His Name iz Curtiz. Michael Curtiz.

16 May

Dear Flynnstones,

the Filmarchiv Austria is showing a retrospective of director Michael Curtiz, née Kertesz, during the months of May and June.

Very appropriately it takes place in one of the oldest and most beautiful venues of movie theatres in Vienna- the METRO KINO.

What makes this event so special for every Flynnophile is, not only will the obvious choices of his best works like “The Adventures of Robin Hood“, “Dodge City“ and “Captain Blood“ be presented, but also the early silent flicks starring Lili Damita are shown on the big screen.

It will be my privilege to lip read to you impressions of little Tiger Lil’ in movies like “Fiaker No. 13“ (Horse Carriage No. 13) and “Das Spielzeug von Paris“ (The Toy of Paris). I expect them to fully convey the divaesque quality, which made Errol think: “That is the star I am going to marry..“

Also in program are “Sodom und Gomorrah“, the monumental movie that got Curt to Hollywood, “The Sea Wolf“, a film tailor made for Flynn, but realized with Edward G. Robinson instead and the inevitable classic “Casablanca“ with local boy Paul Henreid second to the right.

“Mildred Pierce“ (Joan Crawford), “King Creole“ (Elvis Presley), “Yankee Doodle Dandy“ (James Cagney), “Young Man with a Horn“ (Kirk Douglas) and “Angles with Dirty Faces“ (Humphrey Bogart) amongst others round up an intriguing selection of an outstanding oeuvre.

One could say, the Hungarian Hun has come home.

Welcome to Viennawood, my laddies,





— shangheinz


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  1. shangheinz

    May 25, 2023 at 7:53 am


    “La Poupee de Paris” was the film, which started Lili Damita`s career. Based on the novel “Red Heels” the dancing dervish diva excells as theater star caught between an older impresario, the wealthy Viscount and a British diplomat already engaged. Money & fame or true love in solitude? That is the plotline of this early work of Mihaly Kertesz. Actually you can have it both, because there are two versions in circulation of this movie. In the short one Tiger Lil` succumbs to pneumonia after a wild chase with her British beau in a thunderstorm of titanic proportions (she had left him briefly for an intermezzo at the Vicecomte`s villa). The longer one has a semi happy ending, Lili/Celimène recovers and returns to the stage, while her Brit goes back to his fiancee fully aware that this amour fou is only for those who have a skin like leather (especially in bad weather).
    An ambitious project in six acts, for a silent movie nonetheless, it got rave reviews. More of a musical revue sees the storyline knitted together by the various dancing numbers of Damita, in which she comes across very gypsy like…maybe her family roots should be given another close look in that direction. The cast, costumes and locations (Paris of old!) are top notch. You see early traces of Tiger Lil, smashing vases and wringing the neck of the child sized lookalike puppet of her lover (obviously a kind of love toy of that era) and a mimic display of mischief, despair and lust for life. On the other hand Eric Barclay`s sole/standard expression is: “What`s this all about? Errol would approve. Curtiz was praised by newspapers for his work in a new genre and neither publication dated Oct. 1925 made a reference of a marriage between the director and his female star.

  2. Karl

    May 25, 2023 at 1:43 pm

    The film, being a silent- “hear” perhaps something of a taste:

    • shangheinz

      May 25, 2023 at 4:04 pm


      Touché Poupee-master Karl. The contemporay score to the movie comes from Austrian concert pianist Florian C. Reithner. He played it yesterday live and brilliantly. Korngold would approve.

  3. shangheinz

    May 26, 2023 at 8:52 am


    Michael Curtiz` 1941 rendition of Jack London`s novel “The Sea Wolf” from 1904 is an oscillating black and white Film Noir. Captain Wolf Larsen (Capt`n Bleigh pales in comparison) is judge, jury and executioner in unison on his scavanger schooner “Ghost”. Unjustice is his law of the sea. Two castaways and an ex-con on the run seek refuge on Larsen`s ship and soon regret ever setting foot on it. Since Larsen refuses to let them free at the next port, they have to put up with the daily overdose of abuse and humiliation like everybody else aboard. The wolf has found his prey. His philosophy on life derives from Milton`s Paradise Lost: “Better reign in hell, than serve in heaven.”

