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Spiegel, Sam (1903-1985)


Main image of Spiegel, Sam (1903-1985)

After spending time in Palestine as a Zionist Pioneer, Sam Spiegel, who kept reinventing his own past, (as Sam P.Eagle) spent time in Hollywood. He lacked serious educational qualifications but was gifted with languages and had a passion for the theatre as well as for film. He became MGM's story adviser, and returned to Europe in 1929 to head Universal's organisation in Berlin, producing foreign-language versions of US films.

Fleeing Berlin in 1933, the Jewish Spiegel made films in Vienna and Paris, returned to Hollywood where he produced several films, including We Were Strangers (1949) for director John Huston, for whom he would make his first British film, the much-loved hit, The African Queen (1951).

For the rest of his career he worked on both sides of the Atlantic, producing On the Waterfront (d. Elia Kazan, 1954) in the US and two of David Lean's biggest successes, The Bridge on the River Kwai (1957) and Lawrence of Arabia (1962), all three of which won Best Picture Oscars. The mogul's cigar-chomping flamboyance concealed a considerable intelligence, and a substantial body of films, often lavish but also the minimalist Betrayal (d. David Jones, 1982), are a monument to his flair and shrewdness. He won the Irving Thalberg Memorial Award in 1964, and a BAFTA Fellowship twenty years later.

Andrew Sinclair, Spiegel: The Man Behind the Pictures, 1987.

Brian McFarlane, Encyclopedia of British Film

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Thumbnail image of Bridge on the River Kwai, The (1957)Bridge on the River Kwai, The (1957)

The first large-scale David Lean epic, a multi-Oscar-winning World War II saga

Thumbnail image of Lawrence of Arabia (1962)Lawrence of Arabia (1962)

Spectacular David Lean epic about the desert adventurer

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