Ophùls, Max

(1902-1957)
   Director, producer, and screenwriter. Born Max Oppenheimer in Saarbruken, Germany, Max Ophiils began his career on the stage. He started as an actor, and then went into directing theater, before becoming interested in cinema in the 1930s. He adopted the stage name "Ophuls" because it was an aristocratic name, no doubt to disguise his Jewish origins. The name was accepted to such a degree that members of the Ophuls family once contacted Ophuls to inquire to which members of the family he was related.
   Ophuls began his film career assisting director Anatole Litvak on such films as Nie wieder Liebe (1931). He began directing on his own in 1931 while still in Germany. And he made a handful of German films before fleeing Germany for France in 1933. His German films include Die Verliebte Firme (1931), Dann schon lieber Lebertran (1931), Die Verkaufte Braut (1932), and Liebelei (1933), probably the best of the German films. These early films, predominantly comedies, already show some of the tendencies associated with Ophuls later in his career. There is a penchant for period pieces, an interest in music and art, a tendency to play with genre, an extreme attention to detail, particularly as regards staging and setting, and a careful focus on the visual. Liebelei (1933), which was actually released after Ophuls fled Germany, also introduces the theme of impossible love, which characterizes many of Ophuls's later films. Although Liebelei was released in Nazi Germany due to audience demand, Ophuls's name, aristocratic or not, was deleted from the credits since he was Jewish.
   In France, Ophuls immediately took up directing, making the films On a volé un homme and Une histoire d'amour in 1933. He also made Divine (1935), La Tendre ennemi (1936), Yoshiwara (1937), Werther (1938), Sans lendemain (1939), and De Mayerling à Sarajevo (1940), as well as the shorts Valse brillante de Chopin (1936) and Ave Maria (1936), before fleeing France for the United States ahead of the Nazi Occupation. Ophuls also started an adaptation of Molière's L'École des femmes but had to abandon the film because leading man Louis Jouvet walked out on the project. In addition, he made La Signora di tutti (1934) in Italy and Komedi om geld (1936) in the Netherlands. While most of these films are solid works, none of them approaches what Ophuls would achieve in his second French filmmaking career after the war. Many of Ophuls's characteristic traits are present in these films, but the avant-garde spirit that dominates the later films is still not quite developed.
   Ophuls had a turbulent time in Hollywood. He again set about working in cinema but had more trouble establishing himself than he had in France. He was hired by Howard Hughes to make the film Vendetta, and he had made most of the film when Hughes fired him in 1946. Preston Sturges, who also was hired as director, quit, and the film was finished by Mel Ferrer and released in 1950. Although Ophuls had directed all but a handful of scenes, including the ending of the film, his name appeared nowhere on the credits. The next year he made The Exile (1947), starring Douglas Fairbanks Jr. This film exhibits many of Ophuls's signature traits, including period setting and impossible love. Also evident is the beginning of Ophuls's visual style, marked by expressionistic use of the camera and particularly camera movement. Ophuls's next film was Letter From an Unknown Woman (1948), the first film to reflect his mature filmmaking style. It was probably the best of his Hollywood films. His final Hollywood films were Caught (1949) and The Reckless Moment (1949), both of which feature James Mason.
   Subsequently Ophuls returned to France. This last stage of his career is considered his most artistically sophisticated, although by this point, Ophuls's style was so advanced it would take film critics and the filmgoing public a decade to catch up. His first film back in France was La Ronde (1950), an exploration of love and sex in turn-of-the-century Vienna. Featuring an all-star cast that included Simone Signoret and Serge Reggiani, the film, which uses a carousel as its visual and thematic center, was avant-garde but in a fairly mild way. It was a success, and was nominated for two Oscars and a British Academy of Film and Television Arts (BAFTA) award. The film also expanded Ophuls's exploration of love to include an exploration of sex versus love, a theme that would recur in all of his later films.
   His next French film was Le Plaisir (1952), a sketch film featuring three related stories adapted from Guy de Maupassant's writings. The film also featured a star-studded cast, including Pierre Brasseur, Danielle Darrieux, Jean Gabin, Ginette Leclerc, and Gaby Morlay. Here, the exploration of sexual pleasure was more evident even than in La Ronde, as it formed the center of the film. It was followed by Madame de . . . (1953), starring Darrieux and Charles Boyer, another exploration of love, this time focusing on secrets kept. This is probably the weakest of Ophuls's late films.
   Ophuls's final, completed film was Lola Montés (1955), starring Martine Carol in the title role. Based on the life of a nineteenth-cen-tury performer and courtesan, the film was boldly experimental in its use of color, its mixture of languages, its subject matter, and its camerawork. It was an extremely expensive film to make, and it was so ahead of its time that audiences did not understand it, critics did not like it, and it was an enormous commercial failure. The film nearly ruined Carol's career, and it might have been a black mark on Ophuls's legacy but for the fact that critics in later years, the critics associated with the Nouvelle Vague or New Wave, found an avant-garde spirit to the film that they felt lacking in almost all other films made in the 1950s. The film has passed into legend. Although it was by any standard a disaster when it was made, it has since become regarded as one of the great French films.
   Ophuls had intended to make another film, Les Amants de Montparnasse, detailing the life of the artist Amedeo Modigliani. He died, however, while the film was being made, and it was finished by one of the other avant-garde directors of the day, Jacques Becker, and released in 1958. In addition to directing, Ophuls wrote or contributed to the screenplays of nearly every film he made. He was such a perfectionist that he even worked as cameraman on several of the films. He also produced one film, Le Plaisir (1952), although he is not credited in that regard. In addition to his own contributions to cinema, Ophuls was the father of filmmaker Marcel Ophuls.
   Historical Dictionary of French Cinema by Dayna Oscherwitz & Mary Ellen Higgins

