|Name:||Josef von Sternberg|
|Birth Day:||May 29, 1894|
|Death Date:||Dec 22, 1969 (age 75)|
|Height:||in centimeters - N/A|
|Weight:||in kg - N/A|
Director of such films as The Last Command and The Blue Angel. His movies with acclaimed actress Marlene Dietrich include Blonde Venus, Shanghai Express, and The Devil is a Woman.
As per our current Database, Josef von Sternberg died on Dec 22, 1969 (age 75).
He held a job cleaning and repairing movie prints.
Josef von Sternberg was born Jonas Sternberg to an impoverished Orthodox Jewish family in Vienna, at that time part of the Austro-Hungarian Empire. When Sternberg was three years old, his father Moses Sternberg, a former soldier in the army of Austria-Hungary, moved to the United States to seek work. His mother, Serafine (née Singer), and her children joined Moses in America in 1901 when the young Sternberg was seven. On his emigration, von Sternberg is quoted as saying "On our arrival in the New World we were first detained on Ellis Island where the immigration officers inspected us like a herd of cattle." Jonas attended public school until the family, except Moses, returned to Vienna three years later. Throughout his life, Sternberg carried vivid memories of Vienna and nostalgia for some of his "happiest childhood moments."
In 1908, when Jonas was fourteen, he returned with his mother to Queens, New York, and settled in the United States. He acquired American citizenship in 1908. After a year, he stopped attending Jamaica High School and began working in various occupations, including millinery apprentice, door-to-door trinket salesman and stock clerk at a lace factory. At the Fifth Avenue lace outlet, he became familiar with the ornate textiles with which he would adorn his female stars and embellish his mise-en-scène.
In 1911, when he turned seventeen, the now "Josef" Sternberg, became employed at the World Film Company in Fort Lee, New Jersey. There, he "cleaned, patched and coated motion picture stock" – and served evenings as a movie theatre projectionist. In 1914, when the company was purchased by actor and film producer William A. Brady, Sternberg rose to chief assistant, responsible for "writing [inter]titles and editing films to cover lapses in continuity" for which he received his first official film credits.
When the United States entered World War I in 1917, he joined the US Army and was assigned to the Signal Corps headquartered in Washington, D.C., where he photographed training films for recruits.
Sternberg served his apprenticeship years with early silent filmmakers, including Hugo Ballin, Wallace Worsley, Lawrence C. Windom and Roy William Neill. In 1919, Sternberg worked with director Emile Chautard's on The Mystery of the Yellow Room, for which he received official screen credit as assistant director. Sternberg honored Chautard in his memoirs, recalling the French director's invaluable lessons on photography, film composition and the importance of establishing "the spatial integrity of his images." This advice led Sternberg to develop his distinctive "framing" of each shot to become "the screen's greatest master of pictorial composition."
Sternberg's 1919 debut in filmmaking, though in a subordinate capacity, coincided with the filming and/or release of D. W. Griffith's Broken Blossoms, Charlie Chaplin's Sunnyside, Erich von Stroheim's The Devil's Pass Key, Cecil B. DeMille's Male and Female, Robert Wiene's The Cabinet of Dr. Caligari, Victor Sjöström's Karin Daughter of Ingmar and Abel Gance's J'accuse.
Sternberg travelled widely in Europe between 1922 and 1924, where he participated in making a number of movies for the short-lived Alliance Film Corporation in London, including The Bohemian Girl (1922). When he returned to California in 1924, he began work on his first Hollywood movie as assistant to director Roy William Neill's Vanity's Price, produced by Film Booking Office (FBO). Sternberg's aptitude for effective directing was recognized in his handling of the operating room scene, singled out for special mention by New York Times critic Mordaunt Hall.
Released from his contract with United Artists, and regarded as a rising talent in Hollywood, Sternberg was sought after by the major movie studios. Signing an eight-film agreement with Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer in 1925, Sternberg entered into "the increasingly rigid studio system" at M-G-M, where films were subordinated to market considerations and judged on profitability. Sternberg would clash with Metro executives over his approach to filmmaking: the picture as a form of art and the director a visual poet. These conflicting priorities would "doom" their association, as Sternberg "had little interest in making a commercial success."
