Douglas Sirk


Douglas Sirk (born Hans Detlef Sierck; April 26, 1897 – January 14, 1987) was a German film director best known for his work in Hollywood melodramas of the 1950s. He started his career in Germany as a stage and screen director, but he left for Hollywood in 1937 because his Jewish wife was persecuted by the Nazis. He made his American debut with Hitler’s Madam (1943), with Patricia Morison, John Carradine, Alan Curtis. Other films in the 1940s include Summer Storm (1944), with Linda Darnell, George Sanders, Edward Everett Horton, and Anna Lee; A Scandal in Paris (1946), with Sanders, Signe Hasso, and Carole Landis; Lured (1947), with Sanders, Lucille Ball, Charles Coburn, and Boris Karloff; Sleep, My Love (1948), with Claudette Colbert, Robert Cummings, and Don Ameche; Shockproof (1949), with Cornel Wilde and Patricia Knight; and Slightly French (1949), with Dorothy Lamour, Ameche, and Janis Carter.

Films in the early 1950s include Mystery Submarine (1950), with Macdonald Carey, Märta Torén, and Robert Douglas; The First Legion (1951), with Charles Boyer, William Demarest, Lyle Bettger, Walter Hampden, Barbara Rush, Wesley Addy, H.B. Warner, and Leo G. Carroll; Thunder on the Hill (1951), with Colbert and Ann Blyth; The Lady Pays Off (1951), with Linda Darnell, Stephen McNally, and Gigi Perreau; Week-End with Father (1951), with Van Heflin, Patricia Neal, and Gigi Perreau; No Room for the Groom (1952), with Tony Curtis, Piper Laurie, Don DeFore, and Spring Byington; and Has Anybody Seen My Gal? (1952), with Laurie, Hudson, Charles Coburn, and Perreau.

Sirk achieved his greatest commercial success with film melodramas like Magnificent Obsession (1954), with Jane Wyman, Rock Hudson, Barbara Rush, Agnes Moorehead, and Otto Kruger; Written on the Wind (1956), with Hudson, Lauren Bacall, Robert Stack, and Dorothy Malone; A Time to Love and a Time to Die (1958), with John Gavin, Liselotte Pulver, Jock Mahoney, Don DeFore, and Keenan Wynn; and Imitation of Life (1959), with Lana Turner, Gavin, Sandra Dee, Dan O’Herlihy, Susan Kohner, Robert Alda and Juanita Moore While those films were initially panned by critics as sentimental women’s pictures, they are today widely regarded by film directors, critics and scholars as masterpieces.

Other films include Take Me to Town (1953), with Ann Sheridan and Sterling Hayden; All I Desire (1953), with Barbara Stanwyck, Richard Carlson, Lyle Bettger, Marcia Henderson, Lori Nelson and Maureen O’Sullivan; Taza, Son of Cochise (1954), with Hudson and Barbara Rush; Sign of the Pagan (1954), with Jeff Chandler, Jack Palance, Ludmilla Tchérina, and Rita Gam; Captain Lightfoot (1955), with Hudson, Rush, and Jeff Morrow; Battle Hymn (1957), with Hudson, Anna Kashfi, Dan Duryea, Don DeFore, Philip Ahn, and Martha Hyer; Interlude (1957), with June Allyson and Rossano Brazzi; and The Tarnished Angels (1957), with Hudson, Stack, Dorothy Malone, Jack Carson, and Robert Middleton.

His work is seen as “critique of the bourgeoisie in general and of 1950s America in particular”, while painting a “compassionate portrait of characters trapped by social conditions”. Beyond the surface of the film, Sirk worked with complex mises-en-scène and lush Technicolor colors to subtly underline his statements. He’s been an influence on directors such as Rainer Werner Fassbinder, Quentin Tarantino, Todd Haynes, Pedro Almodóvar, Wong Kar-wai, David Lynch, John Waters, Guillermo del Toro, Aki Kaurismäki, and Lars von Trier

Each review will be linked to the title below.

(*seen originally in theaters)

(**seen rereleased in theaters)

  • Two Geniuses (1934) – as Detlef Sierck – short
  • April, April! (1935) – as Detlef Sierck
  • The Girl from the Marsh Croft (1935) – as Detlef Sierck
  • Pillars of Society (1935) – as Detlef Sierck
  • Three Times a (1935) – as Detlef Sierck – short
  • The Stuck-Up Sick Man (1935) – as Detlef Sierck – short
  • It Was April (1936) – co-directed with Jacques van Tol – lost – Dutch language version of April, April!
  • The Final Chord (1936) – as Detlef Sierck
  • The Court Concert (1936) – as Detlef Sierck
  • The Song of the Memory (1937) – co-directed with Serge de Poligny – French remake of The Court Concert
  • To New Shores (1937)
  • La Habanera (1937)
  • Darling of the Sailors (1937) – directed by Hans Hinrich – co-writer only
  • Accord Final (1938) – directed by Ignacy Rosenkranz (as I.R. Bay) – uncredited co-director
  • Boefje (1939) – as Detlef Sierck
  • The Christian Brothers at Mont La Salle (1941) – as Detlef Sierck – short
  • Hitler’s Madman (1943)
  • Summer Storm (1944)
  • A Scandal in Paris (1946)
  • Lured (1947)
  • Sleep, My Love (1948)
  • Shockproof (1949)
  • Slightly French (1949)
  • Mystery Submarine (1950)
  • The First Legion (1951)
  • Thunder on the Hill (1951)
  • The Lady Pays Off (1951)
  • Week-End with Father (1951)
  • No Room for the Groom (1952)
  • Has Anybody Seen My Gal? (1952)
  • Meet Me at the Fair (1953)
  • Take Me To Town (1953)
  • All I Desire (1953)
  • Taza, Son of Cochise (1954)
  • Magnificent Obsession (1954)
  • Sign of the Pagan (1954)
  • Captain Lightfoot (1955)
  • All That Heaven Allows (1955)
  • Never Say Goodbye (1956) – directed by Jerry Hooper – uncredited co-director
  • There’s Always Tomorrow (1956)
  • Written on the Wind (1956)
  • Battle Hymn (1957)
  • Interlude (1957)
  • The Tarnished Angels (1957)
  • A Time to Love and a Time to Die (1958)
  • Imitation of Life (1959)
  • Talk to Me Like the Rain (1975) – co-director with group of film students – short
  • Sylvester’s Night (1977) – co-director with group of film students – short
  • Bourbon Street Blurs (1979) – co-director with group of film students – short