Guide to cinema. . 2011.

Look at other dictionaries:

  • Ophùls, Max — (Max Oppenheimer / May 6, 1902, Saarbrucken, Germany March 25, 1957, Hamburg, Germany)    His rich German Jewish parents had made their fortune in the garment business. At the age of sev­enteen, following a brief experience in journalism, he… …   Encyclopedia of French film directors

  • Ophùls, Max — (1902 1957)    Director, producer, and screenwriter. Born Max Oppenheimer in Saarbruken, Germany, Max Ophiils began his career on the stage. He started as an actor, and then went into directing theater, before becoming interested in cinema in the …   Historical Dictionary of French Cinema

  • Ophüls, Max — orig. Max Oppenheimer born May 6, 1902, Saarbrücken, Ger. died March 26, 1957, Hamburg, W.Ger. German film director. An actor, stage director, and producer in Germany and Austria (1921–30), he gained renown as a film director with Liebelei (1933) …   Universalium

  • Ophüls, Max — • О ФЮЛЬС (Ophiils) Макс (наст. имя и фам. Максимилиан Оппенхеймер, Oppenheimer) (6.5.1902 26.3.1957)    нем. режиссёр. Был актёром и режиссёром в т рах Германии, Австрии и Швейцарии. В 1930 на студии УФА пост. комедию Тогда уж лучше рыбий жир .… …   Кино: Энциклопедический словарь

  • Ophüls, Max — ► (1902 57) Director cinematográfico alemán. Películas: Amoríos (1932), La señora de todos (1934), Suprema decisión (1939) y Almas desnudas (1949), entre otras. * * * orig. Max Oppenheimer (6 may. 1902, Saarbrücken, Alemania–26 mar. 1957,… …   Enciclopedia Universal

  • Ophüls, Max — pseud. di Oppenheimer, Maximilian …   Sinonimi e Contrari. Terza edizione

  • Ophüls, Max (Oppenheimer Maximilian) — (1902 57)    French film director, of German origin. Born in Saarbrücken, He went on the stage at the age of 17. Later he was a theatre director. His first film work was as a dialogue director for the German UFA company; later he became a film… …   Dictionary of Jewish Biography

  • Ophüls — Ophüls, Max …   Enciclopedia Universal

  • Max Ophuls — Max Ophüls [ˈɔfʏls] eigentlich: Max Oppenheimer, (* 6. Mai 1902 in Sankt Johann (seit 1909 Saarbrücken); † 26. März 1957 in Hamburg) war ein bedeutender deutsch französischer Film , Theater und Hörspielregisseur. Nach ihm ist der Max Ophüls Preis …   Deutsch Wikipedia

  • Max Ophüls — Born Maximillian Oppenheimer May 6, 1902(1902 05 06) Saarbrücken, German Empire Died March 25, 1957(1957 03 25) …   Wikipedia

Share the article and excerpts

Direct link
Do a right-click on the link above
and select “Copy Link”

We are using cookies for the best presentation of our site. Continuing to use this site, you agree with this.