Sternberg was next tasked to direct film stars Mae Murray and Roy D'Arcy in The Masked Bride, both of whom had played in Stroheim's highly acclaimed The Merry Widow (1925). Exasperated with his lack of control over any aspect of the production, Sternberg quit in two weeks – his final gesture turning the camera to the ceiling before walking off the set. Metro arranged a cancellation of his contract in August 1925. Frenchman Robert Florey, Sternberg's assistant director, reported that Sternberg's Stroheim-like histrionics emerged on the M-G-M sets to the consternation of production managers.
When Sternberg returned from a sojourn in Europe following his disappointing tenure at M-G-M in 1925, Charles Chaplin approached him to direct a comeback vehicle for his erstwhile leading lady, Edna Purviance. Purviance had appeared in dozens of Chaplin's films, but had not had a serious leading role since the much admired picture A Woman of Paris (1923). This would mark the "only occasion that Chaplin entrusted another director with one of his own productions."
The failure of Sternberg's promising collaboration with Chaplin was a temporary blow to his professional reputation. In June 1926 he travelled to Berlin at the request of impresario Max Reinhardt to explore an offer to manage stage productions, but discovered he was not suited to the task. Sternberg went to England, where he rendezvoused with Riza Royce, a New York actress originally from Lancaster, Pennsylvania, who had served as an assistant on the ill-fated A Woman of the Sea. They wedded on 6 July 1927. Sternberg and Royce would have a tempestuous marriage spanning three years. In August 1928, Riza von Sternberg obtained a divorce from her spouse that included charges of mental and physical abuse, in which Sternberg "seems to have acted a husband's role on the model his [abusive] father provided." The pair remarried in 1928, but the relationship continued to deteriorate, ending in a second and final divorce on 5 June 1931.
Paramount moved quickly to adapt Sternberg's next feature, Thunderbolt, for sound release in 1929. An underworld melodrama-musical, its soundtrack employs innovative asynchronous and contrapuntal aural effects, often for comic relief. Thunderbolt garnered leading man George Bancroft a Best Actor Award nomination, but Sternberg's future with Paramount was precarious due to the long string of commercial disappointments.
Sternberg was summoned to Berlin by Paramount's sister studio, UFA in 1929 to direct Emil Jannings in his first sound production, The Blue Angel. It would be "the most important film" of Sternberg's career. Sternberg cast the then little-known Marlene Dietrich as Lola Lola, the female lead and nemesis of Jannings character Professor Immanuel Rath, whose passion for the young cabaret singer would reduce him to a "spectacular cuckold." Dietrich became an international star overnight and followed Sternberg to Hollywood to produce six more collaborations at Paramount. Film historian Andrew Sarris contends that The Blue Angel is Sternberg's "most brutal and least humorous" work of his oeuvre and yet the one film that the director's "most severe detractors will concede is beyond reproach or ridicule ... The Blue Angel stands up today as Sternberg's most efficient achievement ..."
Riza von Sternberg, who accompanied her spouse to Berlin, discerned that director and star were sexually involved. When Dietrich arrived in the United States in April 1930, Mrs. von Sternberg personally presented her with $100,000 libel lawsuits for public remarks made by the star that her marriage was failing, and a $500,000 suit for alienation of [Josef] Sternberg's affections. The Sternberg-Dietrich-Royce scandal was "in and out of the papers", but public awareness of the "ugly scenes" was largely concealed by Paramount executives. On 5 June 1931 the divorce was finalized providing $25,000 cash settlement to Mrs. Sternberg and a 5-year annual alimony of $1200. In March 1932, the now divorced Riza Royce dropped her libel and alienation charges against Dietrich.
When Dietrich returned to Hollywood in April 1931, Sternberg had emerged as a top-ranking director at Paramount and was poised to begin "the richest and most controversial phase of his career." In the next three years he would create four of his greatest films. The first of these was Shanghai Express.
