Otto Preminger: The Man Who Would Be King with Foster Hirsch

Otto Preminger Goes Independent, Takes Down the Production Code Administration, Fights Censorship, & Doesn't Hold Back His Temper.
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Even the casual Classic Hollywood fan is familiar with at least one Otto Preminger film.  Preminger directed and produced one of the best loved films of Hollywood’s Golden Age, the 1944 classic film noir, Laura.

One of Otto Preminger's best known films is the 1944 film noir, Laura.

But the stellar career of this Viennese director with the legendarily explosive temper didn’t stop there.  And the accomplishments of Otto’s nearly five decades as a filmmaker are nothing short of extraordinary.

otto preminger
Center: young Otto Preminger in Vienna.

Otto Preminger: A Trailblazer

Always ahead of his time, Otto Preminger was one of the first independent producers and directors of Classic Hollywood, casting aside the security of long-term studio contracts for the artistic freedom and rewards that came with risking it all on his own.

otto preminger

In the process, Otto dealt the Production Code Administration and their arbitrary moral code major blows, refusing to conform his films to the Code’s extremely limited definition of what was permissible on screen. 

Jimmy Stewart plays piano with Duke Ellington in Preminger's 1959 courtroom drama, Anatomy of a Murder.

With such films as the courtroom drama Anatomy of a Murder (1959) and the political drama Advise and Consent (1962), Otto became a public champion against censorship.

Dorothy Dandridge in Carmen Jones (1954).

He discovered three of the most ethereal actresses of the era who continue to captivate audiences today: Maggie McNamara in Preminger’s The Moon is Blue (1953), Dorothy Dandridge in Carmen Jones (1954), and Jean Seberg in Saint Joan (1957).

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Otto and Jean Seberg on the set of Bonjour Tristesse (1959).

And with his spot-on portrayals of authoritative Nazis in such films as Stalag 17 (1953), Otto Preminger became a familiar face with moviegoers, an accomplishment few directors of his time could claim.

Vanguard of Hollywood Podcast Special: Interview with Foster Hirsch

Join me for episode 56 of Vanguard of Hollywood as I discuss the fascinating life and career of Otto Preminger with film historian and Preminger biographer, Foster Hirsch.

Foster is a professor in the prestigious film studies program at Brooklyn College, and the author of nearly two dozen books.  As one of the foremost film interviewers, Foster has conducted insightful and nuanced interviews with such Classic Hollywood luminaries as Maria Cooper Janis, Caroll Baker, Don Murray, Julie Harris, Tab Hunter, and Christopher Plummer.  He also possesses an incredibly impressive collection of Greta Garbo owned items.

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Dorothy Dandridge, Harry Belafonte, Robert Mitchum, and Otto on the set of Carmen Jones (1954).

It’s an episode of Vanguard of Hollywood you don’t want to miss!  Be sure to listen in on Wednesday, November 10, when the episode drops.

otto preminger

Otto Preminger: The Man Who Would Be King

And head on over to Amazon [aff. link] or University Press of Kentucky to purchase your copy of Foster’s gripping biography, Otto Preminger: The Man Who Would Be King.

4 Responses

  1. Great podcast episode! Otto Preminger sounds like he was a complicated man. I thought it was neat that he was the first the put an end to “blacklisting” even though Kirk Douglas gets the credit for it

    1. Thanks for listening Petey! You are so right, Otto was definitely a complex man. Isn’t that cool that he was the first to break the blacklist? He deserves more credit!

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