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Sam Spiegel: Conquering Hollywood

Film & Film History, Art, Jewish Film, Jewish Highlights
Robert de Young, Stephan Wellink
60 minutes



Sam Spiegel fled the specter of Nazi Germany in 1933 to become the most enigmatic and controversial film producer in the history of Hollywood, the equal of Selznick, Goldwyn, Zanuck and Mayer. He is the only person to win three Oscars as sole producer on a feature film, for On The Waterfront (1954), The Bridge on the River Kwai (1957) and Lawrence of Arabia (1962). He also produced the iconic film The African Queen with Humphrey Bogart and Katherine Hepburn (1951).

Spiegel was a pioneer of independent filmmaking whose movies stacked up dozens of Academy Awards. He was considered to be a storytelling producer who was passionate about the human spirit overcoming adversity, and chose complex plots that served a charismatic hero struggling against the world. He had a refugee mentality, which fed his desire to survive irrespective of the difficulties he encountered and took great risks with producing in terms of the size of the production and its physical distance from Hollywood. For a number of years, Spiegel used SP Eagle as his professional name to avoid creditors and the authorities - he had a criminal record for passing bad cheques and, for a time, was an illegal immigrant to the US.

Sam Spiegel: Conquering Hollywood is the first documentary to examine the colorful career of the last tycoon of Hollywood’s Golden Age and explores the turbulent but creatively rewarding relationships between Spiegel and Hollywood giants John Huston, David Lean, Elia Kazan, Marlon Brando and Katherine Hepburn. First hand observations of Spiegel are provided by interviews with people who worked with him (Sir Ben Kingsley, Dame Janet Suzman, Patricia Hodge, Michael Jayston and Angela Allen) while film historians and biographers comment on the significance of Spiegel’s career. These interviews are complemented by rare photos and film clips including an interview with Spiegel from the early 1960s.

Spiegel’s innovative approach to deal making influenced the modus operandi of many producers and his legacy includes an impressive filmography and The Sam Spiegel School of Film and Television, Jerusalem.


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