At odds with Paramount and their individual contracts nearly expired, Sternberg and Dietrich privately conceived of forming an independent production company in Germany. Studio executives were suspicious when Sternberg offered no objections when Dietrich was scheduled to star in director Rouben Mamoulian's The Song of Songs (1933) in the final weeks of her term. When Dietrich balked at the assignment, Paramount quickly sued her for potential losses. The courtroom testimony revealed that she was preparing to abscond to Berlin to pursue filmmaking with Sternberg. Paramount prevailed in court, and Dietrich was required to remain in Hollywood and complete the film. Any hopes for such a venture were dashed when the National Socialists were ushered into power in January 1933 and Sternberg returned to Hollywood in April 1933. Abandoning their plans for independent filmmaking, both Sternberg and Dietrich reluctantly signed a two-film contract with the studio on 9 May 1933.
The personnel shakeup that followed bankruptcy at Paramount in 1934 prompted an exodus of talent. Two of the refugees, producer Schulberg and screenwriter Furthman, were picked up by the manager-owner of the Columbia Pictures, Harry Cohn. These two former colleagues sponsored Sternberg's engagement at the low-budget studio for a two-picture contract.
The March 1935 premiere of The Devil is a Woman in Hollywood was accompanied by a press statement from Paramount announcing that Sternberg's contract would not be renewed. The director anticipated his termination with his own declaration before the film's release explicitly severing his professional ties with Dietrich, writing "Miss Dietrich and I have progressed as far as possible ... if we continued, we would get into a pattern that would be harmful to both of us."
From 1935 to 1936, Sternberg travelled extensively in the Far East, cataloging his first impressions for future artistic endeavors. During these excursions he made the acquaintance of Japanese film distributor Nagamasa Kawakita - they would collaborate on Sternberg's final movie in 1953.
Korda had already assembled a talented cast and crew when Sternberg assumed his directorial duties in January 1937. The Austrian-American injected a measure of discipline into the London Film's Denham studio, an indication of the seriousness with which Sternberg approached this ambitious project. When shooting commenced in mid-February Sternberg, a martinet who was prone to reducing his performers "to mere details of décor", soon clashed with Laughton, London Film's Academy Award-winning star.
Sternberg, who had a clear insight cinematically and emotionally as to the Claudius he wished to create, struggled with Laughton in frequent "artistic arguments". Suffering under Sternberg's high-handedness, the actor announced five weeks into the filming that he would be departing London Film when his contract expired on 21 April 1937. Korda, now under pressure to expedite the production, discreetly sounded Sternberg on the film's likely completion date. With only half the picture in the can, an exasperated Sternberg exploded, declaring that he was engaged in an artistic endeavor, not a race to a deadline.
In October 1938, Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer asked Sternberg to finish up a few scenes for departing French director Julien Duvivier's The Great Waltz. His association with M-G-M twelve years previously had ended in an abrupt departure. After completing that simple assignment, the studio engaged Sternberg for a one-movie contract to direct a largely pre-packaged vehicle for Austrian-born Hedy Lamarr, the recent star of Algiers. Metro was motivated by Sternberg's success with Marlene Dietrich at Paramount, anticipating that he would instill some warmth in Lamarr's screen image.
Sternberg worked on New York Cinderella for little more than a week and resigned. The movie was completed by W. S. Van Dyke as I Take This Woman in 1940. The feature was panned by critics.
German producer Arnold Pressburger, an early associate of the director, held the rights to a John Colton play entitled The Shanghai Gesture (1926). This "sensational" work surveyed the "decadent and depraved" denizens of a Shanghai brothel and opium den operated by a "Mother Goddam". Colton's lurid tale presented difficulties to adaption in 1940 when strictures imposed by the Hays Office were in full force. Salacious behavior and depictions of drug use, including opium, were forbidden, leading censors to disqualify more than thirty efforts to transfer The Shanghai Gesture to the screen. Veteran screenwriter Jules Furthman with assistance from Karl Vollmöller and Géza Herczeg formulated a bowdlerized version which passed muster. Sternberg made some additions to the scenario and agreed to film it. Paul Ivano, Sternberg's cinematographer on A Woman of the Sea was enlisted as cameraman.
