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Edgar G. Ulmer

From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

Edgar G. Ulmer
Born(1904-09-17)September 17, 1904
DiedSeptember 30, 1972(1972-09-30) (aged 68)
Occupation(s)Film director, screenwriter, set designer
Notable work
SpouseShirley Ulmer (married 1935 -)
ChildrenArianne Ulmer
Play full film; runtime 01:07:59.

Edgar Georg Ulmer (/ˈʌlmər/; September 17, 1904 – September 30, 1972) was a Jewish-Moravian,[1] Austrian-American film director who mainly worked on Hollywood B movies and other low-budget productions, eventually earning the epithet 'The King of PRC',[2] due to his extremely prolific output for the Poverty Row studios. His stylish and eccentric works came to be appreciated by auteur theory-espousing film critics in the years following his retirement. Ulmer's most famous productions include the horror film The Black Cat[3] (1934) and the film noir Detour[4] (1945).

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Ulmer was born in Olomouc, in what is now the Czech Republic. As a young man he lived in Vienna, where he worked as a stage actor and set designer while studying architecture and philosophy.[5] He did set design for Max Reinhardt's theater, served his apprenticeship with F. W. Murnau, and worked with directors including Robert Siodmak, Billy Wilder, Fred Zinnemann and cinematographer Eugen Schüfftan, inventor of the Schüfftan process. He also claimed to have worked on Der Golem (1920), Metropolis (1927), and M (1931), but there is no evidence to support this. Ulmer came to Hollywood with Murnau in 1926 to assist with the art direction on Sunrise: A Song of Two Humans (1927). In an interview with Peter Bogdanovich, he also recalled making two-reel westerns in Hollywood around this time.[6]

The first feature he directed in North America, Damaged Lives (1933), was a low-budget exploitation film exposing the horrors of venereal disease. His next film, The Black Cat (1934), starring Béla Lugosi and Boris Karloff, was made for Universal Pictures. Demonstrating the striking visual style that would be Ulmer's hallmark, the film was Universal's biggest hit of the season.[7] Ulmer, however, had begun an affair with Shirley Beatrice Kassler, who had been married since 1933 to independent producer Max Alexander, nephew of Universal studio head Carl Laemmle. Kassler's divorce in 1936 and her marriage to Ulmer later the same year led to his being exiled from the major Hollywood studios. Ulmer was relegated to making B movies at Poverty Row production houses.[8] His wife, now Shirley Ulmer, acted as script supervisor on nearly all of these films, and she wrote the screenplays for several. Their daughter, Arianne, appeared as an extra in several of his films.

Memorial plaque devoted to Ulmer in Olomouc

Consigned to the fringes of the U.S. motion picture industry, for a time Ulmer specialized first in "ethnic films," in Ukrainian—Natalka Poltavka (1937), Cossacks in Exile (1939)—and Yiddish—The Light Ahead (1939), Americaner Shadchen (1940).[9] The best-known of these ethnic films is the Yiddish Green Fields (1937), co-directed with Jacob Ben-Ami.

Ulmer eventually found a niche making melodramas on tiny budgets and with often unpromising scripts and actors for Producers Releasing Corporation (PRC), with Ulmer describing himself as "the Frank Capra of PRC".[10][11] His PRC thriller Detour (1945) has won considerable acclaim as a prime example of low-budget film noir, and it was selected by the Library of Congress among the first group of 100 American films worthy of special preservation efforts. In 1947, Ulmer made Carnegie Hall with the help of conductor Fritz Reiner, godfather of the Ulmers' daughter, Arianné. The film features performances by many leading figures in classical music, including Reiner, Jascha Heifetz, Artur Rubinstein, Gregor Piatigorsky and Lily Pons.[12] Ulmer did get a chance to direct two films with substantial budgets, The Strange Woman (1946) and Ruthless (1948). The former, featuring a strong performance by Hedy Lamarr, is regarded by critics as one of Ulmer's best. He directed a low-budget science-fiction film with a noirish tone, The Man from Planet X (1951). His last film, The Cavern (1964), was shot in Italy.

