in father's "The Runner Stumbles" (1979).
Larry Kramer
Son
Mother, Anne Pearce.
Katherine Kramer
Daughter
Singer producer. Born c. 1968; mother, Karen Sharpe; acted in "The Runner Stumbles".
Jennifer Kramer
Daughter
Actor. Studied acting with Mike Nichols; mother, Karen Sharpe; acted in "The Runner Stumbles".

Companions

Anne Pearce
Wife
Writer, executive, producer. Married in 1950; divorced; died on December 3, 2000 at age 74.
Karen Kramer
Wife
Producer, former actor. Married in 1977.

Bibliography

"It's a Mad, Mad, Mad, Mad World: A Life in Hollywood"
Stanley Kramer with Thomas m Coffey, Harcourt Brace (1997)

Notes

Some sources list September 23 as Mr. Kramer's birthdate.

"I am not completely conscious of the political or social significance of a film at the time of the selection of material. It may be something which appeals to me very much, perhaps emotionally, and it may be that I am attracted by things which are social in terms of my own emotions. That seems . . . to be the premise on which I start . . . In the last three films we have dealt with the problems of the Negro in America; the problem on the nuclear family, as it's called; and the problem of the right of a schoolteacher to teach freely . . . These have been things which I felt were dramatic because they were a cross section of the times in which we live." --Stanley Kramer, quoted in FILMS AND FILMING, June 1960

Kramer's biggest disappointment was "Ship of Fools": "I thought it would be a classic. Boy, was I wrong. I overproduced it and overdirected it. I blame myself." --Kramer quoted by THE NEW YORK TIMES, September 19, 1997