Henry Koster

Henry Koster

Born: 1 May 1905
Died: 21 September 1988







Academy Award nominated director Henry Koster was born on this day in 1905. His introduction to cinema came at an early age after his uncle opened a cinema in 1910 and as his mother played piano to accompany the films, Koster spent much of his time as a boy watching the films. As an adult he began his career as a short story writer and was soon hired by a Berlin film company, where he would become assistant director to Curtis Bernhardt.

Already a victim of anti-semitism, Koster let Germany in the early 1930s after an altercation with an SA officer which resulted in him knocking the officer out. Following the incident he immediately caught a train to France where he once again worked alongside Berhardt.

In 1936 he signed a contract with Universal Pictures in Hollywood and although he didn’t speak English, he convinced the studio to let him make the film Three Smart Girls (1936). The success of this film is thought to have pulled Universal from the brink of bankruptcy and his follow up film One Hundred Men and a Girl  (1937) secured his name as a Hollywood director. During this time, whilst on a trip to New York, Koster discovered Abbott and Costello performing at a club in the city and immediately convinced Universal to offer them a contract.

His career with Universal stalled and in 1941 he moved to Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer although by now the US had entered the Second World War and he was regarded as an enemy alien, forcing him to remain in his home in the evenings for his own safety. It is believed that actor Charles Laughton would visit him there and spend evenings playing chess with him.

Koster’s postwar career was a huge success beginning with The Bishop’s Wife (1947) for which he received the Academy Award nomination for Best Director. Three years later he directed Harvey (1950), a film that would become the biggest success of his career. He directed Richard Burton in My Cousin Rachel (1952), Burton’s first US film, and in 1953 the first CinemaScope film The Robe. Other notable films of Koster’s include Désirée (1954), The Virgin Queen (1955) and The Naked Maja (1958).

Read more at The Internet Movie Database

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