On 29 July 1943, the 49-year-old Sternberg married Jeanne Annette McBride, his 21-year-old administrative assistant at his home in North Hollywood in a private ceremony.
Aesthetically, this short documentary exhibits none of Sternberg's typical stylistic elements. In this respect it is the only purely realistic work he ever created. It is executed, nonetheless, with perfect ease and efficiency, and his "sense of composition and continuity" is strikingly executed. The Town was translated into 32 languages and distributed overseas in 1945.
At the end of the war, Sternberg was hired by producer David O. Selznick, an admirer of the director, to serve as a roving advisor and assistant on the film Duel in the Sun, starring Gregory Peck. Attached to the unit overseen by filmmaker King Vidor, Sternberg pitched into any task he was assigned with alacrity. Sternberg continued to seek a sponsor for a highly personal project entitled The Seven Bad Years, a journey into self-analysis concerning his childhood and its ramifications for his adult life. When no commercial backing materialized, Sternberg abandoned hopes for support from Hollywood and returned to his home in Weehawken, New Jersey, in 1947.
For two years Sternberg resided at Weehawken, unemployed and in semi-retirement. He married Meri Otis Wilmer in 1948 and soon had a child and a family to support.
In 1949, screenwriter Jules Furthman, now a co-producer for Howard Hughes' RKO studios in Hollywood, nominated Sternberg to film a color feature. Oddly, Hughes demanded a film test from the 55-year-old director. Sternberg dutifully submitted a demonstration of his skills and RKO, satisfied, presented him with a two-picture contract. In 1950, he began filming the Cold War-era Jet Pilot.
To Sternberg's discomfiture, RKO maintained strict control when filming commenced in September 1950. The thriller is set in the exotic locale of Macao, at the time a Portuguese colony on the coast of China. American drifters Robert Mitchum and gold-digger Jane Russell become involved in an intrigue to lure corrupt casino owner and jewel smuggler Brad Dexter offshore into international waters so he can be arrested by US lawman William Bendix. Mistaken identities put Mitchum in danger and murders ensue, ending in a dramatic fight scene.
Visiting New York in 1951, Sternberg renewed his friendship with Japanese producer Nagamasa Kawakita, and they agreed to pursue a joint production in Japan. From this alliance would emerge Sternberg's most personal film – and his last: The Saga of Anahatan.
Sternberg wrapped up shooting in merely seven weeks, but the picture was fated to undergo innumerable permutations until it finally enjoyed distribution – and a moderate commercial success – by Universal Studios six years later in September 1957.
Between 1959 and 1963, Sternberg taught a course on film aesthetics at the University of California at Los Angeles, based on his own works. His students included Jim Morrison and Ray Manzarek, who went on to form the rock group The Doors. The group recorded songs referring to Sternberg. Manzarek describes Sternberg as "perhaps the greatest single influence on The Doors."
Sternberg wrote an autobiography, Fun in a Chinese Laundry (1965); the title was drawn from an early film comedy. Variety described it as a "bitter reflection on how a master artisan can be ignored and bypassed by an art form to which he had contributed so much." He had a heart attack and was admitted to Midway Hospital Medical Center in Hollywood and died within a week on December 22, 1969, aged 75. He was interred in the Westwood Village Memorial Park Cemetery in Westwood, California near several film studios.
A particularly unfortunate loss is that of The Case of Lena Smith, his last silent movie, and described as "Sternberg's most successful attempt at combining a story of meaning and purpose with his very original style." The film fell victim to the emerging talkie enthusiasm and was largely ignored by American critics, but in Europe "its reputation is still high after decades of obscurity." The Austrian Film Museum has assembled archival material to reconstruct the film, including a 5-minute print fragment discovered in 2005.
Josef married his third wife, Meri Otis Wilner, in 1948.
Currently, Josef von Sternberg is 127 years, 4 months and 20 days old. Josef von Sternberg will celebrate 128th birthday on a Sunday 29th of May 2022. Below we countdown to Josef von Sternberg upcoming birthday.