Josef von Sternberg (born Jonas Sternberg; May 29, 1894 – December 22, 1969) was an Austrian-American filmmaker whose career successfully spanned the transition from the silent to the sound era, during which he worked with most of the major Hollywood studios. He was nominated twice for the Academy Award for Best Director.
He is best known for his film collaboration with actress Marlene Dietrich in the 1930s, including The Blue Angel (1930), with Emil Jannings and Kurt Gerron; Morocco (1930), with Gary Cooper and and Adolphe Menjou; Dishonored (1931), with Victor McLaglen, Gustav von Seyffertitz, and Warner Oland; Shanghai Express (1932), and Clive Brook, Anna May Wong, and Warner Oland; Blonde Venus (1932), with Herbert Marshall and Cary Grant; The Scarlett Empress (1934), with John Lodge, Sam Jaffe, Louise Dresser, and C. Aubrey Smith; and The Devil Is a Woman (1935), with Lionel Atwill, Cesar Romero, Edward Everett Horton, and Luisa Espinel.
His other notable films include An American Tragedy (1931), with Phillips Holmes, Sylvia Sydney, and Frances Dee; Crime and Punishment (1935), with Peter Lorre, Edward Arnold, Marian Marsh, Tala Birell, Gene Lockhart, and Mrs. Patrick Campbell; The King Steps Out (1936), with Grace Moore, Franchot Tone, Walter Connolly, Elisabeth Risdon, Nana Bryant, and Victor Jory; Sergeant Madden (1939), with Wallace Beery, Tom Brown, Laraine Day, Alan Curtis, and Marc Lawrence; The Shanghai Gesture (1941), with Gene Tierney, Walter Huston, Victor Mature, and Ona Munson; Macao (1952), with Robert Mitchum, Jane Russell, William Bendix, and Gloria Grahame; and Jet Pilot (1957), with John Wayne and Janet Leigh.
His finest works are noteworthy for their striking pictorial compositions, dense décor, chiaroscuro illumination, and relentless camera motion, endowing the scenes with emotional intensity. He is also credited with having initiated the gangster film genre with his silent era movie Underworld (1927). Sternberg’s themes typically offer the spectacle of an individual’s desperate struggle to maintain their personal integrity as they sacrifice themselves for lust or love.
Each review will be linked to the title below.
(*seen originally in theaters)
(**seen rereleased in theaters)
- The Salvation Hunters (1925)
- The Masked Bride (1925) directed by Christy Cabanne – uncredited co-director
- The Exquisite Sinner (1926) – lost
- A Woman of the Sea (1926) – lost
- It (1927) – directed by Clarence G. Badger – uncredited co-director
- Children of Divorce (1927) – directed by Frank Lloyd – uncredited co-director
- Underworld (1927)
- The Street of Sin (1928) – directed by Mauritz Stiller – uncredited co-director
- The Last Command (1928)
- The Dragnet (1928) – lost
- The Docks of New York (1928)
- The Case of Lena Smith (1929) – lost
- Thunderbolt (1929)
- The Blue Angel (1930)
- Morocco (1930)
- Dishonored (1931)
- An American Tragedy (1931)
- Shanghai Express (1932)
- Blonde Venus (1932)
- The Scarlet Empress (1934)
- The Devil is a Woman (1935)
- Crime and Punishment (1935)
- The King Steps Out (1936)
- I, Claudius (1937) – unfinshed
- The Great Waltz (1938) – directed by Julien Duvivier – uncredited co-director
- Sergeant Madden (1939)
- I Take This Woman (1940) – directed by W.S. Van Dyke – uncredited co-director
- The Shanghai Gesture (1941)
- The Town (1943) – short
- Duel in the Sun (1946) – directed by King Vidor – uncredited co-director
- Macao (1952) – co-directed with Nicholas Ray
- Anatahan (1953)
- Jet Pilot (1957)