Max Ophüls (born Maximillian Oppenheimer, 6 May 1902, Saarbrücken, Germany - 26 March 1957, Hamburg, Germany) was an influential German-born film director who worked in Germany, the United States and France. He made nearly thirty films.
Before the Nazis
During the early part of his theatrical career he took the pseudonym Ophüls so that, should he fail, it wouldn't embarrass his garment-manufacturer father. He started his career as a stage actor in 1919 but moved into theatre production in 1924. Two years later, he became creative director of the Burgtheater in Vienna and, having had 200 plays to his credit, turned to film production in 1929, when he became a dialogue director under Anatole Litvak at UFA in Berlin. He worked throughout Germany and directed his first film in 1931, the comedy short Dann schon lieber Lebertran (literally In This Case, Rather Cod-Liver Oil).
Of his early films, the most acclaimed is Liebelei (1933), which included a number of the characteristic elements for which he was to become known: luxurious sets, a feminist attitude, and a duel between a younger and older man.
Exile and post-war career
Predicting the Nazi ascendancy, Ophüls, a Jew, fled to France in 1933 after the Reichstag fire and became a French citizen in 1938. After the fall of France to Germany, he travelled through Switzerland and Italy to the USA in 1941, only to become inactive in Hollywood. Fortunately, he was rescued by a longtime fan, director Preston Sturges, and went on to direct a number of distinguished films.
His first Hollywood film was the Douglas Fairbanks, Jr. vehicle, The Exile (1947). Ophuls' Letter from an Unknown Woman (1948), derived from a Stefan Zweig novella is the most highly regarded of the American films. Caught (1949), and The Reckless Moment (1949) followed before his return to Europe in 1950.
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