Curt Siodmak


Screenwriter

About

Also Known As
Kurt Siodmak, Curtis Siodmak
Birth Place
Germany
Born
August 10, 1902
Died
September 02, 2000

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...

Family & Companions

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

Bibliography

"Donovan's Brain"
Curt Siodmak, Alfred A. Knopf (1942)
"Even a Man Who Is Pure in Heart"
Curt Siodmak

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]."

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 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.

Filmography

 

Director (Feature Film)

Ski Fever (1969)
Director
Love Slaves of the Amazons (1957)
Director
Curucu, Beast of the Amazon (1956)
Director
The Magnetic Monster (1953)
Director
Bride of the Gorilla (1951)
Director

Cast (Feature Film)

Universal Horror (1998)

Writer (Feature Film)

The Wolfman (2010)
Source Material
Ritual (2005)
From Original Screenplay
Ski Fever (1969)
Screenwriter
The Devil's Messenger (1962)
Original Screenplay (see note)
Love Slaves of the Amazons (1957)
Writer
Curucu, Beast of the Amazon (1956)
Writer
Earth vs. the Flying Saucers (1956)
Screenplay story
Creature with the Atom Brain (1955)
Story and Screenplay
Riders to the Stars (1954)
Screenwriter
The Magnetic Monster (1953)
Original Story
The Magnetic Monster (1953)
Screenwriter
Bride of the Gorilla (1951)
Writer
Tarzan's Magic Fountain (1949)
Screenwriter
Berlin Express (1948)
Story
The Beast with Five Fingers (1947)
Screenwriter
The Return of Monte Cristo (1946)
Original Story
Shady Lady (1945)
Original Screenplay
Frisco Sal (1945)
Original Screenplay
House of Frankenstein (1945)
Based on a Story by
The Climax (1944)
Screenwriter
The Climax (1944)
Adaptation
False Faces (1943)
Original Screenplay
The Mantrap (1943)
Original Screenplay
London Blackout Murders (1943)
Original Screenplay
Frankenstein Meets the Wolf Man (1943)
Original Screenplay
I Walked with a Zombie (1943)
Screenwriter
The Purple V (1943)
Screenwriter
Son of Dracula (1943)
Original Story
The Invisible Agent (1942)
Original Screenplay
Pacific Blackout (1942)
From Story
The Wolf Man (1941)
Original Screenplay
Pacific Blackout (1941)
Story
Aloma of the South Seas (1941)
Story by
The Invisible Man Returns (1940)
Screenwriter
Black Friday (1940)
Original Screenplay
The Ape (1940)
Screenwriter
The Invisible Woman (1940)
Original Story
The Invisible Man Returns (1940)
Story
The Ape (1940)
Adaptation
Her Jungle Love (1938)
Contr to Screenplay const
Her Jungle Love (1938)
Story
Non-Stop New York (1937)
Screenwriter
Transatlantic Tunnel (1935)
Screenwriter
La Crise Est Finie (1934)
Novel As Source Material

Producer (Feature Film)

Love Slaves of the Amazons (1957)
Producer

Music (Feature Film)

Frankenstein Meets the Wolf Man (1943)
Composer

Life Events

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

Second movie adaptation of "Donovan's Brain"

1953

Wrote and directed, "The Magnetic Monster"

