Joe Pasternak - Writer

Producer. Nationality: American. Born: Szilagy-Somlyo, Romania (now Hungary), 19 September 1901; emigrated to the United States, 1921; naturalized, 1927. Education: School in Szilagy-Somlyo. Married: (second marriage) Dorothy Darrel, 1942; three sons. Career: Worked as busboy and waiter in Paramount studios in early 1920s, and worked as assistant director (especially for Allan Dwan); 1928–35—manager of Universal's operations in Berlin—also producer in Berlin; 1935–40—producer for Universal in Hollywood;

Joe Pasternak
Joe Pasternak

then worked for MGM after 1942. Retired in 1968. Died: In Los Angeles, California, 13 September 1991.

Films as Producer:


Das Schweigen im Walde (Dieterle)


Zwei Menschen (Waschneck); Die Grosse Sehnsucht (Sekely)


Die unsichtbare Front (Eichberg); Unter falscher Flagge (Meyer); Paprika (Boese)


Skandal in Budapest (Sekely and von Bolvary); Früchten ( Csibi, der Fratz ) (Eichberg and Neufeld)


Grüss and küss Veronika (Boese); Frühjahrsparade (von Bolvary and Wratschko)


Kleine Mutter ; Katharina, die Letzte (Kosterlitz)


Three Smart Girls (Koster)


100 Men and a Girl (Koster)


Mad about Music (Taurog); That Certain Age (Ludwig); Youth Takes a Fling (Connolly)


Three Smart Girls Grow Up (Koster); The Under-Pup (Wallace); First Love (Koster); Destry Rides Again (Marshall)


It's a Date (Seiter); Spring Parade (Koster); A Little Bit of Heaven (Marton); Seven Sinners (Garnett)


Nice Girl? (Seiter); The Flame of New Orleans (Clair); It Started with Eve (Koster)


Seven Sweethearts (Borzage)


Presenting Lily Mars (Taurog); Thousands Cheer (Sidney)


Song of Russia (Ratoff); Two Girls and a Sailor (Thorpe)


Music for Millions (Koster); Thrill of a Romance (Thorpe); Anchors Aweigh (Sidney); Her Highness and the Bellboy (Thorpe)


Two Sisters from Boston (Koster); Holiday in Mexico (Sidney); No Leave, No Love (Martin)


The Unfinished Dance (Koster); This Time for Keeps (Thorpe)


Three Daring Daughters (Wilcox); Big City (Taurog); On an Island with You (Thorpe); A Date with Judy (Thorpe); Luxury Liner (Whorf); The Kissing Bandit (Benedek)


In the Good Old Summertime (Leonard); That Midnight Kiss (Taurog)


Nancy Goes to Rio (Leonard); The Duchess of Idaho (Leonard); Summer Stock (Walters); The Toast of New Orleans (Taurog)


The Great Caruso (Thorpe); Rich, Young, and Pretty (Taurog); The Strip (Kardos)


Skirts Ahoy! (Lanfield); The Merry Widow (Bernhardt); Because You're Mine (Hall)


Small Town Girl (Kardos); Latin Lovers (LeRoy); Easy to Love (Walters)


The Flame and the Flesh (Brooks); The Student Prince (Thorpe); Athena (Thorpe)


Hit the Deck (Rowland); Love Me or Leave Me (C. Vicor)


Meet Me in Las Vegas (Rowland); The Opposite Sex (Miller)


Ten Thousand Bedrooms (Thorpe); This Could Be the Night (Wise)


Party Girl (Ray)


Ask Any Girl (Walters)


Please Don't Eat the Daisies (Walters); Where the Boys Are (Levin)


The Horizontal Lieutenant (Thorpe); Jumbo ( Billy Rose's Jumbo ) (Walters) (co)


The Courtship of Eddie's Father (Minnelli); A Ticklish Affair (Sidney)


Girl Happy (Sagal)


Penelope (Hiller) (exec); Made in Paris (Sagal); Spinout (Taurog)


The Sweet Ride (Hart)

Film as Director:


The Casting



Easy the Hard Way , London, 1956.

On PASTERNAK: articles—

Picturegoer (London), 23 September 1939.

Film Daily , 5 February 1953.

ABC Review , March 1963.

Bawden, James, in Films in Review (New York), February 1985.

Obituary in Variety (New York), 23 September 1991.

Obituary in Filmvilag (Budapest), no. 2, 1992.

* * *

Joe Pasternak was a Hungarian immigrant whose successful career as a motion picture producer was marked by three distinct achievements. He was responsible for developing the career of the singer actress Deanna Durbin, whose money-making films for Universal literally saved that studio from bankruptcy. He almost single-handedly revived the faltering career of "box-office poison" Marlene Dietrich with three films at Universal, most notably Destry Rides Again. And during the 1940s and 1950s, he was the second string producer, after Arthur Freed, of a series of light musical entertainments for MGM.

Pasternak arrived in the States while still in his teens and after working at Paramount as both a busboy and waiter in the studio commissary, then as a second assistant director, he joined Universal as manager of that studio's Berlin office. He produced four popular films starring Franciska Gaal: Paprika, Skandal in Budapest, Fruchten, Frühjahrsparade and Katharina die Letzte . With the rise of Nazism, Pasternak implored his studio for a post in Hollywood. Universal offered him a production job for himself and two of his fellow Hungarians, the director Henry Kosterlitz (Koster) and the writer Felix Jaochimson (Jackson). Later Pasternak imported his brother-inlaw, S. Z. "Cuddles" Sakall, who became one of the most endearing character actors of the 1940s, and the composer Nicholas Brodsky.

Pasternak's first assignment for Universal was luckily Three Smart Girls , a musical built around a new singing sensation, Deanna Durbin. Pasternak produced and Koster directed, and they struck upon a formula which would make Durbin one of Hollywood's top money-making stars—they cast her in a series of fairy-tale plots which used her keen sense of humor, her instinctive charm, and her beautiful singing voice for both popular and classical songs. Pasternak went on to produce a string of ten such successes, alternating director Koster with Norman Taurog and Norman Krasna, and literally put Universal's slumping ledgers back into the black. While at Universal, Pasternak initiated three projects for Marlene Dietrich which took her down from the pedestal created by Josef von Sternberg, capitalized upon her tempestuous personality, and overcame her "box-office poison" label. The films— Destry Rides Again, Seven Sinners , and The Flame of New Orleans —helped create a larger audience for her newly found flesh-and-blood image.

In 1942, Pasternak moved over to the more prestigious MGM and continued his successful formula of light-hearted musicals which frequently combined popular and classical music. At that studio. Arthur Freed rated the first-class assignments, but nonetheless Pasternak was able to produce dozens of successful musicals such as Presenting Lily Marks, Anchors Aweigh, In the Good Old Summertime, The Great Caruso, The Merry Widow , and Love Me or Leave Me using the services of MGM's wonderful stock company of stars—Judy Garland, Frank Sinatra, Kathryn Grayson, Mario Lanza, Jane Powell, and Cyd Charisse.

—Ronald Bowers

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