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The Many Cinemas of Michael Curtiz

The Many Cinemas of Michael Curtiz

Leading film studies scholars explore the astonishing range of Michael Curtiz, the most prolific director of studio-era Hollywood, whose nearly one hundred films include Casablanca, White Christmas, and Mildred Pierce.

July 2018
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352 pages | 6 x 9 | 1 color and 35 b&w photos |

Hollywood—Casablanca , Yankee Doodle Dandy , The Sea Hawk , White Christmas, and Mildred Pierce, to name only a few. The most prolific and consistently successful Hollywood generalist with an all-embracing interest in different forms of narrative and spectacle, Curtiz made around a hundred films in an astonishing range of genres: action, biopics, melodramas/film noir, musicals, and westerns. But his important contributions to the history of American film have been overlooked because his broadly varied oeuvre does not present the unified vision of filmmaking that canonical criticism demands for the category of “auteur.”

Exploring his films and artistic practice from a variety of angles, including politics, gender, and genre, The Many Cinemas of Michael Curtiz sheds new light on this underappreciated cinematic genius. Leading film studies scholars offer fresh appraisals of many of Curtiz’s most popular films, while also paying attention to neglected releases of substantial historical interest, such as Noah’s Ark , Night and Day, Virginia City, Black Fury, Mystery of the Wax Museum, and Female. Because Curtiz worked for so long and in so many genres, this analysis of his work becomes more than an author study of a notable director. Instead, The Many Cinemas of Michael Curtiz effectively adds a major chapter to the history of Hollywood’s studio era, including its internationalism and the significant contributions of European émigrés.

  • Acknowledgments
  • Introduction. The Many Cinemas of Michael Curtiz (R. Barton Palmer and Murray Pomerance)
  • 1. Bending It Like Curtiz: Gender and Genre in The Scarlet Hour and The Helen Morgan Story (Rebecca Bell-Metereau)
  • 2. Making a Life with Father (David Desser)
  • 3. The Jewish Jazz Singer Remakes His Voice: Michael Curtiz's Update of the Warner Bros. Classic (Seth Friedman)
  • 4. "Don't Fence Me In": The Making of Night and Day (Mark Glancy)
  • 5. Long Love the Queen: Bette Davis, Curtiz, and Female Melodrama (David Greven)
  • 6. Double-Time in America: Yankee Doodle Dandy (Julie Grossman )
  • 7. Mildred Pierce: From Script to Screen (Kristen Hatch)
  • 8. Curtiz at Sea: Captain Blood, The Sea Hawk, The Sea Wolf, and The Breaking Point (Nathan Holmes)
  • 9. Curtiz in the White House (Bill Krohn)
  • 10. The Spectacle of the Ages: Noah's Ark (Katharina Loew )
  • 11. Jazz Me Blues: Lo-Fi, Fantasy, Audiovisuality in Young Man with a Horn (Robert Miklitsch)
  • 12. A Setting Sun: The Egyptian (Deron Overpeck)
  • 13. King Creole: Michael Curtiz and the Great Elvis Presley Industry (Landon Palmer)
  • 14. Michael Curtiz's Political Cinema of Sorts (R. Barton Palmer)
  • 15. Curtiz's New Western Aesthetic (Homer B. Pettey)
  • 16. Michael Curtiz's Gamble for Christmas (Murray Pomerance)
  • 17. Film Performance before and after the Code: Mandalay and Stolen Holiday (Steven Rybin)
  • 18. "A Mass of Contradictions": Michael Curtiz and the Women's Film (Michele Schreiber)
  • 19. Devil-May-Care: Curtiz and Flynn in Hollywood (Constantine Verevis)
  • 20. Uncanny Effigies: Early Sound Cinema and Mystery of the Wax Museum (Colin Williamson)
  • Michael Curtiz Filmography
  • Contributors
  • Index

Atlanta, Georgia

Palmer is Calhoun Lemon Professor of Literature at Clemson University in Clemson, South Carolina, and author or editor of many books, including Hollywood's Tennessee: The Williams Films and Postwar America and After Hitchcock: Influence, Imitation, and Intertextuality..

Toronto, Ontario

Pomerance is Professor of Sociology at Ryerson University. He is the author or editor of many books, including The Man Who Knew Too Much, Moment of Action: Riddles of Cinematic Performance, and The Eyes Have It: Cinema and the Reality Effect. He is also the editor or coeditor of several book series in film studies.


“2018 brings an aptly titled essay collection, The Many Cinemas of Michael Curtiz. . . Perhaps pointedly, none of the essayists focus on Casablanca (1942). Instead, The Many Cinemas examine genres Curtiz worked in, his handling of political messages and his relations with actors.”
Shepherd Express

The Many Cinemas of Michael Curtiz goes a long way to explaining and clarifying how and why the uncanny medium of cinema makes it a fair claim that filmmakers such as Michael Curtiz were actually painters with light and sound. It’s just that their paintings spoke and moved like living things, because that’s what they were: darkly shining reflections from behind the mirror.”
Critics at Large

“The twenty essays here amply demonstrate how rich and productive readings of a director's work can be when due attention is paid to easing out the complex webs of collaboration, studio/commercial pressures, external factors (such as censorship), and cultural discourse that contribute to the shaping of film content and reception.”
Western Historical Quarterly

“An exemplary volume. The points of view of the contributors are as diverse as the ‘many cinemas’ they write about, but every essay is scrupulously researched and lucidly written, and draws reasonable conclusions that illuminate both the circumstances of production and Curtiz’s contribution, technically and aesthetically, to the final film. The essays collectively challenge the field to revise and deepen its prevailing views as to what, in the medium of film, authorship is.”
William Rothman, University of Miami, author of Must We Kill the Thing We Love? Emersonian Perfectionism and the Films of Alfred Hitchcock

“This book is the most comprehensive critical treatment to date of Curtiz’s work, with an eclectic range of approaches that not only make it useful to the discussion of Curtiz, but also provide a fine set of models for writing film criticism.”
James Morrison, Claremont McKenna College, author of Passport to Hollywood: Hollywood Films, European Directors


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