    The stuck writer Van Wayden realizes the dreaded captain is also a haunted hunter. Constantly on the move, since his brother Death Larsen is on his trail and has vowed to kill him, sink him, ship and crew. Larsen gets intrigued by the idea that Van W. could write his life story and confides in him. Behind the persona of sadistic brute lurks a literate trying to escape his shadow and the shadow personified- his brother. When Death literally catches up with Larsen, the writer tricks the captain into letting the the love couple (flynnmates Ida Lupino and John Garfield) escape from the sinking ship and sacrifices his own life in mockery of the Milton principle, which until then had been reigning the “Ghost”.

    Picture: The Sea Hawk meets the Sea Wolf.

  4. shangheinz

    May 31, 2023 at 5:00 pm


    A film critic in the newspaper The Hour from Feb. 6th 1926: Brilliantly done by proven Sascha director Michael Kertesz, “Fiacre No. 13“ shows why Lili Damita after her debut in “La Poupee de Paris“ has rightly risen to prominence. She really is a most graceful dancer as well as a mimic of rare kind.

    See her mimming here for yourselves:…

  5. shangheinz

    June 9, 2023 at 7:14 pm


    We have been in and out of Dodge here recently:…
    Now it was time to revisit “Dodge City“ on the big screen again. Flynn’s first western (the fifth outing of dream duo Errol and Lady Livvie) has aged graciously. Filmed in Technicolor and released in 1939, the year deemed to be the finest ever in film history, DC merits a big theatre atmosphere. Michael Curtiz set his camera sight on how America was built along its train tracks. The iron horse moves west and literally overtakes a horse drawn coach waggon in the opening scene. Technology advances the realms of a nation still in progress. The growing pains of a not yet grand USA are greed and lawlessness. But contrary to the gangster film genre prevalent at the time, in the Wild West the good guys got guns, but only use them as a last resort. First the baddies put into place by razor sharp remarks and the occasional knock out punch. Rover Wade Hutton reluctantly accepts the assignment as sheriff. He‘d rather move cattle, but too many of the town‘s terrorist Jeff Surrett‘s (mischievously well played by Bruce Cabot) acquaintances finish underground. First Surrett‘s Saloon is put into smitherins -the famous bar brawl cost 16.000$ and took one week to film- then the villain himself gets in a fiery showdown in a burning train compartment what he‘d deserved all along. The hero in turn gets the girl, more stubborn than a steer, but willing to follow her man to…Virginia City.
    The premiere was one of a kind:…

  6. shangheinz

    June 13, 2023 at 8:56 am


    On today‘s METRO menu:“Young man with a horn“. Released also under the title “Young man of music“, to avoid censorship’s scorn, because of the horn (would the trom-bone have made things any easier, I wonder…).
    Michael Curtiz once more is the master of transition, composition and characterization. In black and white and every shade of grey. Shadow play is used to perfection. Each image boasts an interesting angle. The pace is that of a man on a mission. Warner Bros breathing down the director’s neck. MC delivers, with or without Flynn. Despite a 2 hour duration there never is a dull moment. The story of an orphan- one of the first roles of Kirk Douglas- as a boyish born musician is a psychogram of a man who found his true calling in a world envious of too gifted people. His simple view of things is not compatible with the the eccentricities of his surroundings. The love interest, a psychiatrist (Lauren Bacall) messes up his mind and breaks his shellacks, symbolizing the unavoidable break up. But the damage has been done. The hornist does not want to end his life on a high note any more. His quest for the perfect note has given way to a wailing sound..
    The better (of course overlooked) match, true hearted singer colleague (Doris Day) rushes to the rescue when he catches pneumonia down and out in the mean streets. His best friend Smoke, played by real musician Hoagey Carmichael, stands also by his side. Initially James Bond inventor Ian Fleming thought Hoagey to be the incarnation of 007, an unassuming pragmatist springing to action like a piano button to a trigger finger.
    On a side note, Douglas was questioned by police about the disappearance of dancer-actress Jean Spengler (in the pic above) during filming. At first didn‘t remember her at all, then he remembered her a little. Curiously in his biography „A rag man‘s son“ he comments on her whereabouts. Officially her body had never been found and up to this day she is listed as a missing person.…