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Sam Spiegel

On first acquaintance, Sam Spiegel would probably satisfy the popular expectation of the more urbane type of film producer. He has charm, force of personality, is witty, dresses quietly. He speaks four languages fluently and two more sufficiently well to get his own way in them. He likes good living, knows where to find it in most parts of the globe and delights in sharing it. He is stout and has a Roman head in which the eyes are still mischievous when the expression is most senatorial. To give a good present and to drive a good bargain afford him equal satisfaction.

But he is also a scholar, versed in European literature and thought. His references in conversation range far in many directions. He is an arbiter of modern painting with a first-class collection built up by himself. His respect for artists of all kinds is serious, though his judgment is sharp. He is an informed student of day-by-day politics.

His attitude on all these subjects is liberal and unattached, save that he is fiercely mistrustful of any creed which gives a man a license to persecute his fellows. It is the attitude of a cosmopolitan.

His parents in Vienna were book lovers and believed in a life lived earnestly. He was educated at the university there and first came to the United States to lecture at the University of California at Berkeley.

The late Paul Bern, an MGM producer, heard Spiegel lecture at Berkeley and engaged him as a reader of original stories in French, German, Spanish, Italian and Polish. The world of films and filmmaking became Spiegel's passion and has been so ever since. Presently he was back in Europe, working for Carl Laemmle, re-filming Universal pictures for foreign distribution.

One of these pictures was the brilliant anti-militarist classic All Quiet on the Western Front. The European versions were banned in many areas, largely because of the growing power of the Nazi party. But Spiegel felt committed to this film. He fought the ban on all fronts, in all languages, in all circles. And in part at least he won. All Quiet was shown abroad, and in 1932 he had the satisfaction of presenting it to the Disarmament Conference at Geneva.

Elia Kazan, Budd Schulberg, John Huston, Robert Bolt, David Lean, Joseph Mankiewicz -- these and more, writers and directors of the first rank, have joined with Sam Spiegel in forging the scripts and transferring to the screen some of the most notable pictures of our time. The actors and actresses who have starred in Spiegel films have achieved honor and fulfillment in their craft. Sixteen Academy Awards, literally hundreds of awards from his peers in other countries and other continents have honored films produced by this bold, venturesome man to whom the making of a motion picture represents the fulfillment of living.

A biographer of the motion picture industry would find it essential to include the productions of Sam Spiegel: From the early Tales of Manhattan, the list would go on to We Were Strangers, The Prowler, The African Queen, On the Waterfront, The Bridge on the River Kwai, End As a Man, Suddenly, Last Summer and Lawrence of Arabia.

Some of the qualities which have secured this success have already been listed. One more may be emphasized. He can identify talent at a great distance. If it is in the marketplace, he can bargain for it boldly. If it is obscure, he can persuade it out of hiding. He can do this because he cares for it and because he can usually offer talent a project worth working on. He hopes and believes that Lawrence of Arabia has been another such.

Note: This profile was written in or before 2003.

Sam Spiegel Facts

OccupationProducer, Actor
BirthdayNovember 11, 1903
BirthplaceJaroslaw, Poland
Date of deathDecember 31, 1985 (age 82)

Selected Filmography

Drag Me to Hell
N.A.S.A.: The Spirit of Apollo
Darkman II: The Return of Durant
The Last Tycoon
Nicholas And Alexandra
A Quiet Day
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