Edward Dmytryk - Director

Nationality: American. Born: Grand Forks, British Columbia, Canada, 4 September 1908, became U.S. citizen, 1939. Education: California Institute of Technology, 1926–27. Family: Married second wife, actress Jean Porter, 1948, one son. Career: Messenger and handy boy at Famous Players-Lasky, 1923, subsequently cutter, then editor; directed first film, The Hawk , 1935; directed series of films for Columbia, 1940–42, and for RKO, 1942–47; subpoenaed to appear before House Un-American Activities Committee as one of "Hollywood Ten," 1947; moved to England, 1948; forced to return to U.S., fined and given six-month jail sentence for contempt of Congress, 1950; appeared as friendly witness before HUAC, and hired by producer Stanley Kramer, 1951; moved to England, 1971; taught at University of Texas, Austin, 1978; professor of filmmaking at University of Southern California, from 1981. Died: 1 July 1999, in Encino, California, of heart and kidney failure.

Films as Director:


The Hawk


Television Spy ; Emergency Squad ; Million-Dollar Legs (co-d with Grinde, uncredited)


Golden Gloves ; Mystery Sea Raider ; Her First Romance


The Devil Commands ; Under Age ; Sweetheart of the Campus ( Broadway Ahead ); The Blonde from Singapore ( Hot Pearls ); Secrets of the Lone Wolf ( Secrets ); Confessions of Boston Blackie ( Confessions )


Counter-Espionage ; Seven Miles from Alcatraz


Hitler's Children ; The Falcon Strikes Back ; Captive Wild Woman ; Behind the Rising Sun ; Tender Comrade


Farewell, My Lovely ( Murder My Sweet )


Back to Bataan ; Cornered


Till the End of Time


Crossfire ; So Well Remembered


Obsession ( The Hidden Room ); Gives Us This Day ( Salt to the Devil )


Mutiny ; The Sniper ; Eight Iron Men


The Juggler ; Three Lives (short)


The Caine Mutiny ; Broken Lance ; The End of the Affair


Soldier of Fortune ; The Left Hand of God ; Bing Presents Oreste (short)


The Mountain (+ pr)


Raintree County


The Young Lions


Warlock (+ pr); The Blue Angel


The Reluctant Saint (+ pr); Walk on the Wild Side


The Carpetbaggers


Where Love Has Gone ; Mirage


Alvarez Kelly


Lo sbarco di Anzio ( Anzio ; The Battle for Anzio ); Shalako


Barbe-Bleue ( Bluebeard ) (+ co-sc)


The "Human" Factor


He Is My Brother

Edward Dmytryk (right) and Montgomery Clift on the set of Raintree County
Edward Dmytryk (right) and Montgomery Clift on the set of Raintree County

Other Films:


Only Saps Work (Gardner and Knopf) (ed); The Royal Family of Broadway (Cukor and Gardner) (ed)


Million-Dollar Legs (Cline) (ed)


Belle of the Nineties (McCarey) (co-ed, uncredited); College Rhythm (Taurog) (co-ed)


Ruggles of Red Gap (McCarey) (ed)


Too Many Parents (McGowan) (ed); Three Cheers for Love (Ray McCarey) (ed); Three Married Men (Buzzell) (ed); Easy to Take (Tryon) (ed)


Murder Goes to College (Riesner) (ed); Turn off the Moon (Seiler) (ed); Double or Nothing (Reed) (ed); Hold 'em Navy ( That Navy Spirit ) (Neumann) (ed)


Bulldog Drummond's Peril (Hogan) (ed); Prison Farm (Louis King) (ed)


Zaza (Cukor) (ed); Love Affair (McCarey) (co-ed); Some Like It Hot (Archainbaud) (ed)


The Hollywood Ten (Berry) (co-sc, appearance)


Hamlet (Wirth) (dubbing d)


Hollywood on Trial (Helpern) (role as interviewee)


By DMYTRYK: books—

It's a Hell of a Life but Not a Bad Living , New York, 1978.

On Screen Directing , London, 1984.

On Screen Acting , Boston, 1984.

On Film Editing: An Introduction to the Art of Film Construction , Stoneham, 1984.

On Screen Writing , Stoneham, 1985.

On Filmmaking , Boston, 1986.

Cinema: Concept and Practice , Boston, 1988.

Odd Man Out: A Memoir of the Hollywood Ten , Carbondale, 1995.

By DMYTRYK: articles—

"Reply to R. English," in Nation (New York), 26 May 1951.

"The Director-Cameraman Relationship," interview with Herb Lightman, in American Cinematographer (Los Angeles), May 1968.

"The Director and the Editor," in Action (Los Angeles), March/April 1969.

