At the age of 17, Otto Preminger (Austrian, 1905–1986) gave up the study of law to become an actor in the company of the distinguished director Max Reinhardt. By the mid 1930s Preminger was on his way to the U.S., where his imaginative directorial work in the theater was soon noticed by both Broadway and Hollywood. Yet his early experiences at Twentieth Century-Fox sent a disillusioned Preminger back to Broadway, where the critics lauded his innovation. With fresh kudos in his pocket, he returned to Hollywood to make the films he wanted to make. An early independent, Preminger was producing and directing his own pictures—and driving the publicity machine with his characteristic bombast.
Preminger was sometimes viewed as a dictatorial, European auteur with a tendency to make films that challenged the censors and the traditional values held by mid-20th century moviegoers. Indeed he was a strong personality on set, often engendering annoyance from his cast. However, in 1944, in spite of his combative relationship with Fox head Darryl F. Zanuck, Preminger turned out the film noir classic Laura. The success of this film, both at the box office and in the papers, cemented Preminger’s role in Hollywood for the next 40 years.
MoMA has long collected the films of Otto Preminger, with several prints donated by the director himself. Though by no means a complete retrospective, Fifteen by Otto Preminger provides a look into the depth and variety of works created by the director during his peak professional years.
Organized by Anne Morra, Associate Curator, Department of Film.
Special thanks to Victoria Preminger.