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

Videos

Movie Clip

Wolf Man, The (1941) - A Wolf And A Star Lon Chaney Jr. (as Larry Talbot) carries off the vapid Americanized playboy piece of his role, dropping in on English shop-girl Gwen (Evelyn Ankers), whom he's seen through his telescope, early in Universal's The Wolf Man, 1941.
Earth Vs. The Flying Saucers (1956) - Operation Sky Hook Opening scenes, frisky newlyweds Dr. Martin (Hugh Marlowe) and Carol (Joan Taylor) en route to his rocket-science job, laying down details on his dictaphone when Ray Harryhausen's first spaceship appears, in Earth Vs. The Flying Saucers, 1956.
Earth Vs. The Flying Saucers (1956) - Your Watch Hasn't Stopped Scientist Russ (Hugh Marlowe) has made his own appointment with the aliens on a beach, wife Carole (Joan Taylor) and Major Huglin (Donald Curtis) reluctantly joining, for an exhibit of power, via Ray Harryhausen effects, in Earth Vs. The Flying Saucers, 1956.
Earth Vs. The Flying Saucers (1956) - No Time For Gags Sgt. Nash (Clark Howat) in the command tower urging people to cut the goofy chatter before the rocket launch, General Hanley (Morris Ankrum) concurring, before a dramatic change of circumstances, in Earth Vs. The Flying Saucers, 1956, special effects by Ray Harryhausen.
Beast With Five Fingers, The (1947) - I Couldn't Be Mistaken Lawyer Duprex (David Hoffman) is messing with the will of dead pianist "Ingram," when a hand wearing his ring visits, then nurse Julie (Andrea King), would-be heir Arlington (Charles Dingle) and weird secretary Hilary (Peter Lorre) are awakened by music, in The Beast With Five Fingers, 1947.
Beast With Five Fingers, The (1947) - Don't Leave Me Alone! Former musician Conrad (Robert Alda) visits the Italian Alpine villa where one-armed pianist Ingram (Victor Francen) and nurse Julie (Andrea King) await, creepy aide Hilary (Peter Lorre) lurking, early in Robert Florey's The Beast With Five Fingers, 1947.
Beast With Five Fingers, The (1947) - He Would Have Killed Me Nurse Julie (Andrea King) sits with stricken pianist Ingram (Victor Francen), who has recently assaulted his secretary Hilary (Peter Lorre), and who then takes an ill-advised trip from his bedroom, weirdness by director Robert Florey, in The Beast With Five Fingers, 1947.
I Walked With A Zombie (1943) - There's Been No Crying Here Nurse Betsy (Frances Dee) on her first night at the island plantation, hears a voice, then meets her patient (Christine Jordan), whose husband (Tom Conway) and servants (Theresa Harris, Richard Abrams, Vivian Dandridge) soon intervene, in producer Val Lewton's I Walked With A Zombie, 1943.
I Walked With A Zombie (1943) - Everything Good Dies Here Efficient and captivating opening, as Canadian nurse Betsy (Frances Dee) is interviewed (by one-armed Alan Edmiston) for a job with West Indian sugar planter Holland (Tom Conway), in I Walked With A Zombie, 1943, from producer Val Lewton and director Jacques Tourneur.
Berlin Express (1948) - Maya The Mind Reader Seeking her kidnapped boss, on a tour of post-war Frankfurt night clubs, where cigarettes are legal tender, French Lucienne (Merle Oberon) and American Lindley (Robert Ryan) finally pick up a smoking clue, in Jacques Tourneur's Berlin Express, 1948.
Berlin Express (1948) - Displaced Persons Continuing narration, on location at Gare de l'Este in Paris, American Lindley (Robert Ryan) already introduced, we meet characters played by Peter von Zerneck, Merle Oberon, Charles Korvin, Roman Toporov, Robert Coote and Fritz Cortner, in Jacques Tourneur's spy drama, Berlin Express, 1948.
I Walked With A Zombie (1943) - Carre Four Against the advice of the native maid, nurse Betsy (Frances Dee) brings patient Jessica (Christine Gordon) to seek a voodoo cure, meeting sentry Carre Four (Darby Jones) and various performers, a famous scene from producer Val Lewton and director Jacques Tourneur in I Walked With A Zombie, 1943.

Trailer

Family

Robert Siodmak
Brother
Director. Born in 1900; died in 1973.
Geoffrey Siodmak
Son

Companions

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

Bibliography

"Donovan's Brain"
Curt Siodmak, Alfred A. Knopf (1942)
"Even a Man Who Is Pure in Heart"
Curt Siodmak

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.