"Dmytryk on Film," in Journal of University Film Association (Carbondale, Illinois), Spring 1982.

"A Very Narrow Path: The Politics of Edward Dmytryk," an interview with L.D. Friedman, in Literature/Film Quarterly (Salisbury, Maryland), October 1984.

"Edward Dmytryk Remembers," an interview with J. Bawden, in Films in Review (New York), December 1985.

"The Director & the Bobbysoxer," an interview with Michael Ankerich, in Classic Images (Muscatine), August 1994.

On DMYTRYK: articles—

English, R., "What Makes a Hollywood Communist?," in the Saturday Evening Post (Philadelphia), 19 May 1951.

Tozzi, Romano, "Edward Dmytryk," in Films in Review (New York), February 1962.

"The Cinema of Edward Dmytryk," in Films Illustrated (London), October 1971.

"Edward Dmytryk," in Film Dope (London), June 1977.

McClure, L., "Edward Dmytryk: The Director as Professor," in Filmmakers Monthly (Ward Hill, Massachusetts), January 1979.

Buchsbaum, Jonathan, "Tame Wolves and Phony Claims: Paranoia and Film Noir," in Persistence of Vision (Maspeth), Summer 1986.

Telotte, J.P., "Effacement and Subjectivity: Murder My Sweet 's Problematic Vision," in Literature/Film Quarterly (Salisbury), vol. 15, no. 4, 1987.

Serceau, Michel, " L'ange bleu ou le remake impossible," in Cinémaction (Courbevoie), October 1989.

Fox, D., "CROSSFIRE and HUAC: Surviving the Slings and Arrows of the Committee," in Film History (London), vol. 3, no. 1, 1989.

Piazzo, Philippe, "Le mauvais camarade," in Télérama (Paris), 14 June 1995.

Norman, Barry, in Radio Times (London), 14 October 1995.

Obituary, in Variety (New York), 12 July 1999.

* * *

Edward Dmytryk rose through the Hollywood ranks, beginning as a projectionist in the 1920s, working as an editor through most of the 1930s, and directing low-budget films during the first half of the 1940s before making his first A-budget film, Tender Comrade , in 1943. He continued to make notable films like Crossfire and Farewell, My Lovely before being subpoenaed to testify before the House Un-American Activities Committee. Dmytryk subsequently became one of the Hollywood Ten and, after completing his jail sentence, the only member of the Ten to become a friendly witness and name names. After doing one film for the King brothers, Mutiny , in 1952, Stanley Kramer hired him to direct four features culminating with The Caine Mutiny. He continued to direct films regularly through the 1950s and 1960s and later taught at U.S.C. in Los Angeles.

In many of his films Dmytryk displays much the same sensibility informing the work of Frank Capra: a faith in ordinary people, a belief in the virtues of working together, a deep reverence for traditional American ideals and heroes, and a strongly utopian bent that tends to see evil as a localized aberration capable of correction. Characters often see the light ( Hitler's Children , or Salt to the Devil ), find themselves transformed by the example or expectations of others (The Left Hand of God or The Juggler) , or reveal a tender, committed side that is not immediately apparent (Soldier of Fortune or Broken Lance). Utopianism, then, instead of becoming a positive affirmation of values, becomes more an implicit trust in goodness that sometimes defuses dramatic conflict by rendering evil ineffective or by sidestepping intense confrontations or issues. By affirming the nobility of true love despite adversity, Walk on the Wild Side , for example, presents a more Pollyannaish view of down-and-out Depression life in New Orleans than the Nelson Algren novel on which it is based.

Dmytryk directs with an essentially serious tone that minimizes comedy and seldom romanticizes the agrarian or non-urban ethos so dear to Capra. He also tends to work with more interiorized states of personal feeling that run counter to Capra's tendency to play conflicts out in public among a diverse, somewhat stereotyped range of characters. But, like Capra, Dmytryk dwells on the issue of faith—the need for it and the tests to which it is subjected. Salt to the Devil, Tender Comrade, Soldier of Fortune, Raintree County, The Juggler, Broken Lance, The Left Hand of God, The Caine Mutiny, Hitler's Children —these and other films involve tests of faith and commitment for their central characters. The characters strive to find and affirm a sense of personal dignity, whatever the odds, and usually do so within a private setting that uses the broader social context as a dramatic backdrop, even in Hitler's Children or The Young Lions , two films dealing with Nazism. Some have argued that Dmytryk's work simply deteriorated after his testimony before HUAC; it may also be that recurring themes bridge this period and offer intriguing parallels between the political climate, Dmytryk's personal view of life, and his overall film accomplishments.

—Bill Nichols

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