Wednesday, 16 March 2016

Robert Siodmak - a director gets his own way

Robert Siodmak was an American film director, best known for The Spiral Staircase (1945), The Killers (1946) and Criss Cross (1949).
Robert Siodmak
Although he claimed to have been born in Tennessee, Siodmak grew up in Germany. He started his film career by directing non-professional actors in People on Sunday (1930), a film that was partly written by Billy Wilder.

When Hitler came to power in Germany, Siodmak joined Billy Wilder in Paris, where he directed several more movies. In 1940, Siodmak made it onto the last ship leaving France for America, one step ahead of the German occupation of Paris. In the USA, Siodmak worked at Paramount and Universal, where he became a director of A-grade films.

Tony Curtis dances the rhumba with Yvonne DeCarlo in Criss Cross (1949)
I came across the following quote from Siodmak recently in The New Yorker.
I developed a technique to get my own way about scripts. You see, if you refuse scripts too often or argue, straight away you get the reputation of being difficult; so, instead, when I was offered a script which I thought had a basically good idea, however mishandled, I would say, “Yes, fine, of course I’ll do it,” and then sit back while preparations went ahead. Then about a week before shooting was due to begin I’d go to the producer and say, “Look, this is a wonderful script, but there is just one little point…” and suggest a small but vital alteration. This would always be accepted, if only to keep the peace, and then of course other things would have to be altered to fit in with it, and gradually the thing would start coming to pieces at the seams. By the time we started shooting everything would be so confused that I began with no set script at all, and could do as I liked, which was the way I wanted it….
   – Richard Siodmak (1959)
And I wondered what it said about the man's need for control. And how the finely-balanced nature of a screenplay means that a single change can unravel its entire structure.

First posted:  5 July 2012

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