Ulmer died in 1972 in Woodland Hills, California, after a crippling stroke. He is interred in the Hall of David Mausoleum in the Hollywood Forever Cemetery in Hollywood, CA. His wife, Shirley Ulmer, is interred nearby. Commemorating the 30th anniversary of his death, a three-day symposium of lectures and screenings was held at New York City's New School in November 2002. In 2005, researcher Bernd Herzogenrath uncovered the address where Ulmer was born in Olomouc. A memorial plaque commemorating Ulmer's birth home was unveiled on September 17, 2006, on the occasion of Ulmerfest 2006—the first European academic conference devoted to Ulmer's work.

The moving image collection of Edgar G. Ulmer is held at the Academy Film Archive. The film material at the Academy Film Archive is complemented by material in the Edgar G. Ulmer papers at the Academy's Margaret Herrick Library.[13]

Partial filmography

as set designer (disputed):

as co-director:

as director:

Personal quotes

  • "I really am looking for absolution for all the things I had to do for money's sake."[14]


  1. ^ Year of Jewish Culture - 100 Years of the Jewish Museum in Prague Archived 2011-10-05 at the Wayback Machine
  2. ^ "Edgar G. Ulmer". IMDb. Archived from the original on 2016-09-21.[unreliable source?]
  3. ^ The Black Cat at AllMovie
  4. ^ Ebert, Roger (1998-06-07). "Great Movies: Detour". Archived from the original on 2007-12-12. Retrieved 2007-12-11.
  5. ^ "Edgar G. Ulmer | American director". Encyclopedia Britannica. Retrieved 2019-06-15.
  6. ^ Bogdanovich, Peter (1997) Who the Devil made it : conversations with Robert Aldrich, George Cukor, Allan Dwan, Howard Hawks, Alfred Hitchcock, Chuck Jones, Fritz Lang, Joseph H. Lewis, Sidney Lumet, Leo McCarey, Otto Preminger, Don Siegel, Josef von Sternberg, Frank Tashlin, Edgar G. Ulmer, Raoul Walsh in libraries (WorldCat catalog) (New York: Knopf) ISBN 978-0-3454-0457-2
  7. ^ Mank, Gregory William (1990). Karloff and Lugosi: The Story of a Haunting Collaboration (Jefferson, N.C.: McFarland), p. 81.
  8. ^ Cantor, Paul A. (2006). "Film Noir and the Frankfurt School: America as Wasteland in Edgar G. Ulmer's Detour," in The Philosophy of Film Noir, ed. Mark T. Conard (Lexington: University Press of Kentucky), p. 143. ISBN 0-8131-2377-1.
  9. ^ Turan, Kenneth (2004). Never Coming To A Theater Near You: A Celebration of a Certain Kind of Movie (New York: PublicAffairs), p. 364. ISBN 1-58648-231-9.
  10. ^ p. 62 Robson, Eddie Edgar G. Ulmer Interview in Film Noir Virgin, 2005
  11. ^ p.241 Norman, Barry The Story of Hollywood New American Library, 1988
  12. ^ Cantor (2006), p. 150.
  13. ^ "Edgar G. Ulmer Collection". Academy Film Archive.
  14. ^ Bogdanovich (1997), p. 603.


  • Bernd Herzogenrath: Edgar G. Ulmer. Essays on the King of the B's. Jefferson, NC 2009, ISBN 978-0-7864-3700-9
  • Bernd Herzogenrath: The Films of Edgar G. Ulmer. The Scarecrow Press, Inc. (2009) ISBN 978-0-8108-6700-0
  • Noah Isenberg: Detour. London: BFI Film Classics, 2008. ISBN 978-1-84457-239-7
  • Noah Isenberg: Edgar G. Ulmer: A Filmmaker at the Margins. Berkeley: University of California Press, 2014. ISBN 978-0-5202-3577-9
  • Tony Tracy: "The Gateway to America": Assimilation and Art in Carnegie Hall (1947)" in Gary D. Rhodes, Edgar G. Ulmer: Detour on Poverty Row. Lexington Books, 2008. ISBN 0-7391-2568-0

External links

This page was last edited on 17 June 2024, at 19:10
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