Thursday, April 29, 2010

You First!

The fellow above is one Fred Zinnemann, born this day 1907, in Vienna, Austria. While he was growing up he wanted to become a musician, but eventually studied law at the University of Vienna. Finding that particular career boring (and who can blame him?), he became drawn to films eventually becoming a cameraman. After moving to the United States to study film, and doing a couple of moderately successful B movies, he got his first big break directing "The Seventh Cross" starring Spencer Tracy. Not bad for a musically inclined, lawyer type who started off as a cameraman. His career spanned six decades, and is noted for such films as "From Here to Eternity" "A Man for all Seasons," "The Search," and "High Noon." He is also noted for giving Marlon Brando his first ever role in film, and he also gave Montgomery Clift his first starring role. Those are a couple of pretty damn good discoveries. Nineteen different actors received Academy Award nominations which should tell you something about his talent as well. He won the Academy Award for directing "A Man for all Seasons," and for "From Here to Eternity." Not bad at all for somebody born in Vienna just before the collapse of the Austro-Hungarian Empire. The best story I have uncovered about him goes as follows; in the late1980s, during a meeting with a young Hollywood executive, Zinnemann was surprised to find the executive didn't know who he was, despite winning two Academy Awards, and directing many of Hollywood's biggest movies. When the young executive callowly asked Zinnemann to list what he had done in his career, Zinnemann delivered an elegant comeback by reportedly answering, "Sure. You first." Lovely response, and an object lesson to any of us young, smart ass, whippersnappers out there who think old equals dumb. It does not always, and maybe we would all be better served remembering that. So, for directing all of those stars in all of those lovely films, Fred Zinnemann (April 29th, 1907-March 14th, 1997, of a heart attack at the age of 89), you are my (244th) hero of the day.

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